Igniting the entrepreneurial spirit in Vietnam


Recently, we sat down with Rusydi Khairul, co-founder and CEO of Reactor School, to hear his perspective on Southeast Asia’s growing entrepreneurship ecosystem, the challenges the region’s education system faces in grooming entrepreneurs, and the ways in which Reactor School is helping bridge the two. 

Reactor School will be debuting in Vietnam with EntreCamp, their flagship 3-day bootcamp. EntreCamp will be delivered in partnership with Fulbright University Vietnam at their new Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) on November 8-10, 2019 (more information at the bottom of this article). 

Southeast Asia – a new, entrepreneurial frontier

Home to Grab, Tokopedia, Garena, and Traveloka, Southeast Asia has become recognized globally as a unique, emerging hub for entrepreneurship and innovation. 

For Rusydi, Southeast Asia has shone in its ability to build emergence of hyper-localized startups. “These are not copies of established companies but rather contextualized answers by local founders to local problems. For example, we have Grab, not Uber; Shopee, not Amazon; iFlix, not Netflix.”

Another fascinating observance by Rusydi is how the region has skipped over entire generations of technology – going straight from offline to mobile, skipping the PC altogether. “Ruangguru in Indonesia developed an entire syllabus on mobile. Warung Pintar helped micro mom and pop stores digitalize their businesses.”

But most special of all, Rusydi notes, is the national pride that young Southeast Asians have. “I’ve worked with Vietnamese co-founders, and it’s really interesting to see how intent they are on returning to Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi to give back to their country. I see this all over Southeast Asia, and we should absolutely encourage that. Entrepreneurs should build things that enable positive, lasting change for their communities.”

Fixing a broken education system

The seeds for Reactor School were sown as early as Rusydi’s days at the National University of Singapore. He realized that the education system in Southeast Asia was completely broken.

“A lot of our students just can’t build stuff. We’re good at testing, but the future demands people who can build and solve problems, not answer test questions. Descartes once said, “cogito ergo sum” (I think therefore I am), but I believe all signs are pointing to a future of “struggle ergo sum” (I build therefore I am).” 

His answer? Entrepreneurship education.

“I built Reactor School because I believe entrepreneurship education helps us fill that gap. Currently, we only apply 3% of what we learn in the classroom to our daily lives; we learn the rest on the job. I want to optimize that process and help students build skills that remain relevant throughout their life.”

Students attending EntreCamp in Singapore

Now in its 7th year, Reactor School is Southeast Asia’s leading entrepreneurship education program. The school counts National University of Singapore, United World College, and Raffles Institution among its more than 60 institutional clients, and has trained more than 6,000 students across Southeast Asia.

Rusydi has come a long way since he first started Reactor School in 2012, and his contribution to Southeast Asia’s entrepreneurship ecosystem has not gone unnoticed. Recently, Rusydi became the youngest nominee for Prestige’s Class of 2019 40 Under 40 and was admitted to the prestigious Sandbox Network, a global community of the top 1000 change-makers under 30.

These accolades have encouraged Rusydi to continue pushing on. “I am humbled by these recognitions. To me, these represent and validate the real need that Southeast Asia has for entrepreneurship education. When I was 21, I was super lost. Helping the youth navigate university and unlock their full potential is incredibly fulfilling for me. Let’s keep at it – let’s help give our youth the tools they need to leave a lasting impact in the world.”

Partnering with CEI on EntreCamp

Rusydi believes Reactor School’s partnership with Fulbright’s CEI will help pave the path forward for budding entrepreneurs in Vietnam. 

“Reactor School is an incubator without walls. CEI, on the other hand, is a nexus that brings the best of the world to Vietnam. We share the same philosophy of wanting to empower entrepreneurs to help solve Vietnam and the region’s biggest challenges. Together, we are helping bring world-class education to the ecosystem.

I’m excited to partner with CEI as it is an open, innovative team that is raring to go. We have a white canvas upon which to build a strong foundation for the Fulbright students and wider community, and this gives us the creative freedom to try, test and fail fast. 

Vietnam is a rising dragon in the tech and startup arena. There has been an increased amount of investment and talent development that has been fast-rising on the past 3 years, and this signals a great time for the community to band together to ride this upward wave.”

Rusydi and his students

When asked what students can expect coming out of EntreCamp, Rusydi says: “Well, you’ll definitely develop a strong perspective as to whether life as an entrepreneur is for you. During the 3 days, you’ll learn how to take an idea and transform it into a prototype for demo. It will be intense, but you’ll learn a lot. Expect to learn more about yourself – your strengths, your skills, and your purpose in life.”

Students should bring their laptops, an open mind, and ideas, however incomplete or unfinished, with the goal to learn by doing, and understanding the inner workings of building a company.

For more information on EntreCamp:

To sign up for EntreCamp: 

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