CWRU students help Vietnamese startup companies

Tanvi Parmar, Special Assignments Reporter

In Professor Michael Goldberg’s Asian Venture Capitalism class, students are able to make a difference in the global business world. For this class, five selected companies that graduated from the Founder Institute are assigned to groups of students who help them assess their business situation.

The Founder Institute is a global launch network that was founded in 2009 by entrepreneur Adeo Ressi, in the heart of Silicon Valley. This part-time, four-month program helps entrepreneurs build their companies with feedback and support from experienced CEOs.

The program even has a Graduate Liquidity Pool that helps the graduates and mentors of the program to network and create a business market for the companies to succeed.

The institute has assisted in creating 650 companies across 37 cities and five continents. Its goal is to “globalize Silicon Valley” by jumpstarting 1000 technology companies in 50 cities, worldwide.

In the past week, three students in the class presented their revised presentation and vision for their selected Vietnam-based company, Biaki, to its CEO, Mai Duy Quang. The students were required to compact the company’s overview and development into a short presentation. Their goal was to help the foreign startup company appeal to investors, particularly those from the United States.

When asked about his experience, presenter William Hu said, “The experience was definitely a first for me, not only in terms of speaking with the CEO of a start-up, but also because he was Vietnamese. It was a challenge to get in touch with him because of the time zone and because he was always busy, but bouncing our ideas and suggestions off of him and hearing his enthusiastic feedback was very rewarding. Hopefully, we will see our suggestions taken into consideration the next time Quang pitches to foreign investors.”

Professor Goldberg said that he hoped his class helped students understand how investors assess risk in startup companies. He also wants his students to see a new perspective of entrepreneurship and problems that arise with startups.

“While working with the Vietnamese start-up Biaki’s CEO, I learned not only of the hardships of presenting a company to investors but also the cultural differences of business between the United States and Asia. For example, practices such as treating a building inspector to lunch for a good report is commonplace in China, but would most likely be considered bribery in the United States,” said presenter Akil Evans.

Evans also said that their final project recognized that Biaki displayed information of value to investors. The students suggested that the company work on their visuals so that their presentations did not present an overwhelming amount of information on each slide.

Students of the class were grateful for Professor Goldberg’s connections that allowed them to receive guest lectures from Chinese CEOs, lawyers, business accelerators, capital partners, and other individuals with knowledge of the venture capitalism.

Professor Goldberg, himself, visited Vietnam previously and taught an entrepreneurship class there for the Fulbright Program. He also admitted to learning a few things from his class, just as the students had.

“I had assumed that Vietnam, because of growth, had greater opportunities to tap into American investors. It is harder because English is their second language so it makes it a longer process to get U.S. investors comfortable,” said Professor Goldberg.