Tech in Vietnam: Death of Facebook & Twitter clones forces 4 worthwhile innovations

2007 and 2008 were the years of Facebook clones, 2009 was the year of Twitter clones and 2010 is going to be the fail of both in Vietnam. However, the doom of Facebook and Twitter clones is not a bad thing. In fact, it has helped our Internet startups get real and forced them to work on more practical ideas.


This is a guest post by Chip Huyen.  Chip Huyen is a prominent blogger, “Barcamp Nomad,” and a well respected thought leader on technology in Asia.  Chip has been a web editor, freelance writer, a community manager, and a founder of Free Hugs Vietnam, a youth volunteer organization.  Chip is based out of South East Asia.

Source: Flickr User Pasakaru76Some people might say that if 2007 and 2008 are the years of Facebook clones, 2009 is the year of Twitter clones and 2010 is going to be the fail of both in Vietnam. However, the doom of Facebook and Twitter clones does not neccessarily mean something bad. In fact, it has helped our Internet startups get real and forced them to work on practical ideas instead of chasing after some Facebook or Google miracles that happen on the other side of the planet. Let’s check out some of the most exciting ideas that tackle real problems in our country. If you know any that is not on the list, please do not hesitate to comment below!

Catch a bus onlinehttp://www.donxebuyt.com/

As you might already know or might not want to accept it (in case you are the one who is responsible for it), the bus system in Vietnam is a mystery with random schedules and routes. There are often cases when commuters just hop on whatever bus passing by to ask if this bus goes to a location and then hop off if it doesn’t. Realizing this problem, Nguyen Van Thanh – a 29-year-old programmer – has built a website where users can look up for bus direction from a place to another. Users can also look up for direction for cars, motorbikes and walking. When asked about revenue model, Thanh honestly answered: “This service targets mostly students and workers with low income, I haven’t thought of any way to make money yet. However, a young businessman who wants to contribute to community has invested in the project without asking for profit.” Thanh hopes that when the website is more popular, it can save time of hundreds of thousands of daily bus commuters in Ho Chi Minh City. However, how to promote this website to the worker class who is assumed to be not very geeky is a challenge.

*My 2 cents: Somehow the wesbite reminds me of Singapore’s www.gothere.sg – my life saver service when I was in Singapore. I wonder if Thanh has ever thought of bringing this service to mobile phone, either as an application or an SMS-based service.

Catch your bus!

Delta Viet – Make your Make dreams come true http://deltaviet.com

A project by students and for students, DeltaViet was created by 2 university students named Le Viet Hong and Nguyen Thanh Minh. It might sound ironic that I categorize the project as practical while it taps into the most unrealistic thing ever: Dreams. The main philosophy behind DeltaViet is: “Life is nothing if you don’t have a dream” and “Dream is only dream until you work on it”. DeltaViet provides a platform where users can write down and manage their life goals and creates a community where people can support each other’s dream as well as find those with the same dreams. The wesbite also publishes touching and motivative true stories written by its users. The system works! Born exactly one year ago, the website has already got some recognization like the first prize at “Starting a technology business with 300,000,000VND” (Kh?i s? doanh nghi?p công ngh? v?i 300 tri?u) competition.

Comments from a founder of DeltaViet Le Viet Hong:

“The idea behind DeltaViet is similar to that of www.43things.com, however, DeltaViet is focusing more on social activities because writing goal down is not a common thing in Vietnam. The revenue will come from advertising, training and premium memberships. Generally, there is no competition because student segment is not that potential.”

Delta Viet

Digital “So lien lac” - www.liva.com.vn

In Vietnam, there is something called “So liên lac” – the little book invented to facilitate communication between teachers and parents and to betray all mischievous activities created by students. It was no doubt my enemy during secondary school; and it’s such a relief to know that its digital version wasn’t thought of until 2006 [when I already finished secondary school] by Viettel – a giant telco in Vietnam. The idea was soon copied by few other mobile value added service providers. Parents can send an SMS and receive their kids’ school results by SMS everyday. To make it worse, in 2009, Liva introduced Internet-based “so liên lac” where parents can log in and see their kids’ results, class’ schedule & extra curriculars, teachers’ comments, etc. and contact school immediately. This service is still under testing beta.

“Xe om” Online – http://xeom.com.vn

This is the concept that made me laugh so hard that I almost fell of the chair. Xeom, litterally translated as “Hugging motorbike” and academically translated as “Taxi motorbike”, is the most popular means of travel for those who don’t own a transportation in Vietnam because it’s much more convenient than bus and much cheaper than “Taxi car”. Xeom business is very random: normally you just need a motorbike and 2 helmets to become a Xeom driver. However, a group of foreigners and locals has decided to systemize it. They created a website at http://xeom.com.vn. The project aims at building the largest network of professional Xeom in Vietnam. Clients can choose their Xeom based on age, profile, language skills, city knowledge, etc. According to the website, the project has a lot of meaningful social goals like: “Elevating the pride of Xeom’s”, “Reducing pollution – Xeom’s consume lesser fuels than taxis”, “Reducing traffic congestions”, etc. I have no idea if it should be called a web service or how the execution of the project is going on, but A+ for the idea.

