Episode 181

James Vuong ·  Building and Investing into Vietnam

“Back in 2008, I was the only crazy Kauffman Fellow in Southeast Asia and nobody in the US had ever heard of doing venture capital in Vietnam.”

James is a serial tech entrepreneur, angel investor, and former Venture Capitalist. He has broad experience ranging from engineering to building products, from investing to founding startups, and from Silicon Valley to SE Asia.


James is currently the founder and CEO of Infina.vn, the leading investment and wealth management app in Vietnam, backed by Sequoia, Y Combinator, and many reputable global VCs.


Before to Infina, James was the CEO of Lana group, a digital media startup acquired by LINE Corp, the listed Japanese chat app. Prior to that, James was a VC at IDG Ventures, Vietnam’s first VC fund with $100M USD. James was a Kauffman Fellow (the first in SE Asia) selected by the Kauffman Foundation in the US in 2008.


Prior to coming back to Asia, James held positions as product director and tech lead (in chip logic design) in different companies in Silicon Valley. He received his MBA from Berkeley Haas School of Business in 2006 and BS in EECS at UC Berkeley in 1997.


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Podcast Transcript

[00:00:00] Bryan Pham: Hey everyone. Welcome to another episode on the Asian Hustle Network podcast. Today, we have James Vuong. James Vuong is an entrepreneur based in Vietnam. James, welcome to the show. 

[00:00:13] James Vuong: Thank you so much, Brian. It’s an honor to be invited and I’m a big fan of you guys. I’m a big fan of the community. It’s great to be here today.

[00:00:20] Bryan Pham: Awesome. We’re also big fans of yours as well. James, can you give us a story? Any background about yourself, your entrepreneurship journey, and where you’re from? 

[00:00:30] James Vuong: Sure. I was born and grew up a little bit in Vietnam, went to the U.S., and pretty much was an engineer. I went to Berkeley for engineering for EECS. I was doing chip design, and basic logic design, and worked in Silicon Valley for many years trying to pursue the technical track to being a CTO. But after a sort of an ‘aha’ moment, I decided that I should pursue business.

[00:00:53] I went back and got my MBA from Berkeley’s Haas Business School and I went out to do Product Management for a couple of years, but I got so bored not because of Product Management by itself. It is quite interesting, but I got bored just being in the semiconductor industry. I wanted to do something. I also have this love for startups so I decided to try to break into the VC industry and the most formal way in the U.S. to break into the VC industry is through the Kauffman Fellows program. I applied to that and got selected. I was connected with a few different funds that were hiring partners at the time and by chance, I was connected with IDG Ventures. It’s a U.S. investor, basically U.S. money, a U.S. fund. They started in China in the early days and were very successful.

[00:01:39] They wanted to do a fund for Vietnam and I was like, “Yeah. Wow. That sounds super interesting.” I was part of a hundred million dollar fund investing in Vietnam and that took me back from Silicon Valley back to Vietnam in 2008. I was an investor for about six years. One company per year. I did six companies and exited three, very fortunately.

[00:01:59] At that time, a hundred million for Vietnam was a lot of money and we were the first VC in the country. Not a lot of company to back at that time. We pretty much back all the good ones and actually, one of them is a unicorn now, V&G. They might be listening on the NASDAQ in the U.S.

[00:02:13] There are not a lot of good companies, but there are a lot of interesting opportunities. Let me go and try to be a founder. It’s a little bit, kind of reversed. Usually, people do startups and then they become investors. I did the other way around.

[00:02:26] I wanted to get the experience so that I can be good on both sides. I did a startup, it is kind of like the Reddit of Vietnam and four years later, it was acquired by Line. It’s a Japanese app company that’s also listed on the NASDAQ. This is my second company, Infina. I just launched that four years ago. We started in doing NFT for real estate but real world, real estate, not none of us, and then morph it slowly to just purely fractional ownership in real estate. Last year, because of the pandemic and the stock market getting run up a lot, we decided that there was an easier asset class that we could. We expanded the app and rebranded to Infina so that we can do stock trading, we can do mutual funds, and we can do fixed income products as well as real estate. Sorry for the long introduction, but that’s kind of the journey. 

