Vietnam: Air Quality Pollution vs. Industrial Growth, China Tourism & Taylor Swift and Food Delivery Industry Economics (ShopeeFood vs. Grab vs. Foodpanda) - E392

· Vietnam,VC and Angels,Southeast Asia,Podcast Episodes English



“Historically, in my past investments, most of the founders graduated from universities in Singapore. I think they have a higher advantage compared to founders who studied in the US or Europe because Singapore is so close to Vietnam. They still get the international exposure that founders without foreign education don’t have, but they can make a trip to Vietnam, which takes less than two hours. They get updated on what's happening in the country more often. Most of the time, these founders also worked for a Southeast Asian conglomerate or a Vietnamese conglomerate right after graduation, so immediately, they are emerged in the local market compared to Harvard and Oxbridge graduates.” - Valerie Vu

“Food delivery is a tough, low-margin, or a negative-margin business for many platforms. It's a very tough business to build, and supposedly, economies of scale will let you consolidate some SG&A costs, give you some profitability, negotiating leverage, but depending on how you look at it, Foodpanda didn't sell, and supposedly Grab left the table. They felt like the price wasn't good enough and perhaps the public disclosure of the talks came out as well. So I think it's interesting to see how Foodpanda does. It’s not in Vietnam, but it's interesting to see how the consolidation of the food systems will come out.” - Jeremy Au

“Now, the few remaining substantial players are Grab and ShopeeFood. Shopee acquired a food review company in Vietnam called Foodie, and rebranded it to ShopeeFood. That’s why it offers a more diverse selection of merchants and restaurants compared to Grab, especially those mom-and-pop shops because they have more reviews from previous users of Foodie.” - Valerie Vu

Valerie Vu, Founding Partner of Ansible Ventures, and Jeremy Au talked about three main themese:

1. China Tourism & Taylor Swift: Valerie shared the significant impact of Lunar New Year celebrations on Vietnam's work culture and economy, highlighting the extended holiday period shared with its neighbors like China and Singapore. She explored the potential economic benefits of reviving Chinese tourist numbers to pre-COVID levels, considering China's tourists historically accounted for a third of foreign visitors to Vietnam. They also discussed Taylor Swift's Singapore concert as a case study in tourism marketing.

2. Food Delivery Industry Economics: Jeremy and Valerie discussed the inherent challenges of the food delivery industry, characterized by low margins and, in many cases, negative profitability. They mentioned the failed negotiation between Foodpanda (under Delivery Hero) and Grab, highlighting the tough economic realities of the sector. Valerie also expressed her preference for ShopeeFood over Grab due to the smaller, local merchants, and "mom-and-pop" restaurants that the platform partners with. She also touched on the broader market dynamics, including the exit of other players like Bé Minh, the third-largest food delivery service, which left the Vietnamese market to focus on its primary market in South Korea.

3. Air Quality Pollution vs. Industrial Growth: Jeremy and Valerie talked about Vietnam’s economic benefits from its industrial sector, with the smartphone export growth of 16% year-on-year in January 2024. The economic boon comes at the cost of environmental degradation, with both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City respectively placing 3rd and 10th on alarming air quality index rankings. They explored potential strategies for addressing air quality such as temporarily halting industrial activities which China did around the 2008 Olympics to improve its air quality. They discussed the lack of substantial policy measures from the Vietnamese government to combat the air pollution problem partly due to the government's prioritization of economic growth through manufacturing, which is a key driver of Vietnam's GDP.

Jeremy and Valerie also talked about the influence of high-profile educational backgrounds like Harvard, Oxford and NUS on tech startups, environmental policy, and the impact of global cultural events on local economies.

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(01:18) Jeremy Au:

Hey, Valerie, really excited to have you on the show. How's life for you?

(01:21) Valerie Vu:

Hi, Jeremy. Life is good. I just came back from the Lunar New Year holiday. For the audience who don't know it's the biggest holiday in Vietnam. So we have actually almost 10 days, almost two weeks of break because the government still treats Lunar New Year as the biggest holiday. I think Singapore is quite different. You only have a two or three-day break, but in Vietnam, we have a full holiday. And if you look at the lunar calendar until the 15th of January, people still have a really like festive atmosphere and festive mood. So going back to offices, it's not happening fully after January 15 of the lunar calendar which we already passed. So, you know, I'm quite energetic and ready to back to the regular working schedule. Ready for the new year, the year of the dragon.

