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A Pioneer In Connecting People

Shunning big companies, young entrepreneur Ho Quang Khanh and somefriends founded the first online professional social network in Vietnam. Its website, www.cyvee.com, is owned by Dang Ho Co., where Khanh is co-founder and managing director. He talks to the Weekly about the network.

Q: What’s your business background?

A: I studied finance and management information systems in Simon Fraser University in Canada. I then worked there as a consultant on software and information technology applications in management for an affiliate of Business Objects Company. Later I moved to Singapore and worked there as a consultant for the Asian market of the company’s another affiliate. My job was very good, but I then thought of a change, so I went back to Canada and studied for an MBA (Master of Business Administration) at the University of Western Ontario’s Richard Ivey School of Business. In total I spent nine years overseas. When I returned to Vietnam, I worked for Mekong Capital’s private equity section, since I was interested in finance. I worked there for two and a half years, in charge of looking for investment opportunities for the fund.

How did that lead to your website?

After bringing in some deals, I became more and more interested in the work. Along with my job, the importance of relationships among people was very clear. I had this idea for a website and being very excited about it, I quit my job and with the cooperation with some friends built this business early this year, which is involved in providing the public with a website where they can make connections with other people. We started right from designing the website and then building it. At the beginning, we named the website VNSpoke or www.vnspoke.com. But recently, we changed the name to Cyvee or www.cyvee.com, standing for cyber Vietnam. The website follows the form of www.linkedin.com, which is where people can make connections to those they know and those they don’t. The website is a professional social network initiated from South America. When I applied it to Vietnam, I had to make a lot of changes so that Vietnamese people can easily adopt it. It was launched early this year with about a few hundred members. At present, the number of members has increased sharply, to nearly 12,000.

From a position with great opportunities, what made you make the change?

After I returned to Vietnam, I worked for Mekong Capital. With that experience and the chance to meet many people, I recognized the vital role of having connections. Before that I had learnt all about IT, so I have the awareness of its importance and love working in that field. I had the passion necessary to push my dreams ahead and the opportunities to develop them. So I decided to make the change. I want to have something of my own. After some months, our business has been quite well. Recently, IDG Ventures Vietnam, a technology venture capital fund, has invested in the website, being the company’s first strategic investor. So, I’m very optimistic that the website will have more development, and as a result being more able to help members.

What is your view of the relationships between people? How can your website help?

In life as well as in business, connections are one of the key factors that lead to success. Especially in Vietnam in this period of time, such connections are more necessary than ever. Having a relationship to someone is important, but it is more important to maintain the relationship. It is not about reaching to them whenever you need them, but it is about building the close relationship and doing things for each other. The website can be considered as a tool or a community; it helps maintain the relationships we already have. So that is the reason why I always remind members that “the more you give, the more you get.” They need to be active in inviting more friends to the website and those friends will invite others. The connection is then very large and will benefit all members. Through our network, members can look for friends, recruit or seek jobs.

Do you think it may not be as effective as building relationships offline and it is easy to meet the wrong sort of persons?

Building relationships offline and online have their own advantages. Meeting online cannot take the place of meeting offline. However, with the online network, you have more chances to meet with more people. In our website we have built many sections where members have the chance to make friends, such as forums, questions and answers, and events. It is quite safe there in the website. If someone is not good, then the community will weed them out. To judge a person, members can look at the level they make friends with others. Look at how many friends they have on their friend list. Members can be introduced to one another, but then through some talks and discussions, members can make a judgment about the person they are making friends with. Gradually, this person has to take leave.

Reported by Ngoc Lac.