Luck & Connecting the Dots

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During President Obama’s visit to Vietnam from May 23–25, 2016, there were a few of his autographs being shared including ours, which caught my attention because of its powerful meaning.

First autograph was for Tin Nguyen — founder and CEO of Dreamplex, the co-working space that hosted Obama’s panel with the young entrepreneurs in Saigon.

What Tin did with Dreamplex was a big dream. Co-working space business is always tough, especially in Vietnam. Before Dreamplex, there were several other spaces which closed down. Regardless, Tin still pursued his dream, with Dreamplex — a place for “dream chasers”, which is indeed a profound message.

The second autograph was for Silicon Straits, after our demo at the tech exhibition, as part of the event.

Autograph of President Obama for Silicon Straits

“Good luck!” seems like a normal and simple message, but what stroke me was how everything has connected and led to that amazing moment when we had a chance to demo our Augmented Reality (AR) app to President Obama.

It may be called “luck” and we normally do this “connecting the dots” thinking to see how one thing lead to another. It helped us figuring out why and how we could get to where we are now, how all the opportunities just line up at the right time (when we prepared), and how certain things happened this way.

Connecting the dots

The story leading to this particular event went back a year ago when I first met Pho Pham, IDG Venture Vietnam at a CrowPitch event as judge panel. After that, we had couple chances to work together on different projects. Then one day in February this year, Pho shared a link to apply for Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2016 (GES) program, which I immediately jumped in and submitted the application. Two months of waiting ended with a congratulatory email from GES that I am selected for both GES and GES+. As one of the 8 individuals would be coming to the Summit in U.S. 2016 from Vietnam. This was how Silicon Straits got in touch with the U.S. Consulate in HCM City.

Two weeks prior to the event, Andrew, a consulate site officer, reached out to ask whether we had anything for an important tech demo by the end of May. I somehow knew it would be part of the event with President Obama visiting Vietnam, so I replied with a few projects we are doing including Cognito, AdsBox, and then Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality, which happened to have a showcase demo at Forbes Under 30 Summit and caught attention of some Consulate office’s members. During the following few days, Andrew and our AR team were bouncing ideas, testing different set-up, preparing the scripts to make sure we wouldn’t just demo the technology but also share the entrepreneurship and innovative spirit of Vietnam. Then on June 24th, we finally could show President Obama, an interesting story about Saigon, “Bánh mì” and Entrepreneurship using our AR technology. 

Obama tries our AR app

SS demo of AR Education app for Mr. President — from The White House

It’s a long and exciting story which to me it’s all about catching opportunity and be prepared to say yes. We never thought or dreamt that one day we could meet President Obama. We simply had a dream of using technology to change business landscape and people’s life. Everything we’ve built over the past 3 years connected to this moment now when we look back and connect the dots.

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity — Seneca

It’s similar to what we have at Silicon Straits. Three years ago we only had an idea of building a cool place for geeks like us to work. With (maybe) quite a bit luck (and opportunities) coming our way, we feel like we are moving closer to our goals & dreams.

It is not just about us

As a representative for tech startup community in Vietnam to be part of this demo, I feel very proud that I could help show the world that we have a lot of raw tech talents and interesting startups in Vietnam.

I am looking forward to GES in Silicon Valley end of this June: learning about entrepreneurship from other countries, and also promoting Vietnam startup ecosystem. Vietnam deserves more attention from the world, and President Obama’s visit has brought the spotlight to our youth spirit and raising of entrepreneurship. I want to continue to bring more attention to our ecosystem so that we could attract investors, partners, and supporters to help us grow further.

Focus on the works ahead

During his speech at TownHall with YSEALI, President Obama shared:

.. Don’t worry so much about what you want to be, worry more about what you want to do. If you’re passionate about your work, naturally over time you’re gonna rise and people will admire and respect what you’ve done. 
But if all you’re thinking about is “I’m gonna be a member of the National Assembly” or “I want to be rich”, then you’ll pay less attention to the actual work in front of you.
… I didn’t start out thinking I want to be President of the USA. When I stopped fooling around and wanted to get serious, what I decided was that I want to help people in low income communities have opportunities…
… Decide what it is that you care about deeply, and then put everything you have into doing that. — President Barack Obama

We have big dreams, but we always remind ourselves to keep our head down, focus on what’s ahead of us, put everything into what we do best — building great products. Because we also know that, with luck, our opportunity to create the real impact to the world will come (and it’s already had).

Silicon Straits third year anniversary
Photo from our 3-years birthday party — which 3 days before President Obama’s visit.
P.S: we’ve just launched the demo AR app here, you can check it out and read the short story behind it 😉