(02:10) Jeremy Au:

Yeah. It's actually interesting now that you mentioned it because there is some synchronization between Singapore, Indonesia and China. So, obviously China does have that very long holiday as well. And I think I saw the news recently that it was an all time travel high, I think higher than pre-COVID, because of China tourism going to Southeast Asia, especially like Singapore, Vietnam, because of visa free travel as well. So they're that long , two-week holiday. So it's interesting, actually, now you reminded me that Vietnam has one. Yeah. Like you said, Singapore does not have one. The reason why is that, you know, there are several official religions and each one of them has the same number of holidays, you know, and Singapore has one of the least number of holidays in Southeast Asia and total number as well, so productive as a pro-work.

But what happens, of course, is that during the same two weeks is that, not a lot of work gets done, so I was just rolling off a call and was just talking about how like, you know, this year because of the lunar calendar, it's much closer to the December holidays, because it was in early February. So basically, we will all have complaining how nobody worked for January because Christmas holidays. Then the Lunar New Year, then now that Lunar New Year is happening now, a ton of work is happening. Everybody's all like meeting, work, everyone's back to back. So I thought it was interesting.

(03:13) Valerie Vu:

Yeah. And since you mentioned, Chinese tourists actually I was traveling in a Lunar New Year in Da Nang which is an up and coming city in Vietnam located in central Vietnam. I think they're being upgraded to Tier One city. There were a lot of foreign tourists in Da Nang but not a lot of Chinese tourists at all. Most of them are Koreans, followed by Japanese tourists, but I think, if we expect to see more Chinese tourists to come back to Vietnam, our tourism and our economy would fare better because pre-COVID levels, like mainland Chinese tourists account for one-third of foreign visitor to Vietnam. So, you know, we are missing one-third the amount of Chinese tourists has not been recovered at all. And just by going around the city of Da Nang, I only see mostly Korean tourists. So I hope the number of Chinese tourists will recover in the future.

(04:04) Jeremy Au:

Yeah, it's interesting because I was walking around Singapore just yesterday afternoon around Marina Bay Sands and there were a lot of Chinese tourists. I mean, you could tell because, I think the way they dress and of course, what they're speaking, you can pick it up. So a lot of folks are taking lots of photographs and I thought it was, I mean, it's great to see the crowds back, actually. I mean, it's good for Singapore. And talking about tourism, we're excited for Taylor Swift to come in, in a few months time. So, quite interesting.

(04:25) Valerie Vu:

It's the coming week, a few, in a few days.

(04:28) Jeremy Au:

It's going to be crazy because I think Taylor Swift is spending quite a chunk of time in Singapore and Singapore Tourism Board, government basically signed an exclusivity agreement so that she wouldn't tour other cities. So I think Ed Sheeran did Thailand and Singapore, I believe. And then, Taylor Swift was going to be in Singapore. And so a lot of people are going to be flying in for the tourism boom. So it's going to be quite exciting. And I was surprised because the exclusivity agreement was only a couple of million dollars. So I was like, well, like.

(04:55) Valerie Vu:

Good deal.

(04:56) Jeremy Au:

I mean, it's a good deal because, you know.

(04:58) Valerie Vu:


(04:58) Jeremy Au:

I mean, if you think about it, like a couple million dollars, Taylor Swift, but somebody comes in, you're spending at least a couple thousand dollars and and then, you know, there's like tens of thousands of attendees and then, you know, taxing 20-30% of that via all the various expenditures.

(05:11) Valerie Vu:

Yeah, that's it's a good deal because I was planning to travel to Singapore actually for work, but I have to cancel the trip because the flight ticket were insane. Vietnam Airlines totally run out of tickets. The tickets to Singapore are all sold out. I checked a few other airlines and the tickets are like three times more expensive than regular price. Yeah.

