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.
Next the optician shaped the lens using a grinder:
Twenty minutes later I had my glasses:
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.