Vietnamese Founder: My Mom Wouldn’t Speak to Me for 3 Months

November 22, 2011

9:14 am

BaoMoi, one of the top news sites in Vietnam, was inspired by Google News; its cofounder and CEO, Tuan Nguyen, was inspired by the Adam Sandler movie Mr. Deeds:

He owned a company and said to the board members: ‘Did you have a dream in your childhood? Do you really want to be a businessman or do you really want to be a doctor, a dentist, or a teacher?’ All the people said they had a dream, but they don’t take the risk because they do what most people do: they study in university, find a job, and so life is very routine.

When I saw this movie, I realized I had another choice. It inspired me a lot. Many people cannot follow their dreams. I have a chance to follow my dream. Why not?

So 4 years ago, when Nguyen earned a scholarship for graduate study in computer science in Germany, he decided to start a company instead, called ePi Technologies. He knew that if he studied abroad and returned to Vietnam a few years later, he would have to start a family and get a high-paying job to support his wife and kids. “Even if we fail, we’ll have a great experience,” Nguyen reasoned at the time. But his mother didn’t think the same way: she refused to talk to him for 3 months and called his choice “stupid.”

With BaoMoi free for users, Nguyen and his team struggled to make money in the beginning. They couldn’t even pay their web hosting fees, so when the bill collectors came, they turned off the lights and pretended no one was around. But ePi received an undisclosed round of investment from IDG in 2009, and they have since grown to a team of 20.

Now, BaoMoi – which uses learning algorithms to rank what articles are “hot,” lets users create personalized news feeds and recommends articles to them – is only one product of ePi Technologies. They also built a top tech forum called Vn-Zoom and a social media monitoring tool for businesses.

“I proved to my mother that sometimes we should take the risk to follow our dreams,” says Nguyen. He is happy to be creating original products, not taking on outsourcing work like many IT companies in Vietnam.

Four years after launch, their goal is to expand throughout the region and become the best tech media company in Asia. And even if they fail, they’ll still have a great experience.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact [email protected]

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