(05:31) Jeremy Au:

Yeah, it's crazy. I mean, I think one of the interesting things I learned at Harvard Business School was they were talking about long tail versus blockbusters, so it's not about the entertainment industry and how historically, people thought like the net would make people more interested in long tail content, like smaller titles at house because you have a library, but it turns out the internet and globalization has made money, has allowed studios to make more money on the blockbusters, like, you know, kind of like the hockey shaped curve, right, that, you know, all startups want to have. But, you know, it applies for entertainment because there's zero marginal cost of consumption, or production, like, if you make one Taylor Swift movie, someone else watching it doesn't incur any production cost to consume that on Netflix or whatever it is.

So basically there's actually now, it's even more crazy, kind of like, logarithmic curve. So actually what's interesting, my realization I have here is like, actually a couple million dollars is cheap because Taylor Swift can pull so many people. But there are not that many Taylor Swifts, right? You know? So the question is, who else is a Taylor Swift? But if you're subsidizing, I'm watching another show called Jack Johnson. He's a California kind of musician. And my wife is like, who is this guy? I'm like, he's the guy.

(06:31) Valerie Vu:

I don't know who that is.

(06:32) Jeremy Au:

Yeah. So it's a small stadium, but I'm going to go there. I don't think he got a subsidy from the Singapore government. I don't think he hopes pulled anybody from Southeast Asia to him. So I think it's interesting to see, because there's a lot of competition for the tourism dollar, across Southeast Asia for the Chinese for Southeast Asia side. What else are you seeing on the Vietnam tourism side, industry-wise?

(06:49) Valerie Vu:

I think other satellites, smaller tourist cities such as Nha Trang and Phu Quoc Island are also trying to pick up the pre-COVID pace of tourism, but again, because we are missing that big piece of Chinese, mainland Chinese tourists who haven't actually fully come back. It's recovering, but mainly relying on the Korean tourists. The amount of Chinese tourists only recover about 30% pre-COVID level.

(07:14) Jeremy Au:

Yeah. I think it's really interesting to see here. And what do you think about, we talked about air quality as well in Vietnam. How do you feel about that?

(07:21) Valerie Vu:

Yeah. So I was so relieved in Da Nang because there was no pollution in Da Nang, right? The air quality, you can just feel so different, comparing to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, because I spent time in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh and the moment you landed in Hanoi, you can just see how gloomy the sky is. And my parents keep saying that it's not from the pollution. It's actually from the weather, but I did check the IQAir and both cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh have among the world's worst air quality. It's like the same level with Beijing and Shanghai. And on some days, I actually have breathing issues.

I'm glad it's gone now, but it was super terrible. I think mostly come from the manufacturing activities because both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are located nearby industrial hubs. And if you look at the statistic, the manufacturing output and export have been growing in Vietnam year on year and month on month. That means there's a lot of manufacturing and factory iron action right now, which is a good sign for the economy, but we can clearly see that deteriorating air quality in the major two cities is it's and when I was in Da Nang, which has essentially no manufacturing activity, I can just see and feel the difference of the better air quality.

(08:37) Jeremy Au:

Yeah, I really like the parallel that you had in terms of manufacturing and what's happening. Let me read out some numbers. I think credit goes to Vietnam Reddit, and this guy kind of read out and said, Hey, he woke up and he saw, this is the quote unquote lunatic level air quality. So let me read out some numbers.

He saw that number one is Dhaka, Bangladesh at 316 for the air quality index. Number two is Kolkata at 212. Then number three is Ho Chi Minh at 204. Shanghai at 198. Mumbai at 183. Number six, Delhi at 183. Number seven, Lahore, 183. Number eight, Wuhan China. Number nine, Yangon, Myanmar. And number 10 is Hanoi, Vietnam. And then I think Chongqing and Chengdu comes at number 15, number 16, but it was quite interesting because I remember I was in China back in 2000 and oof seven, before the Olympics and it was also really terrible. And then they cleaned it up a lot because of the Olympics, the summer Olympics. And then they basically banned all industry from operating in order to force air quality to improve. I remember people were like surprised to see a blue sky in Beijing. So actually I was quite surprised because I saw this index and I was like, wait. Basically China has cleaned up his population index somewhat, I would say but I didn't expect Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi to be in the top 10 in the city-wise for air pollution.

(09:50) Valerie Vu:

Yep. Just some statistics to smartphone export grew 16% year on year on January 2024 for Vietnam and Samsung factories are located in the north, like very nearby Hanoi. That's why.