[00:03:12] Bryan Pham: No, it’s not long at all. I think it’s cool hearing your progression of what you always wanted. Going to school, studying, coming back to get your MBA, getting to VC, moving from Silicon Valley to Vietnam. Let’s dive deep into each stage of your life.

[00:03:26] I know you were working as an engineer before your entire venture. What were your parents’ expectations at the time when you graduated undergrad? What did they want from you and what did you want for yourself? 

[00:03:40] James Vuong: My parents are great. I wouldn’t say the best in the world. I would say that for me, but everybody’s parents, most people’s parents are the best in the world to them. All kidding aside, I am grateful to have very good parents who allow me to, in a way, set my path. They’re so supportive in a way. Too supportive. Sometimes it is that “I wish you guys pushed me harder.” but super supportive and always very inspiring. It’s like always saying, “Hey, you’re meant for bigger things.” 

[00:04:07] Ever since I was very young, I chose to engineer because, at that time, I started learning English when I was 12 in the U.S. I couldn’t choose majors that require really strong English like maybe Social Sciences or all the Humanities so I had to go down the typical Asian path. For many people, engineering or science. I chose to engineer, did electrical and it happened to be a good choice, then Silicon Valley and the whole thing. It was one thing that led to another and kept morphing my career into different shapes and forms.

[00:04:38] Bryan Pham: I love that. I wish I had parents just like yours. I don’t know why, but in Asian culture, I feel like it’s so common among myself and my cousins to have our Asian parents tell us that everybody has a destiny they have to follow, and it’s hard to break that destiny. It’s refreshing to hear that your parents are like, “You can do anything you want to do”. My parents are always telling me to find things that bring me the most comfort in life, which means a lot of it is putting me inside a box like, “Don’t be an entrepreneur. Don’t try to be a VC or anything.” and ironically, I got into both fields. That’s what I enjoy. I just want to dive into the part where you mentioned that you went to a formal track of VC. I haven’t heard of that track, like a formal track to get venture capital. Can you talk a little bit more about that? 

[00:05:21] James Vuong: Sure. In the U.S. especially, it’s really hard to break into the VC industry. The VC industry also traditionally has very low demand in terms of recruiting. Investors also tend not to lean on a lot of people. Usually, in the VC firm, there’s the general partner and then they have a few associates running around meeting people and doing analysis. Sometimes, they have one more layer, like even junior people to do a lot of the desk work, research, and everything. They rarely have any kind of formal hiring. Through their network, VCs usually know a lot of people because all day long, they meet entrepreneurs, they meet people to hire for entrepreneurs, and they meet companies that they have already backed. In that incredibly good network, they usually can find another person they can bring in as a partner.

[00:06:04] Usually they would bring in successful founders to have back before. Even if they’re not successful, they felt like, “Wow, this person is super smart. They fail in building a company but I love the insight. They would make a good partner.” Usually, that’s how they would find their partners or even associate to bringing to the fund.

[00:06:22] The Kauffman Fellows program wants to, in a way, formalize it more. It is almost also like a postdoc for people that want to be a VC. Usually, people that get into that program already have an MBA. Even some of them, Ph.D. Some of them are medical doctors. The Kauffman Fellows’ mission is to select, network, and groom future leaders in venture capital. There’s also a kind of a secondary unofficial mandate, which is to spread the VC model globally and the program has always been very active in terms of finding people that want to be a VC and want to start a VC fund in emerging markets and outside of the U.S. also.

[00:07:00] Just a quick note on that. When I was a Kauffman Fellow back in 2008, I was the only kind of crazy one in Southeast Asia and definitely, nobody had ever heard of doing venture capital in Vietnam. When I met with my class, I was in class ’12, and a lot of the other guys were like, “Wow, that’s interesting.” but there was not a lot of sort of collaboration because they couldn’t do any deals in Vietnam. Now, VC is a lot more global, but at the time it was local like, “Okay, I need to be able to drive to where you are before I can invest.” Going back, the point was that it was so early and I was the only guy in Southeast Asia. Now, there are at least 50 of us in Southeast Asia, based mostly in Singapore and started many different funds. So anyway, that’s a little bit about the program. 

