Viet Nam News
Datamart Solutions, which provides e-commerce market intelligence and analytics services, recently won the Startup Việt contest for outstanding Vietnamese start-ups with its PowerSell, an automatic multi-channel retail solution using big data analysis technologies and AI to empower sellers on platforms such as Lazada and Shopee. The company is set to get investment of VNĐ5 billion (US$214,481) from Asanzo Việt Nam Electronics Company.
Bùi Hải Nam, founder and CEO of Datamart Solutions, speaks to Việt Nam News’ Việt Dũng about his experience as a start-up entrepreneur and Việt Nam’s start-up eco-system.
How did Datamart and PowerSell come to be? What do you think were the reasons for your success at Startup Việt?
Datamart, and subsequently our PowerSell project, were established to help retailers sell on e-commerce platforms. At first we worked with bigger brands, but as our customer base expanded we noticed that many small retailers do not really know how to make use of their abundance of data and figures, and some were still stuck in their old-fashioned ways of operating. Thus, we wanted to help those retailers, especially small ones, use data better by not just gathering and analysing data, but also providing AI-driven recommendations and consultancy to help them grow their business.
As for how we won the grand prize, the first factor was definitely luck as I did not actually expect to win big. The second factor was the training we received for the contest from the Startup Vietnam Foundation. Our team at Datamart definitely worked very hard and was diligent in learning. I myself greatly improved my public presentation skills after around three weeks. The final reason was that our idea, developed by our very experienced team, was innovative and, unlike many other ideas, was very demonstrative of its results since the project has been around for several months and the benefits it brings to sellers are clear.
What were some of the challenges you faced?
At first we struggled with funding and human resources, and our small initial size meant we had to do pretty much everything by ourselves. Even the PowerSell idea was not well realised at first, and we had to go through a long process of refining, making mistakes and learning from them. Even in its current state PowerSell may need a revamp to continue meeting customer’s needs.
What do you think of the importance of 4.0 technologies for start-ups?
Startups, in general, have to be innovative. 4.0 technologies are helpful tools for achieving innovation, but that does not mean they are required. Innovation comes from changing how something is done to save energy and resources, such as digitising. We personally chose to implement 4.0 technologies because our founding team has vast experience in data analysis. 4.0 technologies are not 100 per cent necessary, so entrepreneurs not skilled in those areas can focus on their own fortes as opposed to forcing themselves to adopt 4.0 technologies.
What is the importance of start-up events like Startup Việt 2018?
Events like them are highly beneficial. Receiving training, meeting with judges and experts and having to debate my ideas were very challenging, but they also helped me learn more about how I can improve my ideas. Also, aside from helping start-ups meet potential customers, business partners and investors, young future entrepreneurs can learn from ones like us. Start-ups can share experiences and become good examples to learn from. For example, watching start-ups answering questions from judges can help viewers see what went well or wrong with the ideas, and viewers can learn from that. Start-up events help inspire confidence in young entrepreneurs and help the start-up community grow, which is good for the economy.
What do you think of Việt Nam’s start-up community as a member yourself?
I think that our start-up community is growing quickly due to the help from the Government, incubation centres, funding programmes, and the media. Most start-ups are young and energetic.
HCM City will soon become one of the world’s biggest start-up hubs. Many top start-ups around the world such as Grab, Lazada and TinyPulse are setting up branches here, meaning the workforce can learn from these companies and improve their experience, technical skills and business thinking, which will greatly develop Vietnamese start-ups.
What do you think of Việt Nam’s start-up scene? What do you think needs improving?
There are many policies and programmes to support start-ups, a lot more when compared to three or four years ago. I believe HCM City can become one of Asia’s fastest growing start-up hubs.
Nonetheless, more favourable policies to encourage start-ups to be more risk-taking will be highly appreciated. Administrative procedures should also be simplified as Vietnamese start-ups can be burdened with time-consuming procedures, paperwork and taxes while that time could have been spent on running the business and refining the ideas. More agencies that can help firms with such procedures can be a good idea.
What is your advice for future entrepreneurs?
Start-ups should begin sooner than later, and they should focus mainly on surviving, as many of them do not live longer than the first few years. As start-ups mature they can learn from experience and refine the ideas more.
What is your company’s future plan?
We will try to expand to the Southeast Asian markets. We would also like to partner with other start-ups, I think start-ups should work together rather than trying to eliminate one another. — VNS