The Next Silicon Valley? Entrepreneurship in Da Nang

Vietnam is trying to create its own version of Silicon Valley.  In 2013 it launched the ambitious Silicon Valley Project: an initiative aiming to transform the country from a top producer of electronic components to a major player in the global digital economy. The goal of the effort is to launch internationally competitive technology firms while transforming Da Nang, Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City into a tech hub. Vietnam is taking a smart, systematic approach to building a startup ecosystem. Training programs to help entrepreneurs develop their ideas abound. There is even a business accelerator modelled on Y combinator.

The initiative is certainly creating a buzz; just before we arrived in Da Nang, Lotus Fund announced the launch of an innovation space for entrepreneurs called the Lotus Hub.

All this got me thinking about the fellows who made me some new eyeglasses this week (mentioned in an earlier post). While eyeglasses aren’t at the forefront of the technology revolution (anymore), these opticians show a real entrepreneurial spirit.

My glasses need an extra strong prism ground into the lens. These opticians had never worked with this kind of prism and apparently there’s only one firm that has these lenses in Vietnam. It’s based in Hanoi, more than 700 km away. While I was getting fitted for glasses, the opticians tracked down the firm in Hanoi and arranged to get the lenses shipped to Da Nang. Two days later I was back at the optician to get my glasses.

I had never seen glasses get built before now. With a marker, the opticians traced the lens shape (from the original plastic lenses that come with the frame) onto the new lenses. They snipped off the glass around the marker line using regular pliers. The result: the lenses you see in the picture below.

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Next the optician shaped the lens using a grinder:

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Twenty minutes later I had my glasses:

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Nobody knows how successful the Silicon Valley project will be. While there are plenty of young people with great ideas, the bench of experienced managers might not be deep enough to handle the growth. As well, the government’s role in the initiative could impede its progress. But I will say this: I have a great pair of new eyeglasses, made by some entrepreneurs that aren’t dissuaded by a weird prescription and the logistics of getting a lens from 700 km away.

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2 thoughts on “The Next Silicon Valley? Entrepreneurship in Da Nang

  1. Great eyeglass story! Who knew your eyes were so high tech???

    Careful about investing in these new startups. We invested in one (personally) a few years ago, altho’ not a tech company. and have not seen any profit yet. But one does have to give the country credit for it’s energy and entrepreneurial spirit . When we were there, we heard not one negative thought or depressed outlook, despite all the country had been through. Most of my generation had been wiped out, especially the men….sometimes even by their neighbours, ( the neighbours they found themselves beside once the “north” and “south” barriers disappeared). Everyone left was either REALLY old or 40 and under. That would be different today obviously (10 yrs later), but I bet you don’t see many people in their 70’s today (encroaching on REALLY old but by no means there yet!!!!!) hugs, Mp

    Mary Pat Armstrong 95A Roxborough St. E. Toronto, ON, M4W 1V9 416-922-4812 mary-pat-armstrong@rogers.com

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  2. We were really struck by the entrepreneurial energy throughout N and S Vietnam 10 yrs ago. Morning breaks, shutters are pulled up and business begins. I am not surprised it has gone to a new level.
    Great blog Nigel and Louise!!!

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