[00:07:40] Bryan Pham: That’s awesome to hear. It’s cool. What you mentioned about funds to get into VC, it’s very difficult. It’s like a whole type of thing. It’s not really about qualifications, it’s about who because essentially you’re dealing with a lot of private capital and there’s a lot of trust with that much money. You’re talking about like hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions of dollars getting past through. You want to make sure that you trust the right people around you and most of the time, you trust them by working with them before or after former interactions and trusting them as founders. I’m really glad that you broke into, quote, unquote, “the wild, wild Southeast Asia.” Breaking into VC in 2008 in Vietnam, I can’t imagine what the REM was like. How you even vet deals, how you deal with the government. I don’t even know, man. Just walk us through that too. I’m kind of curious. In 2008 investing in a tech company in Vietnam. What is that like? 

[00:08:33] James Vuong: Even before I decided to come to Vietnam, it was a year and a half before I finally landed in Vietnam to start the job. Exactly your view as well is like, “Okay. Well, what’s there to invest? Were there a lot of tech companies?” I came back to Vietnam to visit a lot as a tourist and you see your relatives and mostly, it’s about giving back. Meaning, that you would be exposed to, “Wow. This group of entrepreneurs that’s young, hungry, really scrappy, and building a great startup that could one day be a unicorn.” 

[00:09:04] The IDG partner that founded the fund, Henry, basically introduced me to the opportunity of doing these seasons in Vietnam and we met up a few times in Silicon Valley. He’s quite well known as well. We met up a couple of times in Silicon Valley and one time he said, “You got to come back to Vietnam. I want to show you my company, the companies that we have invested in.” I made a trip. I met up with all the startups that the IDG has funded and one of them, in particular, was trying to do such for Vietnam. It’s five technical guys, really young, and just so smart. I was really surprised and I was like, “Wow, that’s amazing.” We started geeking out and he said, “Yeah, we’re building the whole hardware too and we’re putting together the hard disk and everything so we can index the internet.” And I’m, “Wow. That’s amazing.” Unheard of and was so impressed. I went back home, starting to think about it and seriously now thinking about it like, “Wow, this is so much more meaningful to be able to back entrepreneurs like that. The impact that I would have.” In Silicon Valley, there are a lot of good VCs, a lot of good companies, and a lot of good people. It is much harder to have a big impact. Anyway, I still was not excited and then one day, Henry took the team to Silicon Valley and said, “Hey, James. Come out, have lunch with us.”

[00:10:14] The Sóc Bay team, that’s the name. ‘Sóc bay’ is ‘flying squirrel’, ‘sóc’ is ‘squirrel’. We had lunch in Mountain View and I said, “Hey, what are you guys doing here?” He said, “Oh yeah, we are meeting Eric Schmidt.” “What?” “Yeah. Google’s interested in Vietnam. They want to buy us. They want to acquire us.” Like, “Whoa, another unheard of, right?” It’s amazing. After that, Henry told me the story, he’s like, “Yeah.” After they met Eric, he made an offer. The guys kind of huddled together and Henry’s like, “This is life-changing for you guys. It’s also life-changing money. You decide. We support you.” They huddle in the room for less than an hour. We thought it would take days for them to consider. Less than an hour later, they came back and said, “You know? We decided we’re not going to sell.” Wow. It’s so many guts and ambition. Anyway, that’s the story. 

[00:10:55] I was inspired and I was like, “Wow. I want to be helping those founders. I want to be able to see them one day.” Fast forward to today, Vietnam has at least five or six unicorns now, a few of them we invested in or we knew the founders and know about their journey. That’s how it was back then. It’s just a lot of young people starting. The web was mostly just a website like people were sending up a website and then maybe they were technical people. Vietnam has very strong technical talent in terms of software development and even back then, they were starting to have quite a lot of people doing outsourcing and things like that. The talents there started to build a website. They started to do media. They do news sites and then they started to get into setting up e-commerce websites and things like that. We had a lot of those good companies back and then they did gaming also. One of our very first investments was V and G. It was a Covina game at that time and then they basically did an online MMO RPG, immediately profitable within a few months, and then became like a rocket ship.

