Vietnam is the start-up hub of ASEAN, and as of 2018 there were as many as 3,000 start-ups in the country – a demonstration of the strong entrepreneurial spirit in the country.
And Truong Duc Thang is one person who reflects that spirit. An ACCA qualified accountant by training, Truong’s true passion is not in book keeping or auditing, but rather in start-ups.
In other words, Truong Duc Trang is a serial entrepreneur, and to date he has founded or co-founded three start-ups; the first of which was Liberzy in 2017. The first travel site/app in the Vietnamese language, Liberzy has since managed to capture a sizeable share of the country’s growing domestic tourism market, giving foreign apps such as TripAdvisor a run for their money.
From Idea to Reality
The inspiration for Liberzy came after Truong moved from Hanoi to the tourist hotspot of Da Nang. He made friends with the many visitors who flocked to the popular coastal town and came to understand their needs and wants. And with that knowledge in hand, he set off to create a mobile application that would allow local tourists to share their experiences in their native language.
The first time, however, is always the trickiest, and for Truong, the initial challenge was trying to navigate the intricacies of starting a business. Fortunately, he was able to find a suitable start-up incubator, which showed him the ropes and even introduced him to a technology company that would help him get Liberzy off the ground.
Even then, it would take a full two years (and a fair amount of blood, sweat and tears) to get Liberzy fully up and running, during which time Truong was engaged in researching the market and working on the technology.
The big break came in late 2019, when he was invited to pitch Liberzy to a panel of investors on the TV show Shark Tank Vietnam. It worked a treat, one of the sharks bit and Liberzy received an important injection of funding which enabled Truong to complete the app and launch it.
From Pitching to Investing
Of course, once bitten by the entrepreneurship bug, there is no looking back. Since then, Truong has added two more start-ups to his portfolio, both in 2019. Top SV caters for students in Vietnam in particular, providing them with a platform to share their school experiences. And then there’s Green Beli, where users can leave reviews of businesses (particularly hotels, restaurants and cafes) that carry out green practices.
For Truong Duc Thang, the next step is to shift from being on one side of the pitch to the other side. As he said in an interview to Accounting and Business (AB) magazine, “‘I want to become a startup investor,’ he says. ‘I have more ideas and I also want to find young people with ideas of their own so that I can invest in them.”