“A Curriculum for Tomorrow’s Workforce” – this is one of the key principles upon which Fulbright University Vietnam builds its liberal arts undergraduate program. Interwoven with an interdisciplinary core spanning the arts, humanities, sciences and engineering – one that inspires students to master the faculties of critical thinking, intellectual curiosity and the desire to do good for society throughout their life – is a number of learning opportunities outside the classroom developed by Fulbright’s dedicated departments. A sterling example is the Venture Fellows Program, organized by the university’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Fulbright’s very first center since our establishment 5 years ago.
Cultivate and Empower entrepreneurs and innovators to solve Vietnam’s biggest challenges
Vietnam faces a disconnect between its educational priorities and the demand for skilled employees. While Vietnamese students perform well on standard academic tests, employers consistently report that students lack the skills needed to excel, as reflected in the high underemployment rate of college graduates. On top of that, while the Vietnamese economy and startup ecosystem are booming, major existential challenges loom on the horizon. The country is one of the world’s most at-risk countries in terms of climate change, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi continue to grow rapidly while already struggling with air pollution and congestion, and advances in automation and artificial intelligence threaten Vietnam’s manufacturing labor force.
As a university that aims to cultivate the next generation of ethical leaders and changemakers of Vietnam and the region, Fulbright is committed to empowering aspiring and current entrepreneurs and innovators—both our students and beyond—to tackle our society’s greatest challenges. Rooted in our mission to close the gap between higher education and Vietnam’s greatest needs, the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) is Fulbright’s flagship effort to embed entrepreneurship and innovation into the core of our culture and academic program. The CEI offers impactful learning opportunities on entrepreneurship and innovation for stakeholders across Vietnamese society and the region, including non-Fulbright students, professionals, startups, companies, and members of the general public. In time, as both the CEI and Fulbright University Vietnam grow, the CEI will incubate and accelerate ventures going after Vietnam and the region’s toughest challenges.
“CEI is Fulbright’s gateway into Vietnam’s thriving entrepreneurship ecosystems. We aim to cultivate and accelerate innovation both in our students and across Vietnamese society,” says Vo Duy Anh, Strategy and Operations Manager at CEI. “As a startup university ourselves, we believe that through nurturing entrepreneurial leadership, we can cultivate and empower entrepreneurs and innovators to solve Vietnam’s biggest challenges.”
The mission of Venture Fellows Program: Build, Contribute and Network
The Venture Fellows Program is the CEI at Fulbright’s flagship initiative. Launched in April 2020 and organized annually since, it is a six-month entrepreneurship-focused, work-study program that supports Fulbright students to work at the country’s most exciting startup and technology companies over a summer internship, with 4 main objectives:
- For Fulbright students to chart their entrepreneurship pathways, build business toolkit, get a inside view through impactful project work, and grow their network
- For entrepreneurial, high-growth companies in Vietnam benefit from and contribute to the development of a talented pipeline of students
- Providing a structured approach and scaffolded support: pre-internship seminars, ongoing mentorship, post-internship, reflections for Fulbright students
- High quality network of partners, mentors and peers for Fulbright students to foster self-learning and personal development
After two successful cohorts in 2020 and 2021, the next iteration of the Venture Fellows Program will span four months from June to October 2022. Prior to the summer internship of highly selected Fulbright students at partnered startups and companies, at the moment until April 2022, the CEI is currently seeking potential organizations in HCMC and Hanoi to join the program and mentor our student fellows. The 2021 cohort attracted 13 partners in Hanoi and HCMC, including VNG, Aspire, CoderSchool, EnCapital, Ru9, JobHopin, UrBox, EcoTruck, Manabie, Homebase, Funtap, Tribee, ReactorSchool, whose evaluation of Fulbright interns were nothing of short of delight.
“100% positive. Our intern is a superstar — brilliant, versatile, enthusiastic. We put her on different types of projects to test her, ALL were new to her, but she thrived. She always delivers, everyone is so happy with her. Only suggestion for the program is to send us more interns!” — Stefano Pellegrino, CEO of Aspire.
“I look for three things in employees. One is logical thinking, two is clear communication, and three is a very good attitude. And I think that Fulbright students exhibit all three of those things.” — Le Lan Chi, Head of ZaloPay.
“After the interim report, the other team leads were so impressed that they wanted the interns too. Next year, other teams would want to bid the interns!” — Christopher Day, Chief Commercial Officer of CoderSchool.
Our 2021 partners gave the Venture Fellows Program a NPS of 80 with 92% of partners saying YES to hiring the interns as full-time employees after the internship. The fellows also gave the program a 8.15 score for learning and personal development satisfaction and 8.25 for work and internship project satisfaction.