(10:03) Jeremy Au:

Yeah. So the more Samsung phones you buy, the more air pollution you create in Northern Vietnam.

(10:08) Valerie Vu:

I think so.

(10:09) Jeremy Au:

Yeah. I mean, it's not like some random farmer is generating air quality index.

(10:12) Valerie Vu:

I think on top of that, in the Lunar New Year tradition, we also burn a lot of joystick. And,

(10:18) Jeremy Au:

Can't be that many joysticks. Compared to the Indonesia side, they have, there's a historically, the palm oil plantations, there's the part where they burn land to renew it. And so basically what happens is that is this easier to burn a hole, chunk of land rather than to cut it down, blah, blah, blah. I think, actually, it makes sense. I mean, it technically creates the soot and the carbon rich nutrients that you've replanted. Obviously, there's a lot of like deterioration from soil erosion quality wise, but basically, what happens is that Indonesia every year does have that serious air pollution problem. And then Singapore actually does have that smog problem because the,

(10:50) Valerie Vu:

Yeah, the hazing, right?

(10:51) Jeremy Au:

Exactly, will come in from Indonesia, which is actually not good. And I think Singapore often has that air quality warning where kids can't go out and play because the smog from Indonesia is there, which is interesting. Is there any push in Vietnam to improve air quality? Because in the UK, historically during Victorian England, they had the same problem manufacturing-wise. And then there's a public outcry, civic society, government eventually responded. I think we saw that happen in China as well, but more of a government side rather than civic society pushing to improve air quality. So is there any push by, you know, the Vietnam society for this to get better?

(11:22) Valerie Vu:

I haven't seen any active policy. The national television is reflecting on this issue for sure, but government hasn't really started any policy to help with the situation.

(11:34) Jeremy Au:

I think it's tough, right? I mean, for China, it was like moving manufacturing out, forcing many factories to increase their capture of all these pollutants. So it's actually quite a governmental muscle and determination to solve. Honestly, I don't think it's not like a industry self-regulation piece. I don't think that's gonna, that's not the way forward.

(11:52) Valerie Vu:

And also because manufacturing is probably the most important factor on for GDP growth in Vietnam this year, so I don't think there will be any measure to like, Oh, you have to stop or reduce your production because it's the factor that's driving our economy forward.

(12:07) Jeremy Au:

So GDP first, which makes sense. Well, I mean, it makes sense for a policymaker perspective and then deal with the pollution later. I mean, that's what happened in China. It's what happened in so many emerging markets. It's not really a Vietnam issue. It's an emerging market pattern, honestly.

(12:20) Valerie Vu:

Yeah, talking about that, Vietnam just launched, or signed the agreement to launch a carbon credit market. So now, you can buy and sell carbon credit on the market. Will it play an immediate effect? I think it will take some more time.

(12:33) Jeremy Au:

Yeah. not a priority for many emerging markets, right? I mean, I think everybody has a target. It is easy to sign a plan, but whether you actually push, comes to shove, actually prioritize, it is a question mark altogether.

On an interesting note, in terms of manufacturing and pollution as well, I was reading this report that semiconductors, people are trying to decentralize away from Taiwan, because they're concerned about geopolitical slash military risk over Taiwan. And so, I think that I was reading this interesting paper that basically semiconductor manufacturers are finding it easier to do it in Japan, for example, or other Asian countries like Vietnam rather than doing it in America because America's actually put a lot of money into it, but it turns out because America, I think they have three major issues. One is, land is corporate, so it's not owned by government, the utility. So it's like, there's a land dynamic. That's important. is there's a union dynamic, right? So negotiating of unions, so far of labor standards. And then a third is actually environmental review, actually. So the U. S. is a much more stringent environmental review process. So it turns out that Japan is much easier for all three, because the government has the muscle for infrastructure and land build out.

(13:37) Jeremy Au:

Unions are not the same level, in terms of organization. I think that's also true in Vietnam and Singapore. Unions are not like the U. S. unions as well. Now, if you say environmental review is much more streamlined or lightweight, or you could say underweight, I would say, compared to the U. S., depending on your point of view, but I thought it was interesting to see that people are basically having more success decentralizing production in Vietnam, Singapore ,Japan on the semiconductor side.

