A great 'comeback' for Vietnamese start-up

June 27, 2021 - 08:21

Two years ago, Lê Nguyễn Khánh Trình appeared on Shark Tank Việt Nam with pull-up bars he had invented.


Lê Nguyễn Khánh Trình introduced his own pull-up bars at Shark Tank Việt Nam 2019. Photo courtesy of Shark Tank Việt Nam

Two years ago, Lê Nguyễn Khánh Trình appeared on Shark Tank Việt Nam with pull-up bars he had invented.

The innovator applied for a patent in five countries around the world (Việt Nam, Nigeria, South Africa, the US, and Australia).

The pull-up bar frame is designed to be higher than the reach of teenagers, easily adjusted and with much better bearing capacity than cheap Chinese-made door/wall-mounted bars.

Trình wanted to raise US$5 million in exchange for a 10 per cent stake in the company. The capital would be used for PR and marketing to promote exports to foreign markets.

However, the offer was considered “ridiculous” and his dream was crushed by the Sharks.

"In my opinion, your product is too simple. Makes me feel like a waste of time,” Shark Nguyễn Hòa Bình said.

Shark Phạm Thanh Hưng agreed: "I think $5 million for simple pull-up bars like this is crazy. In my opinion, don't produce these things.

“You can invest in the production of those money-printing machines, maybe then you can print $5 million,” he added.

For Shark Đỗ Thị Kim Liên, Trình’s invention was “a pretty simple product that anyone can make”.

The startup CEO also received comments on Facebook disparaging the product, such as "A few pieces of scrap iron that a welder can make in a few hours," or "The design is too simple to make any difference", to saying he "had problems" and was even a "psycho".

However, the tables have turned.

Despite the disparagement of the "Sharks" as well as the Vietnamese online community, Trình’s business is booming.

Recently on its website pullupbarkt.com, there is a video with the appearance of Shark Kevin Harrington, one of the first "Sharks" of Shark Tank America.

Kevin Harrington, founder of Harrington Enterprises, praised the multi-purpose function of the product.

“The KT Pull-up bar is everything you need for your home work out and more, you’ve got to check it out,” Harrington said.

“Stable and safe, this multi-purpose folding frame allows you to do pull-ups and chin-ups in the most comfortable way.

“Many customers say that it’s one of the sturdiest pull-up bars they’ve ever tried. You can even explore other exercises by adding a punching bag and exercise ring or aerial silk for yoga.

“If you suffer from back pain, the KT pull-up bar is also a great way to stretch and help protect your spine. Adjustable by height, it can be used by all family members.

“Compact, yet durable, it can be folded and moved to any area in your house or back yard. You can even add a swing for the kids or a hammock to relax.”

On Amazon, Khánh Trình's products are popular among American customers.

“I'm 63 and live in a house with old doorways. So, I needed a freestanding pull-up bar that was high enough to accommodate me and strong enough to support my weight,” said Amazon user Michael Moravcsik.

“The product took a month to arrive, and I was worried it wouldn't come, but rather than asking for a refund I contacted the seller. She was incredibly helpful and identified a problem with the shipping, rerouting it and personally overnighting it," he said.

“It did arrive finally, and was everything I hoped for and more. This is without doubt the best freestanding bar on the market."

For Trình, success will never be achieved without hard work and dedication, especially with his starting point.

Writing on his website, Trình said that he had quit his job as a bank worker to focus entirely on the business in 2013, but he had the idea of ​​​​designing and selling pull-up bars since 2008.

With nothing but knowledge of finance and banking, he had to do a lot of research on geometry and physics, and then teach himself mechanics to turn a product from idea into reality.

To save costs and bring the products to market, he studied web design and posted the products for sale on popular e-commerce sites at that time, such as Vật Giá (Prices), Rồng Bay (Flying Dragon), Chợ Điện Tử (E-Market), Mua Rẻ (Cheap Buy).

After a month he got his first order, and more customers came after they started introducing his products to others.

In August 2013, with a solid foundation, Trình quit his job at the bank and focused entirely on the business. He also applied for a patent in the US to bring his products to this promising market.

"If you want to have high income, work hard to think creatively to find new and breakthrough ideas that serve many people,” Trình told Doanh nghiệp và Tiếp thị (Business and marketing) newspaper.

“Please direct your product or service to the world, focusing on quality and prestige, because there are many people with high income, so create a product or service that is 'Simple but needed by many people'.

"There are things that seem simple but they are not. Don't think that everyone can do it. Because each person has a different ability, situation, and fate that pushes them into their profession.

“Never look down on others or compare or envy others.” VNS