VNG CEO Le Hong Minh: “An open mind is the key to success”


Le Hong Minh, Chairman and CEO of VNG, believes there is no blueprint for success. In his talk at Fulbright University Vietnam, the founder of Vietnam’s first start-up unicorn, which is valued over USD 1 billion, encouraged young generation to forge their own path and open their mind for an everchanging world. 

Le Hong Minh was the first speaker of the STEAM education talk-show series, which was initiated and organized by a group of Co-Design Year students at Fulbright University Vietnam. Being as charismatic and cheerful as ever, Le Hong Minh inspired more than 150 participants by retelling his own success story.  

Unlike what most of students and parents were expected to hear about his own success, Le Hong Minh surprised them with a twist: there is no specific blueprint for success. According to the CEO of VNG, life is too complex; one must find their own way by embracing and adapting to new challenges, learning from their own mistakes, and continuing moving forward. 

Minh’s success was not linear. He was working for an investment fund when he decided to quit and follow his passion in gaming. He founded the first online game company in Vietnam, VNG, which a decade later became one of the top Internet corporations in the region. In 2013, VNG developed Zalo, a market-leading instant messaging app with 80 million active users. VNG was valued at USD 1 billion in 2016 and was the first unicorn company in Vietnam. 

Minh does not want to stop at Vietnam. He aspires to further develop AI technology and expand to the global market. 

“Embrace your passion; try all your might to pursue it without being consumed in quick success. If you could do this, you would not be able to imagine how extraordinary your reward would be at the end of the journey,” he said. 

Minh shared that the pressure of being successful was so great at times that he just wanted to give up and live a normal life. What kept him going was the passion and the undying vision he always sets his eyes on. 

“The fear of failure obstructs us from exploring new challenges. We dread losing our jobs, making mistakes, or facing new obstacles every single day. Yet, building a start-up is not as easy as most young people envisage it to be.

There will be extremely tough times, during which you just want to give up. Even if other people keep cheering for you not to give up, it is easier said than done. But for me, by not giving up, even when you cannot see success right in front of you, you are staying true to your passion and your goal. That will keep you going,” he added. 

Minh’s story inspired the audience so much that they kept asking him which majors they should choose to ensure a successful career. However, Minh believed it should not be how we look at success.

“We usually define success by how much we earn. But I think it’s more important to ask what meaning we can bring to our lives. And no one can help you find this meaning. You have to seek the answer on your own,” Minh replied.

Preparing for an ever-changing world

Given current transformational changes with the respect to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies, Minh predicted that career opportunities in STEAM-related fields would be very promising. 

Currently, VNG is developing Kiki, the first Vietnamese virtual personal assistant based on perception AI technology. Even though they are willing to pay $500,000 annually for an internationally-trained AI experts, VNG still cannot find the right data scientist for the job. 

In a larger context, Minh warned students to prepare for an unpredictable, ever-changing world where a lot of human labor would be replaced by automation. For example, advertising and digital marketing used to be a “trendy” job 5 years ago. Today, most of the digital marketing campaign’s workload has been conducted by AI technologies. 

So, what should younger generations do to survive and succeed in such a future? 

“In an era when many jobs will be digitalized and automated, it is not only what you learn but how you learn that will make you stand out. Because what you know today will be out-of-date sooner than you think, you should focus on developing essential lifelong skills, including critical thinking, collecting and analyzing data, communication skills, creativity and collaborative skills. These abilities will help you to continue learning and adapting to any changes,” Minh emphasized. 

He believed that education approaches like Fulbright’s are essential for young people to explore their abilities, desires and interests with firsthand experiences.

The most successful start-up entrepreneur highly praised the liberal education embraced by Fulbright University Vietnam, which focuses on developing students as whole person with broad range of knowledge and skills for 21stcenturies. This was the sole reason why Le Hong Minh agreed to become the first speaker of the “STEAM Education” talk-show series at Fulbright University Vietnam. 

Viet Lam – Bich Tram

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