Vietnam is a place close to my heart, I lived there for a year. I have always thought there was something special about this country, something which set it apart from any other.
The Vietnamese have a distinct, underlying kindness and sense of greater good. Once they trust an outsider they will always put them first.
I have watched as many large western companies try and fail to break into this new asian tiger. How they fail to capitalise on this nations collectivism, its sense of a greater good, it’s urge for a shared meaning and purpose.
When I heard about a successful American founder moving over to Vietnam to start a new venture, I knew I had to speak to him. I wanted to find out why he is doing this and if he saw in the people what i did.
The invitation turned out to be a request to help found CoderSchool.
Marcus describes himself as driven by a desire to always climb mountains.
To always try to push himself and others around him to new extremes, to be the best they can be, to find a shared purpose and push towards achieving this no matter what.
He is a strong believer that being around others with the right attitude is what allows someone to be the best, that greater things are achieved together than alone.
Previously they had worked in the San Francisco based company, CodePath, which specializes in world class, professional training for engineers at Facebook, Airbnb, Twitter, and other top Silicon Valley technology companies.
CoderSchool was born from their experience there.
Vietnam provided a place where they could combine what they were inspired by with the opportunity to create a difference.
Their goal was to bring Silicon Valley training to Vietnamese engineers. Marcus soon realised that Vietnam was the right place for him to climb mountains.
Marcus spent 1 year at CoderSchool before creating a new venture, HackerFleet. HackerFleet is a venture-building studio that partners with entrepreneurs and investors to build startups.
Instead of only training engineers, HackerFleet is a way to connect the best talents around the world to build startups.
The best talent in Vietnam work with the best talent across the world.
This breaks down the geographical barriers by allowing talent in Vietnam to learn from the best.
HackerFleet is a new model for the venture building industry. It Creates talented startup teams on demand to build innovation better.
What have you found to be an advantage of Vietnam over the US (expect for the obvious such as cost)?
The Vietnamese people are some of the most welcoming, authentic, giving people I’ve met anywhere in the world.
Vietnam exists amongst a backdrop of Confucian pragmatism and Marxist ideology. What does this mean for how the people operate their everyday lives? Purpose matters.
In the U.S. the individual is the reason why you act. In Vietnam, there is always a greater good, whether that be family, friend, or community. This provides a solid anchor by which the people here form their commitment. It is humbling to work with people that believe in you.
Tell me about the challenges which you faced in Coderschool. Did these inform anything you did at Hackerfleet?
In Coderschool the growth was quick and we had no shortage of leads from those wanting to be trained.
The issue was getting the partnerships from big technology companies as they just weren’t in Vietnam.
This caused us to iterate on our business model. At times we relied on sponsorship. At times we relied on recruitment revenue. Hackerfleet came from this challenge.
Without the large tec companies it is difficult for the engineers here to improve once they reach a certain point. They are extremely talented but they are limited by the experience of those around them.
To be the best you need to be surrounded by the best.
The people here are talented, but they needed something extra. Something that could make them even better.
At Hackerfleet we believe that something is the people they work with. One of the best lessons I learnt from Coderschool was how to spot people with the right mentality. I realized who were attracted by the salary as opposed to personal growth were not right for the company.
At Hackerfleet we only want to employ passionate people, who want to build a better community and a better world collectively.
Why have you chosen Vietnam over the US to start your second company, Hackerfleet?
Vietnam is a hugely exciting emerging market.
Millions of people are just starting to get online and become internet savy.
Vietnam is developing so quickly. I want to position myself in the world in a place where it is changing, where I can affect more people’s lives.
In Vietnam I can make a real difference and that is why I would want to be here over the US. I want to give people with real talent the access they need to the right people.
I am drawn to the Vietnamese culture. How it is so misunderstood from the outside. How the people are one of the kindest nations. They work for a greater good, once they trust you you become their greater good.
After speaking to Marcus and reflecting on my own experience I feel one of the main reasons other western companies seem unable to win the Vietnamese market is they miss the importance of trust.
The Vietnamese are not a nation who will even speak up until they trust you. When you realise something is wrong it is too late.
If you have a good cause and want to improve the nation you can spend time winning the trust of the people. Once they trust you then there is nothing they will not do to help you achieve this greater cause.
From San Francisco to Ho Chi Minh Marcus takes the ethos that people come first in business and this is the case no matter where in the world you are.
This is a model which sits well in Vietnam and I am sure is responsible for his success in the country.