Two factors draw in great talent into countries: really great projects that react to specific problems, and an environment that can allow smart individuals to tackle those problems. With 90 million people and still developing, Vietnam’s got the first factor in the bag, but unfortunately, the environment has been lacking. Many overseas Vietnamese and educated Vietnamese nationals continue to flee the nation.
But from the late 2000s to now, a new trend has been rising: startup founders and CEOs who studied abroad are returning home to Vietnam to run startups. I call them the “returners”. It’s a new movement that lies in hopeful contrast to the brain drain that Vietnam continues to face. These guys can just plow through the difficult Vietnamese environment.
It all started in 2004, when Le Hong Minh, who was educated in Australia, founded VNG and built it to become the biggest domestic software and web company in the country. And since then, companies like KMS, Greengar, Keewi, Not A Basement Studio, Tiki, Bo Cong Anh, Istart, LuvPrint, Geeky, and more are all founded and CEO’ed by Vietnamese nationals who studied abroad. It’s a new generation of leaders. But what is it that brought these folks back? What did they see that the brain drainers didn’t?
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor