Don’t travel

Don’t travel just for a sake of checking out (or checking-in on social media) –

One of my most favorite location app back in the early days were Gowalla – which later on acquired by Facebook and shut down. For each State or country I visit, Gowalla gave me a pin. Pin-collecting somehow  became very interesting to me and my friends.

Yet, life is not about collecting pins!

It’s about going to places, understanding the cultures, the people, the hidden charms of the city. Today, I came across an article about homeless people in New York – which revealed the best and the worst of this awesome city.

The 10-by-1¹/₂-foot shacks are cramped, but the rent-free homes sure beat the cost of living legit in neighborhoods nearby — like Brooklyn’s trendy DUMBO, so named for its location “down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass.”

A one-bedroom apartment a couple blocks away at 274 South St. would cost $2,900 a month.

We can easily see this opposite images in every big city, San Francisco, New York, Hong Kong, or Saigon. And to me, this what made the cities beautiful! The sky-scrapers are for the sky-line, but the people are the ones who make the city unique.

Couple days ago, I had a discussion with my friends about the strikes in San Francisco. Let’s not discuss about whether the strikes make sense or not. San Francisco is one of the most expensive city  worldwide! Therefore, many “original 49ers” just could not afford the cities anymore – many tech millionaires came to the city and drive up the living cost – from foods to housing. The San Francisco artists cannot hang around as night time smoking nor playing their favorite music to keep this city alive. I don’t know if that argument is true nor that I would care. I love San Francisco regardless!

I lived in Mountain View for 8 months, working on the tallest building of the city, riding my bicycles along  California everyday, go for grocer shopping at Safeway at 3am, playing roller soccer with my friends in Google every Wednesday, occasionally came to Game Night on Castro St, dancing in Molly’s and had lovely date nights in Cascal’s.  That’s what Mountain View had offered, and I truly missed it everyday!

I lived in Melbourne for 2 weeks, I took almost all the Metro lines to visit the suburb, walked to Vic Market for oysters in the morning, grocery shopping at Coles, have a hot chocolate at Max Brennar’s, and nice dinner at Grill 66 with my friends and family. Melbourne, to me, means peace and live.

And Saigon is always my most favorite place, this is where I loved, I hated, and everything in between. Yet, each and every single moments in this city is a treasure to me. A beer with my friends on the Highway, a night out with my beloved girls and gals, the sweat and tears with my team working on the projects, the stressful moments to deal with all the politics and law enforcement. All of those are what I called “Home”

While everyone was fancy about the 5-stars-hotel that they can afford after many working years, the big cities offer more than just a nice jacuzzi. So, don’t travel – make it home, let’s grab a beer and chat, and enjoy the moments of now!


- From Saigon with love -

Thuy Muoi, April 15th, 2014



“Opportunities look a lot like hard-work”

I decided to use the quote from (Chris) Ashton Kutcher at Teen Choice award for this blog as I always believe it’s true, yet I need a good content for its. So here it is:

Flappy Bird probably doesn’t need another blog about its to make it more famous of go viral. Yet, it’s the inspiration for me to write this blog today. I don’t know him, never met or speak with him before. All information I have about this guy is probably just as much as people can find out about “Flappy Bird” on Google. Is that really luck or something else? I don’t know! However, the fact that this game released over 6 months ago, and it did not go viral until last week. For those who think app development is gold rushing/gold mining/whatever, let me give you some harsh truth:

  • You can pick up Objective-C within only 1 week (I did pick-up Obj-C only 1 weekend in a Hackathon in USC – and we created iPocketChange). Sound good? What it also means is if you can do it, anyone else can. Knowing how to code doesn’t make you special, ever! (Just in case you ever have that idea in mind)
  • Publish a game on iOS AppStore/ Android Google Play is easy – it will cost you $1oo/year. Sound good? Again, if you can do it, anyone else can.
  • And the most ugly truth is: you’re not the only person has that idea in mind! (ever)

So, what make Flappy Bird special? He works really hard to create more games – or at least that what it showed on his .GEARS website – if it’s not from passion, I don’t know what else drive him. And I sincerely admire him for his patience!

Everyone probably heard the story of Angry Birds a thousand times. If you haven’t, it’s your fault! (Go read it here NOW!). But let me tell you a true and much closer stories that never been told.

  • GreenGar developed over 40 different mobile projects – only 3 of them got over 2 million downloads each
  • DivMob developed over 100 different mobile games – 10 of them is currently active on App Store
  • Not-a-Basement developed over 20 different projects – only 2 of them go viral.

It’s not about how many times you fail, the one success that counts! More importantly, what have you learned? When you spent days and nights to work on the apps/games and no one wants to download it, who else you should blame? It’s always easy to point your fingers to someone else to blame it, but even if you’re the CEO, it’s always your faults at the first place! But do we really need to have someone take responsibilities or the whole team should gathering, learn together, and grow together to make a better project next time?

A strong entrepreneur isn’t certified by the money he raised, nor the revenue he earned, but by the number of failure he took and still be able to raise back-up again.

The road will never be the same for the creator of Flappy Bird from now on. Whatever he does afterward will be compared, will be judged, will be criticized – and I hope he is ready for it!

Personally, I saw many failures of people around me, including myself – people simply can’t fail when they did not succeed.

Let me end this blog with a quotes for Rush – my most favorite movie of 2013 “Happiness is your biggest enemy. It weakens you. Puts doubts in your mind. Suddenly you have something to lose”

Saigon, Lunar New Year 2014


P/S: If you love Flappy Bird, you might love this game, Orb – too! We called them both “Binary Game” – the game that have only two states ON/OFF. These game are perfect for muscle-limited person, fun and challenging, yet they’re super simple and addictive.