So, in terms of other pollution for Vietnam, what do you think about that ? I mean, water pollution, plastic pollution, landfill, recycling, how's that coming along?

(14:06) Valerie Vu:

I don't have a exact statistics but I think the bigger problem right now is water quality because the Mekong Delta region is kind of, it's very crucial for like crops in agriculture in Vietnam, and recently there were many droughts in the past few years. So, I think the lack of clean waters especially for the agricultural region of Mekong Delta is a big issue.

(14:28) Jeremy Au:

Interesting. So let's talk about the rest of what article's talking about fraud, cash delivery fraud by delivery riders. What's your take on that?

(14:37) Valerie Vu:

I think it's a typical kind of problem in an emerging country. I'm sure Indonesia has their fair share of fraud, especially on cash on delivery. But the overall trend, I think the article might be a bit outdated because cashless payment, especially through credit card and debit card and now QR code, are getting more and more popular than ever and getting bigger market share in terms of e-commerce transaction and those numbers, those GMV from those transactions are actually far exceeded the cash on delivery already. So, I think the article might be outdated and it's a common issue among all frontier emerging markets.

(15:15) Jeremy Au:

I think what's interesting is that article was also talking about Grab and Shopee Food, which is the two competitors in the space. And it's interesting because a lot of folks don't really know that Shopee has a Shopee Food. I've never ordered from Shopee Food.

(15:25) Valerie Vu:

I think Shopee Food is only available in Vietnam.

(15:28) Jeremy Au:

Yeah. So could you share a little bit more about what the experience is? Which one do you prefer? What's the differences between the two platforms?

(15:33) Valerie Vu:

I prefer Shopee Food.

(15:34) Jeremy Au:

Ooh. Why? Is it price? Is it subsidies? I mean, that's one way to compete. Or is it just a UX?

(15:39) Valerie Vu:

So Grab, they work mostly with big chains, kind of the brand that you're already familiar with, like KFC, McDonald's. They would be always available on Grab because I believe Grab take rate is higher than that of Shopee food. So only big stores or restaurant who are already at scale can afford Grab. Shopee food on the other hand, they have a lot of like mom-and-pop merchants, smaller merchants, but the food quality is better, right? They are not a chain. Maybe they have one or only two locations. And I like that type of food better comparing to McDonald's or KFC or Vietnam. So that's why I order from Shopee Food more frequently than Grab.

(16:16) Jeremy Au: All the product managers on both sides are listening in right now. What's interesting is that Foodpanda was trying to sell. So, they are part of the mothership called Delivery Hero. And I think for about two months now, I say, you know, there was the leak that they were negotiating with Grab to potentially sell themselves. I think it goes back to the economics, right? Like food delivery is a really tough, low margin, or let's be real, a negative margin business for many platforms. And so, it's a very tough business to build and supposedly, I think, economies of scale will let you consolidate some SG&A costs, give you some profitability, give you some negotiating leverage, but unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, Foodpanda didn't sell and supposedly Grab left the table. They felt like the price wasn't good enough and perhaps maybe the public disclosure of the talks or so kind of came out as well. So I think it's interesting to see how Foodpanda does. I mean, Foodpanda is not in Vietnam, but it's interesting to see how the consolidation of the food systems will come out. Are there any other food delivery services in Vietnam that's out there as well between these two?

(17:09) Valerie Vu:

Yeah, they are, but they leaving or already left the market. Like, two years ago, Bé Minh was the third largest food delivery player. They decided to leave Vietnam Q4 2023 because You know, it's a, it's a tough game. They need to reserve capital to the main market, which is South Korea. So they mean left Vietnam last year, late last year.

So now the few remaining players substantial players are Grab and Shopee food and, you know, Shopee food also. So Shopee acquire a food review company in Vietnam called Foodie. And they rebrand Foodie to Shopee food. And that's why Shopee food enjoys a more diverse selection of merchants and restaurants, especially mom and pop shop, because this mom and pop shop actually have more reviews from previous user of foodie versus grab.

They, like, as, like I mentioned, they might have higher tech rate. I'm quite sure of that. And that's why they can only work with mostly chain and bigger merchants.