[00:11:54] We’re like, “Wow. It’s a huge opportunity not just for Vietnam, but for all of Southeast Asia.” We did a few deals in Southeast Asia as well. One of the really interesting things is like two months into it. I just came back to Vietnam and settled down and like, “Oh, guess what? You’re going back to San Francisco.” And guess what? We invested in Friendster. We were the last investor in Friendster and at that time, Friendster already lost in the U.S., but they were really strong in Southeast Asia, especially in the Philippines and Indonesia. We were thinking, “You know what? We could pivot them to be the social network for Southeast Asia. It was stuff like that, the wild west, and many moons ago. A long time ago. 14 years ago. 

[00:12:31] Bryan Pham: That’s awesome to hear. That type of story gets me excited too, about the innovation that goes on even back then. I think it’s good for us to hear this part of the story here in the U.S. because I feel like most U.S.-based entrepreneurs are centered around the U.S. We don’t know what else is going on around the world and I think for me having this podcast, speaking to people like yourself, obviously you did live in the States for a while. I feel like the level of talent and entrepreneurship in the playing field is more similar than we think it is and it doesn’t matter where you live at this moment. I feel like you can be successful anywhere in the world because of technology.

[00:13:11] James Vuong: That’s right. So Southeast Asia is becoming a really hot market for startups and VCs. When we were investing, nobody knew about Southeast Asia. We were super early.

[00:13:23] IDG also had a fund in and still has a really big fund in China and when IDG started investing in China, nobody knew or cared about VC, even the local Chinese investors. It took a while, but then after a few big wins like almost everybody, there was a period I still remember I was one of them. Everybody in Silicon Valley was on a plane to Shanghai or Beijing, especially the VC industry. You go to first class. Everybody, maybe 8 out of 10 people were from Silicon Valley going to China. But now kind of that shift, it was China first and then people started thinking about India.

[00:13:57] There was a lot of interest in India and then Southeast Asia as a region. Even though many countries in Southeast Asia are pretty different and it’s a very homogeneous market, as a whole Southeast Asia has inspired the current sort of imagination. There’s a really good track record as well. For example, the SEA group started as a game too, Garena at that time. At some point, its peak, I think 200+ billion in valuation on the NASDAQ and then you hear Grab which is like an Uber for Southeast Asia. They also listed Gojek as another group that started to do many other things, including being a super app.

[00:14:34] You hear about this concept a lot now in Southeast Asia and then a lot of VCs are coming here. Even a lot of us VCs are now starting to notice Southeast Asia. For example, we were part of YC, Y Combinator. Y Combinator accepted quite a few, many startups in Southeast Asia, including Vietnam. So just a little bit background, YC is an accelerator, a very famous accelerator in Silicon Valley and they usually have these demo days every twice a year, in the summer and then in the winter. On the demo day, they would invite all who are in Silicon Valley venture capital, all the famous VCs, to come and look at the YC companies. Because of the pandemic that grew, they were pretty much forced to do everything on Zoom because Zoom has unlimited participation and you’re not limited to geography anymore like people don’t have to fly in anymore.

[00:15:26] So all of a sudden, for example, in my batch, we pitched to more than a thousand people, investors. I mean not pitch to, but like more than a thousand people listen to. I can’t share the exact number, but definitely, more than a thousand listened to the demo day to the pitch of the IC company. Because of that, a lot of attention is now and money has been invested in Southeast Asia and Vietnam, and then these people are also now telling other investors.

[00:15:52] Bryan Pham: Yeah. Absolutely. I think for a long time, Southeast Asia was the best-kept secret. Exploding GDP and a young workforce in Vietnam play a huge factor.

[00:16:02] James Vuong: Very young.

[00:16:03] Bryan Pham: Yes. Even for us, through the Asian Hustle Network, as we’re hiring more people overseas, this phenomenon is one of our targets, and to our surprise, the talent is there. Like the techno talent, even the writing talent is there too. We may not even notice that some of the stuff written on our social media is from our team overseas.