Nurturing Vietnam’s future leaders
The CEI’s selection process — for Fulbright students to confidently gain professional work experience in entrepreneurial, growth-focused companies — demands the following criteria:
- Strong academic performance
- Demonstrated interest in entrepreneurship
- Community or campus involvement, including leadership experience
- Maturity and humility
As a result, only 26 excellent fellows were selected from 57 applications with 58% chosen fellows having GPA above 3.67. Prior to their actual internship at partnered companies, Fulbright candidates are required to participate in training courses organized by the CEI that will prepare and equip them with the necessary skills to adapt and thrive in a rigorous, serious work environment. The 2021 cohort of the Venture Fellows Program involved more than 46 hours of mock interviews and 126 hours of student assessment, as well as 32 hiring managers acting as key contacts to supervise, coach and nurture Fulbright students’ development during their summer internship.
Nguyen Nho Thuc Khang, Class of 2023, was placed as Sales and Business Development Executive at Reactor School. “I was so impressed with the support that CEI provided for Fulbright students in their previous cohort of the Venture Fellows Program, that’s why I decided to apply,” she says. “My position at Reactor School allowed me to learn and thrive in a fast-changing environment in the most positive way. The experience there helped me strengthen my passion and gain insight into the world of venture capital, startups, and investment in general, which I intend to pursue after graduation. After the internship, I received an offer from Reactor School to join their Reactor Ventures program, part of which was a sponsorship to study a course about venture capital. And so, the Venture Fellows Program did indeed exceed my expectations and prove to be a truly meaningful experience.”
Nguyen Thi Thuy Duong, Class of 2023, also shares the same sentiment. “I had the opportunity to work as a Data Researcher and in Business Development at JobHopin,” she says. “After the internship, I’d learnt a lot about the real-life experiences in a for-profit startup, while appreciating the one-on-one coaching and training sessions which the company is keen to deliver for its young members and their personal development. The lessons that I’ve picked up helped me realize that I want to find a way to channel them into social enterprises, to support my passion working for organizations aimed at social goods through my meaningful contributions. Regardless of which organizations you work for, clear communication and effective strategy are key to foster our goals and make our dream come true. ”
Over the next 2-3 years, CEI aims to continue growing the Venture Fellows Program to become the top choice internship program for students. We’re working on expanding the program to external top-tier university students as well as partnering with more high quality companies that can offer meaningful internship experience and working environments. Ultimately, through the Venture Fellows Programs, CEI wants to empower the next generation of Vietnamese entrepreneurs and innovators, to reimagine the university in Vietnam, and build the next generation of leaders equipped with the skills to tackle global challenges.
Find out more about our program and how to apply at https://bit.ly/VFP2022-PartnerInfoPack
The Center of Entrepreneurship & Innovation (CEI) at Fulbright University Vietnam is pleased to announce its 2022 Venture Fellows Program (VFP). Originally launched in 2020, the program aims to cultivate and accelerate Vietnam’s thriving entrepreneurship ecosystems, by supporting Fulbright students to work at the country’s most exciting startup and technology companies.
We’re now seeking startup partners for our next iteration of the VFP. From June to October 2022, the VFP partners can benefit from and contribute to the development of a talented pipeline of Fulbright students, while nurture entrepreneurial leadership and tap into Fulbright’s high quality network of startups and venture capital firms.
After a rigorous selection process, we will elect and train a group of 20-25 students for 2-3 months, then place them as interns in excellent startups for the 2022 summer. The 2021 cohort attracted 13 partners in Hanoi and HCMC, including VNG, Aspire, CoderSchool, EnCapital, Ru9, JobHopin, UrBox, EcoTruck, Manabie, Homebase, Funtap, Tribee, ReactorSchool.
“100% positive. Our intern is a superstar – brilliant, versatile, enthusiastic. We put her on different types of projects to test her, all were new to her, but she thrived. She always delivers, everyone is so happy with her. Only suggestion for the program is to send us more interns!” – Stefano Pellegrino, CEO of Aspire.
Find out more about our program and how to apply at https://bit.ly/VFP2022-PartnerInfoPack
While it is true that many internship opportunities are geared towards students in their junior year, at Fulbright University Vietnam, we believe that students should have the opportunities to intern as early as in their freshmen year. Through the internships, students can gain invaluable hands-on experience by building their business toolkit, working on real projects in real startups, figuring out their own entrepreneurial pathways and growing their network in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
In April 2020, the Center of Entrepreneurship & Innovation (CEI) at Fulbright University Vietnam (Fulbright) launched its flagship Venture Fellows Program (VFP), which prepares, places and supports students to work at Vietnam’s most exciting startup and technology companies. This year, the program is placing 17 students at 11 notable startups in Vietnam, including Aspire, CoderSchool, Holistics, EcoTruck, Eve (a Fram^ venture), Kim An, Lixibox, Manabie, Ru9, UrBox and VNG. Despite an uncertain economic outlook due to COVIDd-19, Fulbright and its partner startup organizations have prioritized the VFP program based on its potential.
The program was inspired by the track record of similar programs in the USA and Singapore, specifically the Mayfield Fellows Program at Stanford and the NUS Overseas College Program at the National University of Singapore. These programs have produced some of their region’s biggest entrepreneurial talents, including Kevin Systrom, Instagram’s founder, and Quek Siu Rui, Lucas Ngoo, and Marcus Tan, the founders of Carousell.