(18:04) Jeremy Au:

Yeah, I think it's interesting because I don't think they're playing the same game, right? Which I think, like you said, I think Grab is focusing a little bit on a higher take rate. Because I think profitability from the, you know, overall group is really important for them.

While like you mentioned for Shopee sounds like they're more willing to go on a growth strategy, right?

More frequent orders, but maybe smaller orders. Again, speculation on my end, but based on what you're saying here,

(18:26) Valerie Vu:

Correct. Yep.

(18:26) Jeremy Au:

I'm going to ask, what's your favorite order?

(18:28) Valerie Vu:

Favorite order?

(18:28) Jeremy Au:

Yeah. What ShopeeFood?

(18:30) Valerie Vu:

I order the grilled, grilled pork noodles.

(18:34) Jeremy Au:

Oh, great.

(18:34) Valerie Vu:

I’ll order it for you next yeah, next time when you are in Vietnam, I will order it for

(18:37) Jeremy Au:

Oh, that, that'd be my first ever Shopee food experience. I never had

(18:41) Valerie Vu:


(18:42) Jeremy Au:

First time a tourist. There we go.

(18:44) Jeremy Au:

On that note, we're talking about coverage, right? Of Vietnam as a country. And actually, it was interesting to see that there's been a lot more coverage of Vietnam in The Economist.

Actually, I feel like every issue now there's a article in Vietnam. So, We look at those articles and I think there's several headlines. One was like few countries are better placed than Vietnam to get rich. There's one title. Another one was Vietnam needs a new leader was another title. So lots of different articles.

I mean, also previously talk about the education system and high quality there, but I guess you and I want to talk about what we think about the quality, I guess, of the economist coverage for Vietnam as a market.

(19:16) Valerie Vu:

I’m a bit surprised by the recent articles put out by The Economist. The articles have barely any data or statistics. Or actually testimonial from reliable source to prove for their point of view. So it was really one sided point of view. I don't necessarily agree with what they portraying in the articles.

I think it's a bit unfair. I'm a bit surprised by why. Their title are becoming more and more like a clickbait which the economist was not known for being that.

(19:45) Jeremy Au:

Yeah, I think it's interesting because, you know, one interesting fact is that they did move their Beirut chief, right? And, you know, the person was formerly located in Hong Kong and they moved to Singapore actually. So I think there's a a big reason why I think there's a rise, I would say, in the coverage, obviously, of Southeast Asia, because, I guess, the Beirut chief is closer to Southeast Asia.

That's one piece. But also, of course, I think what's interesting is that economists, you know, I think they Quite clear about their stance, right? I think they're pro trade. I think they're definitely can't remember the exact phrases that you used there, so I don't want to go there, but they do have, I think, a strong, I wouldn't say, I think some people characterize as political, but I think from that perspective, they look like they have a strong, like values or normative stance.

I think on, and I think what's interesting is that it's almost feels like every time I read this, it's like, it's like, I'm reading this as a Southeast Asian reading historically a UK based paper. Right. That's Catering to the West in some ways about a country that's very nearby. And I think there's also, you know, it's, it's interesting.

(20:36) Valerie Vu:

Yeah. Whatever they stance is, I, I want to see more actual statistics, data reports in a reliable, if they interview maybe as a politician but they didn't, it was really objective to their point of view.

(20:50) Jeremy Au:

Yeah, I think it would be interesting to see, I mean, maybe I'm a bit more optimistic as well and feel like, you know, maybe they're slowly progressing and learning, I think and also I think it's interesting because I think this is really important because when I was in the U S like a month ago. And the truth is most people are not getting much coverage about Southeast Asia.

So The Economist is actually maybe the only real piece that actually covers it on a maybe recurring basis because they have a whole section, right, on,

The Asia side that's excluding China. So China is a separate piece and then the Asia section. So I think it's quite interesting because there's always a recurring Southeast Asia piece.

Whereas I think the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, you know, they're more unbundled, right? In that sense. So, anyway, I just think that there's a lot of I think they punch above your weight for economists. It's not just one publication, but it's actually a source of framing and thinking for a lot of folks in Washington, DC.

(21:37) Valerie Vu:


(21:37) Jeremy Au:

So I think the last thing is that, you know, we want to talk about that Nikkei Asia article, which was about Harvard and Oxford graduates powering Vietnam's tech startup scene. What do you think about that?