Catching a Xe Om made easier.

  • Tung

    Good find but those are just 4 random websites. I am not sure how they are related to Twitter/Facebook clones. All could face risk of failure as well.

    • Anonymous

      Hey Tung, in 2009, everyone was wasting their energy trying to duplicate Twitter and Facebook. The failure of those clones forces start-ups to focus on provided a product that really focuses on the needs of their local markets. These a 4 really great examples of unmet needs in the Vietnam market!

      • Tung

        ..then you are making a huge assumption that Twitter or Facebook clone does not fulfill unmet need!! Not to be bias, I think it’s a mistake. There are lots of gaps in those products (and marketing activities from those companies). Cloning doesn’t have to be 100% exactly as the original and is still able to fill these gaps.

  • http://leonaseo.wordpress.com leonaseo

    Tôi ph?i công nh?n là c? 4 d? án ??u r?t sáng t?o, th?u hi?u, bám sát nhu c?u th?c t?, riêng bi?t c?a ng??i Vi?t Nam. Và h?n t?t c?, ta th?y ???c m?t tinh th?n ?i tr??c m? ???ng r?t m?nh m? c?a nh?ng ng??i làm d? án. R?t ?áng chú ý và ?úng nh? t?a ?? c?a bài vi?t – m?y th? clones c?n ph?i ch?t thôi!!! :)

    Tuy v?y, nhìn k? vào t?ng d? án ta th?y nhi?u v?n ?? có th? làm rung rinh, nghiêng ng?a toàn “công trình”. Cho phép tôi ???c li?t kê 1 vài ý ki?n:

    - Don xe buyt online: N?u các b?n ?ã t?ng ?i xe buýt thì s? th?y ng??i ta r?t h?i h? và v?i vã. Không ph?i ai c?ng có th?i gian và tinh vi ??n n?i lên m?ng chu?n b? tr??c l? trình c?a mình. Ph?i chi ai c?ng có 1 cái smartphones, xài 3G thì d?ch v? này r?t r?t t?t! Nh?ng nh? ?ã nói ng??i ?i xe buýt k nh? v?y. C?ng khó có ngu?n l?c ?? update d? li?u th??ng xuyên và k?p th?i.

    - Delta Viet : m?t gi?c m? thi?t là ??p. Nh?ng ch?c t?i ??p quá th? này nên nó thành ra “s?n” ho?c h?i thi?u th?c t?. Ranh gi?i gi?a “highly-motivated” và vi?n vông h?i b? khó phân bi?t. Theo mình phân khúc c?a delta viet s? b? h?p. K? ??n, tên website không có insightful. Deltaviet?? có liên quan gì ??n n?i dung ?âu?? theo tôi l?i này h?i b? tr?m tr?ng.

    - Solienlac: ý t??ng hay quá, hay thi?t! Theo tôi là r?t insightful. Nh?ng mà tôi th?y c?ng khó. Khó l?m. Tùm lum v?n ??, t??ng t??ng s? th?y. Làm sao mà marketing và khi?n cho m?y ph? hunh và giáo viên adopt cái v? này khi mà h? ?a s? là low-tech. Trong khi ?ó s? b? m?t l?c l??ng high-tech r?t ?ông ??o “ra s?c ch?ng phá”. ha ha ha :))

    - xeomonline : 1 cái insight sai l?m ? ?ây theo tui là cái ý ki?n “xe ôm r? h?n taxi”. Không h?. Theo tui, xe ôm ?ang d?n d?n có giá cao h?n taxi, trong khi ?ó d?ch v? l?i kém h?n taxi r?t nhi?u. Ch? ???c cái ti?n l?i, everywhere, nh?ng mà offline. Cho nên tui c?ng không hi?u online ?? làm gì???

    • Anonymous

      Kho doc qua. Viet khong dau giong toi duoc roi, viet kieu nay kho doc ghe.

  • http://vinaganda.com/ Fred

    Dear Guest Blogger,

    It is a pitty that the tiltle of your post made think about a real survey about about the vietnamese communities o the web, and God knows that there are plenty. Not just, and not the kind of what you are mentioning.

    You rewrite your post and start by here: http://harryd844.wordpress.com/2009/05/11/harryd’s-22-immutable-laws-of-c2v-cloning-to-vietnam/

    Have a good day

  • http://vinaganda.com/ Fred

    Dear Guest Blogger,

    It is a pitty that the tiltle of your post made think about a real survey about the vietnamese communities on the web, and God knows that there are plenty. Not just, and not the kind of what you are mentioning.

    You should rewrite your post and start by here: http://harryd844.wordpress.com/2009/05/11/harryd’s-22-immutable-laws-of-c2v-cloning-to-vietnam/

    Have a good day

  • http://jasonlog.supersized.org/ Jason Vu

    Good findings, keep blogging Chip.

  • Brian Luong

    awesome article… can’t wait till you post the next one!

  • http://wanhoffs-vietnam.blogspot.com thomas wanhoff

    Xeom is just a marketing platform, its not for calling a xeom to bring you from A to B. And although the concept is done, nothing happened about realisation. basically you can hire xe om drivers to wear a campaign shirt.