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U.S. entrepreneur reconnects with his roots in native land

APRIL 22, 2005
San Jose Mercury News
Ben Stocking


Many of the Vietnamese-American techies working in Vietnam were drawn by a desire to reconnect with their roots and help their homeland.

‘ I feel a real passion for the people here, and a real passion to be a contributor to help Vietnam grow,” said Henry Nguyen, who manages a $100 million technology fund for IDG Ventures Vietnam. Hoping to find others of like mind, Nguyen went to Silicon Valley earlier this month, seeking out entrepreneurs who share his desire to build links between the United States and their homeland. The interest in understanding the Vietnamese market seemed genuine, Nguyen said. And building the relationship can be of great benefit to both American entrepreneurs and to Vietnam, where there is a wealth of bright-eyed technology graduates but a shortage of seasoned managers.

‘ Vietnamese-Americans can become very successful here,” he said. ‘ We can become innovators and leaders in our homeland, which needs us.” In his visit with valley entrepreneurs — Vietnamese-Americans and non-Vietnamese — he stressed that both opportunities and challenges await anyone who goes into business here.

‘ I’m bullish on Vietnam, but it’s not all a bed of roses,” he said. ‘ I tell people it’s a wonderful opportunity if you figure out how to navigate it.”

IDG recently funded its first two Vietnamese firms, PeaceSoft Solutions Corp. and i-Sphere Software, both based in Hanoi. The fund, which set up shop in Hanoi last summer, also opened an office in Ho Chi Minh City recently.

Nguyen, 31, has been working in Vietnam since 2001, after he received his medical and business degrees from Northwestern University.

At the end of the Vietnam War, when Nguyen was 22 months old, his family fled Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, and moved to northern Virginia. ‘ I’m American through and through in terms of my passport and my upbringing, but I still have a strong sense of patriotism for my homeland,” he said.