[00:16:21] James Vuong: Oh, wow. Nice. 

[00:16:23] Bryan Pham: Yeah. And it’s crazy because the level is there and I think it’s an amazing thing. I do want to focus a little bit more on James Vuong, the founder of India. What is it like starting a company in Vietnam? What are the challenges of scaling? Finding product market fit? Hiring talent in Vietnam? Regulations? Government? What’s the difference? Tell us that. 

[00:16:47] James Vuong: The difference. Okay. There’s a lot of difference. There are also a lot of similarities. Let’s start with a difference. Vietnam is surprisingly quite an easy place to start something because things have relatively lower costs. But I think in general, the megatrend that has helped so the volume of startups that were started was because starting a company nowadays is super easy and super low cost anyway, even in the U.S. I guess the biggest barrier is like, are you willing to leave your nice paying paycheck and convince other people to leave the nice paying paycheck to join you in the quest?

[00:17:22] Things like AWS, you spin up anything and you don’t have to worry about even setting up servers. But back in the day, we invested in companies and we had to hand carry. I remember I was in Singapore. I was like, “Okay. How many servers do you guys want to buy hand-carrying these servers from Singapore? First of all, it’s really hard to access the latest models in Vietnam. There’s a logo distributor, but they’re definitely not importing the best so hand carrying those things back and stuff like that. Anyway, it’s still quite easy to say, “Okay look, I’m going to try to start something. Of course, you’re not going to have a salary for a while and all of that, but because living standard and cost of living is cheap, you can afford to do that without suffering too much.

[00:18:06] That part was easy but everything else was more challenging. For example, even just like setting up servers, you had to go to Singapore to buy them at that time and the cool thing was that there were a lot of good developers that were relatively, actually super cheap at that time. Now they’re getting a little bit more expensive for various reasons and as expected, even engineering costs in China and India have gone through the roof. But cheap talent, that was good. Easy to start. You can survive without money for a long time in a low-cost place.

[00:18:41] The environment’s nice. You can help with everything. You can have a driver. You can have people who cook for you. So Those types help a lot and if you have a family, it also helps a lot. Even your spouse could be working and you have people taking care of your kids relatively inexpensively and those types of things are good.

[00:18:58] Of course, some people even say, ” Yeah, you guys are living like kings and queens in Southeast Asia.” It’s not all wrong, so the lifestyle is great. Those things make it easy. The hard thing was, the people are really smart, but they take a while to understand how to do things. In Silicon Valley, for example, as the other extreme where you hit somebody on the street and likely they have worked at a startup, they have scaled some products fast from zero to millions of people. They know how to do a lot of things well. They have learned from the best companies, the fangs, and other very successful startups that they were part of. The talent pool there had a lot of experience, but compared to here they’re really smart raw talent, but you have to teach them. You have to teach them a lot of things. That was rewarding for me. It was like, “Okay, I’m doing both things that I wanted to start my own company, but the other one is to mentor people.” and then you get a lot of energy and inspiration from the young people that are so smart.

[00:19:54] I continue to drive on that. I guess those are some of the things but then, of course, if you’re too small, then regulation-wise, nobody cares about you. Let’s say if you do a shop or something then you have the local authority giving you a hard time, it’s just knowing how to navigate that. There are things that you have to get used to. People, for example, come for an interview, and then they never show up when you make an offer, I think that’s happening now everywhere.

[00:20:21] It’s not so bad anymore in terms of the disparity, but the professionalism and things like that. Now, I have to say that the workforce has gotten so much better. Even the startup pool has gotten so much better. I do enjoy investing. I invest in the company that you and I both know well. Feel free to mention it but I’m not sure if I’m allowed to mention it. I see so many good startups, so many good talents, and so many good people to hire. The environment has changed a lot from 14 years ago.

[00:20:50] Bryan Pham: I love it. I love hearing that and shout-out to Vietcetera, that’s the company that James was talking about. It’s funny because James invested in Vietcetera and the founder of Vietcetera invested in Asian Hustle Network. 

[00:21:02] James Vuong: Oh man. Talking about being very connected to paying forward. 

[00:21:06] Bryan Pham: Definitely. It’s awesome to hear those key differences too. I agree. I feel like yes, talent is there, but the culture is not quite there yet, right?

[00:21:16] James Vuong: That’s right. It’s a good way to put it. 

[00:21:18] Bryan Pham: In time, I feel like it’ll be more in line, but do expect a lot of hands holding at the beginning. You can’t just throw someone on a project and expect them to like to run with that project. Most likely they’re gonna run the wrong way. It’s going to take more time and if you were to stop and explain it well. In American culture, it’s, “We hate micromanagers. We hate babysitting. We hate being told what to do.” It’s just the American culture but in Asia, it’s slightly different. People do appreciate the catering a bit, right? Because these managers become the most caring people for the next people that you hire. And it’s super important that you do take your time and it is a young workforce, it’ll eventually get there. I do think that talent-wise, skill-wise, writing-wise, technical-wise, it’s there already. 

[00:22:06] James Vuong: Yeah. In terms of the creative, doing video, editing, doing videos, doing writings, I think it’s quite there. The software development is not too savvy. Vietnamese engineers are better than, okay. I don’t want to put in an absolute term, this is not just my own opinion. I think you can ask around and the general sort of consensus is that Vietnamese engineers are better than other markets in Southeast Asia and comparable to Chinese and Indian engineers and even some of them are on par with Silicon Valley engineers. That’s why the outsourcing company has been very successful because the quality is just high. 

[00:22:41] Bryan Pham: Yeah. That’s awesome to hear. I love hearing stuff like that, for sure. James, so what is next for you and Infina? What is your goal for finishing up this year and the next five to ten years?

[00:22:53] James Vuong: Just a brief introduction about Infina, we are a retail investing app and we allow people to do passive investing, getting into mutual funds, and getting into fixed income products. We also allow people to do active trading so they can buy and sell stocks and currently just all Vietnam asset classes. Vietnam has a very strong stock market, booming stock market until of course the past two months when everything starting with the U.S. market crashing, kind of went downhill a little bit. But last year, for example, the country added 1.3 million new brokerage accounts, and compared to a year ago, that was 400k, and a year ago was only 200k. A lot of people started to participate in the stock market as well as the crypto market, unfortunately. That’s a global trend, right? You see that everywhere, including in the U.S., young people are starting to get interested in investing and they want an app that’s easy to use. In the U.S., the phenomenon, of Robin Hood or Weebo grew so fast and Coinbase as well.

[00:23:55] We set ourselves to be an investing app that is multi-asset so we could do everything that’s investible, including a goal and real estate and we started in fractional ownership in real estate. It is a multi-asset class. We have a lot of work cut out for us and not only in the near term but in the long term as well. What we want to do now is actually to build a really strong team and maybe if you allow me, we are hiring a chief of staff. That’s like the founder, CEO-in-training that’s going to work directly with me.

[00:24:27] Anybody who’s super smart and wants to be a founder one day, who wants to see how to do a company and be able to see it all from my view, because that person would have that access. I wouldn’t call it an apprentice or anything, but the chief of staff. It’s not assistance, like a right-hand person. It’s great training to be for a few people that want to be a founder later on. And again, the thing that you learn from us is not, “Oh, is it transferable stuff?” because it’s for Vietnam. We are using the latest tools. We are doing everything that’s the latest, best practice. We’re doing a lot of hacking growth and building viral root loops and building growth loops. We were pretty advanced so you’ll learn a lot. Anyway, I don’t want to go on too much about that, but that’s the plan, is to build up a really strong team.

[00:25:12] Of course, also a very strong engineering team. We have been really focused on staffing up on that and then a strong senior management team. We also have quite a strong team already but we’re just going to keep building that out. It’s like people and product and profit, so we’re going to nail down the people, and then we’re going to get an awesome product. It’s quite good. We have a lot of room to make it even better. And of course, expanding out to have more offers to at one point, be able to offer a lot more financial services on that.

