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Why Ho Chi Minh City is a bootstrapper's paradise

Friday, 12 June 2015 | By Keren Flavell

When I moved to Ho Chi Minh City (still referred to as Saigon by many locals) I didn’t know a single person and had never been to Vietnam.


I’d heard it was a good place to base my software startup: a place with a global community of like-minded founders.


It turned out to be the right decision as it enabled me to open up a whole new customer base and find developer talent to help rebuild our online voting technology, Townhall.


It was a leap of faith after hearing that Saigon is a hotspot for startups. There’s a plentiful supply of local designers and developers who can help build web services and help startups get their products to market. Language hasn’t been a barrier.


I founded townhall, in Australia two years ago and I thought it was time to take things to the next level. When I signed up customers like the City of Auckland and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs via online meetings, I realised I didn’t need to be in Melbourne to run the business.


Moving to Vietnam allowed me to assemble a team and rebuild the platform from scratch for a fraction of the price it would have cost in Australia.


Vietnam is also a good location from which to connect with customers. I’m striking deals in Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand and Vietnam. Meanwhile it’s still in a time zone that makes it easy to connect with and support my Australian and New Zealand customers.


There is a strong presence of international business people – digital nomads – who are either working for companies here, or running their own business from where they please.


Many people are now choosing to do this. A lot are here in Saigon because it’s a great ecosystem. Things like fast internet, an international airport. Low cost of living, social life and plentiful coffee are ingredients that make it possible for digital nomads to run their businesses and have a good life.


As most startup founders know, the early years can be really tough financially. Here in Saigon I’m eating out, having massages and getting my nails done, all for a quarter of what it was costing me to live in Melbourne.


Keren Flavell is the co-founder of townhall.