“With Vietnam’s rapid economic growth and organic entrepreneurial spirit, we have a unique opportunity to design a program that would equip students with the toolkit to chart their own entrepreneurial pathways and make a real difference in Vietnam,” Ken Watari, Director of CEI, emphasized.
The Venture Fellows Program
The Venture Fellows Program is a six-month entrepreneurial work-study program for Fulbright students, spanning April to September 2020 with a rigorous selection process. To secure a placement, Fulbright students had to undergo a series of interview rounds, both with the CEI team and our partner organizations. The format of the interviews varied based on the requirements of our partners, and included developing pitch presentations, taking competency tests, and completing data analysis tasks. 17 VFP Fellows were selected this year.
“The students of Fulbright demonstrated outstanding traits and qualities that we are seeking for young Manabians. We have high expectations for any member to join our team. Each person must possess strong cognitive ability, clear and structured communication, as well as high impacts through proven teamwork and leadership records. We entered VFP knowing that we would meet bright students but were still amazed at how each candidate addressed our critical interviewing questions, and fitted Manabian’s qualities well. How fortunate we were to be a participant of VFP. Looking forward to more Fulbright students joining us and making prominent contributions to Vietnamese education and beyond,” shared Takuya Homma, CEO and Founder of Manabie. Manabie has recently raised $4.8 million from investors to build and scale their online education technology platform and in-person learning centers across Vietnam and beyond.
Once the VFP Fellows are matched to their partner organizations, the program is split into three distinct phases: pre-internship, internship and post-internship. In the pre-internship phase, the CEI team will work with the fellows to help them analyze and derive business insights through data analysis, as well as support the fellows to conduct research and develop a venture capital-style investment memo on the company they will be working for. They will also attend off-the-record sessions with notable figures in Vietnam’s entrepreneurship community. This year, our VFP Fellows had sessions with Khanh Tran (former Founding Partner of VinaCapital Ventures), Charles Lee (Founder of CoderSchool), and Sao Lonsdale (Founder of Lixibox).
During the summer, VFP Fellows will spend 9 weeks at their partner organizations, working on a range of projects from new market entry to marketing optimization. The VFP Fellows will also be supported throughout this summer by a dedicated mentor from their partner organization and a team of expert advisors from Vietnam’s entrepreneurship community.
After the internship, VFP Fellows, with the support of their advisors, will reflect on and present their internship experiences to their cohort. This gives them the opportunity to learn about various industries in depth, and allows them to lock in their learnings from the program collectively.
Chien-Teng Chia, CEI Officer, comments: “While some of our Fellows may not choose to pursue startups in the future, our long-term goal is to build a tight-knit and collaborative community of changemakers that will continue supporting and working with each other in the years to come.”
Meet our VFP Fellows
As we await the commencement of the internship experiences, let’s meet two of our VFP Fellows, who will spend this summer test-driving their skills in a real-world setting and earning valuable experiences that will be coveted by future employers:
Hoang Mai Linh, Co-Design Year Student, Class of 2023 – Placement at Ru9
“Start-ups are developing rapidly in Vietnam, especially in recent years. However, about 80% of them failed and could not operate the company in 2 years. As a person who wants to start my own business in the future, I want to (soon) emerge myself in a start-up environment to gain fundamental skills and real experience, so that I can prepare myself better in Vietnam’s intensive start-up environment.
To become a VFP fellow, I underwent 3 rounds: CEI’s application round, CEI’s interview round and partner organization’s round. Before we participated in the final round (interview with partner organizations), CEI held a mock interview session to give us some tips and advice to be successful in the “real interview”. I don’t know about others but my interviews with partner organizations were very “intriguing”. 2 out of 4 companies conducted interviews with me without noticing in advance. I was surprised but I think I did well.
Though my internship is not yet started, I already learned my Lesson No. 1: We should always be ready, because in this “uncertain” world (and an “uncertain” start-up environment), who knows when the opportunity will come. We have to always be ready or else, we can miss that opportunity.”
Ninh Quynh Anh, Co-Design Year Student, Class of 2023 – Placement at Ru9
“As I realize my strong passion and curiosity for entrepreneurship, I think becoming a VFP Fellow will offer me valuable opportunities to learn and develop entrepreneurial skills and mindset. Besides, as a Fulbrighter, why shouldn’t I try out something as new and interesting as this?
First, I had to submit an application form together with my updated CV. When filling out the form, I had time reflecting on my strengths and weaknesses as well as the areas I am most excited to explore for my future career path. CEI then followed up with a 20-minute interview to better understand my expectation and interest. Those who passed this interview proceeded to the next step: interviews with partner organizations.
I was over the moon when I learned that my two-month internship will be with Ru9 this summer. I hope that through this internship, I can gain more insights into the startup ecosystem and how challenging a real working environment can be. I cannot wait!”