[00:25:41] Bryan Pham: Yeah. I love hearing all that and I wish nothing but the best for Infina. It sounds like an awesome product. You’re right, especially coming to a market of Vietnam where I feel like the average consumer spending power is increasing day by day. It’s not just inflation. Things get more expensive because the country’s doing well GDP-wise. That’s awesome to hear. I feel like you’re definitely in the right place at the right time. James, we do have one final question and that question is, what is one thing that you would do differently coming to Vietnam as an entrepreneur in VC in 2008? What’s the one thing you’d do differently? 

[00:26:18] James Vuong: I would do differently now or I wish I could go back in the past and change it? 

[00:26:22] Bryan Pham: Let’s say you wish you could go back in the past and change it. 

[00:26:25] James Vuong: I came into VC after being an engineer and a product manager so I never really know what it’s like to be a founder. Never having done it. I think if I were to go back and change something, I would say that I would try to learn more from the founders instead of trying to help them because it was the wrong mindset. It was like, “Okay. We’re going to be here. We’re going to give you capital. We’re going to give you expertise. We have a vision for the future. We’ve seen markets like the U.S. and Silicon Valley, and we’ve seen even what’s happening in China and India. So we’re going to bring all of that to you guys. You should listen to us.” In a way, yes, that’s a really good part of our value add, including hiring people from overseas talents from anywhere in the world through our global network and then bringing them to Vietnam. I wish that not just myself, but all of us should have been closer to the ground. I think that there are a lot of investors who are parachuting in, looking at the big picture and it’s, “Oh, yeah. I don’t know. Are you sure it’s going to happen in Vietnam?” Or the opposite is, ” Oh, this will happen in Vietnam. Let’s do this model because it’s so successful in China. There’s the same thing in Vietnam.” Those are the things that turn out to be all wrong. Like not all wrong, but mostly wrong. Things have to be localized for certain models and then for some other models, you don’t need to be localized.

[00:27:50] For example, before people always said, ” Yeah, Facebook is not gonna work in Vietnam.” And then actually Facebook took over and some people are like, “Yeah, Tiktok’s not going to go anywhere. Who’s going to use that?” It took over too. I think those are the things that I would say, “Okay, let’s, first of all, have a much clearer view of reality.” But the only way that you can have a clear view of the reality of the market that you’re interested in, whether that’s Vietnam or some of the markets in Southeast Asia, is to spend a lot of time talking to really smart people and who they are. The founders, the hustler, the people that’s like having to deal with it every day, like really having to struggle through all the challenges. Once you understand that, and then you kind of start to then combine that with a lot of the sort of framework that you have and thesis that you have. That would be a super good combination. 

[00:28:40] Bryan Pham: Yeah. Agree with what you said. Keep your eyes through the ground. Not just having the mindset that you’re going to come into the situation helping the founder, but I think learning from them is very valuable. One of the best parts of being an investor is you get to learn. Just because you have money doesn’t mean you’re smarter. How can our listeners find out more about you and Infina and reach out to you online? 

[00:29:02] James Vuong: You can Google Infina. Unfortunately, it’s a very popular name. Our website is infina.vn. If you search for James Vuong, V-U-O-N-G on LinkedIn, and then with the Infina name, then I’m sure you’ll find me on LinkedIn. I would love to connect on LinkedIn and that’s the easiest way. You can email me too. It’s james@infina.vn but usually, LinkedIn is the easiest way because sometimes, I get a lot of emails and I might miss them. 

[00:29:30] Bryan Pham: Awesome. We’ll include all that in the show notes. James, thank you so much for being in the show today. 

[00:29:36] James Vuong: No. Thank you, Brian. Again, a huge fan of you guys and the community. I saw a lot of really inspiring stories. I’m glad I have a chance to share mine and I wish the best of luck to everybody in the community. If you happen to want to join us for some reason, do reach out. We need many talents, especially the chief of staff and engineering. 

[00:29:55] Bryan Pham: Awesome. Thank you, James. We’ll include that in show notes. 

[00:29:58] Thank you.