(21:46) Valerie Vu:

I haven't read the article, but based on the title, I agree, but also disagree. The Harvard, Oxbridge type of grads, you know, they have a lot of pedigree and prestige to their name. So it's easy. Still easier for them to fundraise and get just from VCs. But historically my past investment, actually, most of the founders graduated from university in Singapore. And I think they have a higher advantage comparing to founders who study in the U. S. or Europe because being in Singapore, you're so close to Vietnam but still get the international exposure that all the founders are kind of, the founders without foreign education will not have they can make the trip to Vietnam, which is less than two hours.

Monthly, or at least like quarterly so they get updated to what's happening in Vietnam more often. And sometimes, actually most of the time, these founders worked for a Southeast Asian conglomerate or a Vietnamese conglomerate. Right after graduation. So immediately they are really emerged in the local market right after graduation versus the Harvard and Oxbridge type of graduates, even though they might be Vietnamese, they are away from Vietnam for like.

At least four, four to five years, depending on how many years they study and work overseas. So when they come back to Vietnam still take them some time to adapt and adjust. Back to the working culture, to the local nuances to especially, I think, especially working culture how to deal with suppliers, negotiate with customers communicate with your employees, especially So to be honest much, but the majority of my founders got really well graduated from Singapore University, such as National University of Singapore Singapore Management University, or Nanyang Technology University.

So I think the article is missing piece, a big piece there. And it's the tone, the title sounds a bit favorable.

(23:38) Jeremy Au:

Yeah, I mean, it's always sexier clickbait, right? I mean, these days, I think, you know, because I can't hit the player here to hit the game in that sense. But I think you raise a really great point, which is that, you know, I previously did some, you know, quantitative analysis on university education and.

Yeah, I think the short answer that you have there is, I think, from you know, if you look at a objective, quantitative, absolute number, I think National University of Singapore is the number one source of, you know, kind of like unicorn founders in Southeast Asia, right? So I think that's an important school because, like you said, I think National University of Singapore actually ranks very highly in terms of academic qualities comparable to many of the top universities in the U. S., but also, yes, the size, right, because a lot of folks in Southeast Asia travel to NUS, et cetera, and there's an I think what I can say about Harvard, and I would say to a lesser extent Oxford, but I think for the Harvard and Stanford folks who are returning to Vietnam. Asia they are also still in the top 10.

So like, they're like number three, number five, for example, like they're actually quite high in the rankings. It's just that the total absolute numbers of people who are coming back is lower. So the per capita hit rate of the founders in terms of raising large rounds and growing them. Now, whether there's a function of funders saying like, Oh, you know.

They're prestigious, so we'll follow that signal versus they're actually quantitatively better at building a company versus are they quantitatively better at fundraising is to be determined. But I think that's a big part of it. I did like also the Nikkei article. They did show that Vietnam leads Southeast Asia in study abroad.

So Vietnam has by 140, 000 people. Who study abroad, Indonesia only has about 60, 000, number two, Malaysia at 50, 000, Thailand at 25, 000, Philippines at also around 25, 000, Singapore about 20, 000. Then Myanmar Laos, Cambodia, Brunei lower than that. I'll say the good news for Singapore is that on a per capita basis, you know, it's a lot smaller than everybody else.

So, so an absolute number. But I think Vietnam is interesting because, you know, Vietnam is smaller than Indonesia population size, but, you know, effectively has. You know, 2. 5 times more people studying abroad in Indonesia. So it's quite an interesting effect, I would say.

(25:37) Valerie Vu:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I think we covered this in our past episode, right? The education is really the most important thing in Vietnamese household. That's the last thing that we will sacrifice. We have to put education as priority. I think we already discussed in previous episodes.

(25:51) Jeremy Au:

Do is maybe next time we'll do a discussion, but what, is there a tiger mom version or stereotype of Vietnam households? I mean, in America, they have one, they call it tiger mom. But I'm just kind of curious, you know, in the future, what we can do is like, what does a typical Vietnamese family focus on, for example education wise?I think it'd be interesting to look at it that way. On that note, thank you so much for spending time this morning with us.

(26:14) Valerie Vu:

Yeah, thank you, Jeremy. Thank you, Brave, for having me again.