Aaron Everhart sits in a shared-working studio surrounded by young creatives, speaking via Skype about the new crop of tech entrepreneurs changing the face of his city.
He could easily be speaking from California’s Silicon Valley, but in fact Aaron is in Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam, where the number of tech start-ups is booming.
The La Trobe alumnus moved to Vietnam more than a decade ago, when the country’s tech industry was still in its infancy. Now it has grown dramatically, and the country’s universities are producing thousands of well-trained IT and software engineering students eager to make their mark.
That’s where Aaron comes in. As co-founder of Hatch Ventures, he provides mentoring and training to budding entrepreneurs, ensuring they have the support to turn their ideas for websites, apps and services into marketable businesses.
Aaron says Hatch’s mission is simple – help more Vietnamese start-up companies prosper.
“The foundation for any country’s economy is small business, and Vietnam is no exception,” he says. “But there were problems in keeping these businesses going. For as many start-ups that opened in the country, the same number would close. This is a huge economic burden, and people’s fortunes and people’s jobs were lost because of it,” he says.
Aaron completed his La Trobe MBA at Hanoi University, where the course is delivered through a partnership between the two universities. As part of his studies, he researched existing start-up companies and examined why many fail.
“We realised that if we could engineer start-ups, introduce them to best practices, make sure they have a valid market and develop a product that has an authentic demand before they go to business, then we can give them the greatest chance of success,” he says.
Hatch Ventures welcomes four new start-up companies to its fold each year, providing them with intensive training and mentoring before showcasing their ideas to a pool of investors at Hatch’s annual conference.
The companies in Hatch’s 2016 cohort are aimed at a wide range of markets. They include a website making it easier for people to find and rate offline classes such as fitness classes or language lessons, a cloud-based management system for kindergartens, an app that brings services like motorcycle maintenance and window cleaning straight to people’s doors, and another app that rewards users for taking part in market research surveys.
For Aaron, the sky is the limit. “There is so much untapped potential in Vietnam. Some of these young people, thanks to the internet, are looking at stories like Mark Zuckerberg’s and other famous start-up stories and they’re thinking, ‘hey, I could do that too’.”
Aaron credits part of his success to the support he has received from fellow entrepreneurs in the region, as well as from his MBA lecturers.
“Some of the professors from La Trobe have been very supportive, one of the professors, Dirk Maclean, encouraged us in the very beginning and came to our first meeting. He was my professor in my very first class which was on organisational behaviour,” Aaron says.
“What I liked about La Trobe is that it provided an environment where ideas are explored. Things that don’t normally come together, come together, and that’s where innovation comes from. So I have that to thank for the direction I’ve taken.”