Thanks for an incredible 2013!

It’s not the end of the year yet, but’s it’s Thanksgiving!

More than ever before, I truly feel appreciate for the holiday of this year – certainly not because of the break as my team is working incredibly hard to submit our next updates.

But among all the craziness, I really want to write a short notes (I promise it won’t be cheesy or drama) to say thank to all of the people who have touched my life this year. Everyone (from around the world literally) has made this year the most incredible year of my life!

1. First and foremost is my Mom, more than anyone, she has been struggling to handle my roller-coaster emotion for the entire year. I tried to stop hurting her as much as I did before.

2. The person that made the entire 2013 incredible was the one who encourage me to apply for the SF PITCH Competition. The one event that started my entire Silicon Valley journey!

3. The lady who taught me all the basic of investment, company structure, and helped GreenGar go through the hardest time – she’s probably the most caring person I’ve known.

4. The friend who have been hosting me for almost a month in San Francisco – yet I can’t do anything for her family in their tough time.

5. The person who walked away from my life and made me believe that “Nothing is impossible” – as living without him seem the hardest thing that I’ve ever done.

6. A little girl who spent almost 4 months crying for being away from her newly wed husband –  her support for GreenGar is just as much as any other team members.

7. The first investor brought me to the awesome #500STRONG family – they taught me how to become a tougher person – taking criticism as caring, and learning is growing.

8. My best friend who is always by my side regardless – she care less about what I do, and always care more about how I feel – from half the globe away

9. A silent friend/fan who randomly sent me message to remind me sleep early or eat more – flying thousand of miles to come back with me when I need his help.

10. A random person who I met on the street that touched my heart – the smartest yet weirdest person I known

2013 is indeed a year of confusion! As awesome as it have been, it’s have been the most confusing and unstable year ever; but, if we’re not being confused, we’re not learning. I learned so much more this year, travelled so much more this year – and I also made more friends this year than ever before.

I’m still not sure everything I’m doing is right – every decision I made is accurate – but I know I’m working on the products that I love, with the people that I care about, and that’s all what matters. Outcome is binary anyway – yet it’s much less important than the journey for sure.

Dear 2013: thanks for being a “f*cking awesome” year!


– Mountain View –

Thanksgiving 2013


Ivylish: The next TOMS from Vietnam?

Ten billion dollars are pouring from to Vietnam in 2012 from Viet Kieu (Vietnamese people who live and work outside Vietnam) – from the record of  the National Financial Supervisory Committee in 2012. There are lots of Vietnamese people always want to come back and work in Vietnam for a good causes. For thousand years, Vietnamese culture inherited the success definition by the meaning of giving back to the community where people grew up. 

Phuong and Kevin met in their Ohio Wesleyan University Scholarship program and nutured their good friendship for over many social projects. Each of them built up an amazing career path and education background before putting their hands together for Ivylish. With a great passion in social-entrepreneurship and a understanding in a scalable business model, Phuong aims to build a sustainable social enterprise with long term vision and impact to orphanages in Vietnam. In 2013, Ivylish officially launched with a solid partnership with Kids Without Borders, where the mission is to “teach people how to fish” – provide education and vocational training for kids and youth in Vietnam.


With a clear mission in mind, the founding team of Ivylish are bringing an amazing team for unique jewelry craftsmanship from Vietnam, technical and customer support from Ho Chi Minh City to Boston – leverage effort to build a true global business where everyone are putting their hands together for a good cause.

Screen Shot 2013-11-11 at 12.59.35 AM


Announcing her acceptance to Harvard Business School right before the big launch of Ivylish, Phuong is travelling between Atlanta -main Ivylish office, Vietnam orphanages in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Boston to setup for her new school life, Phuong is not just an entrepreneur but a super-charged figure who earns high respects among from people in the community. 

Here is my quick firechat with Phuong about Ivylish:

Q: What’s your Ivylish experience so far?

A: Failure stories are just as important and essential as success stories. As we are preparing for our crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, we study and analyze strategies from projects of both ends. Many “dos” are common sense, but most “don’ts” are case-by-case, and learned the hard way. That’s the invaluable thing about failures.

Q: How do you juggle full time MBA at Harvard business school and work?

A: Instead of separating school and work, I integrate them. When I learn something, I immediately relate to how that knowledge can be applied to Ivylish, and vice versa, I offer my own thoughts and experiences with Ivylish in class and group sessions. I keep a daily journal – it’s amazing how that helps me think more thoroughly and strategically.



Q: What is Ivylish’s directions?

A: Our blood, sweat and tears are currently on the upcoming Indiegogo campaign. If everything goes well, our first collection will come out in late December / early January. If not, we proceed to fundraising plan B. At the same time, we are working with our local artisans on financing and sourcing horns. That being said, under any circumstances, we will stay passionate and committed to Ivylish because we believe it is an effective and sustainable model.


Ivylish’s Indiegogo attracted almost $10,000 only after 5 days launched. The supporter of Ivylish came from all over the world, including some notable supporters like Guy Kawasaki, Tom Kosnik, Heidi Roizen, Gil Eyal and Francine Hardaway. Needless to say, Ivylish also attracts many young talented and attractive such as Ha Vy, Miss Vietnam in Georgia.


Saigon – November 2013

– Praying for the victims of Haiyan Typhoon -


[Bay Area] Fish Market – Half Moon Bay

How did I know about this place?

Seriously, when it comes to food, I’m not a big fan of Google & Yelp, but it does an awesome job today! I was looking up for “oyster” or “oyster farm” on Google and it took me to Yelp, after reading the review, I decided to give this Fresh Market place a try. It was quite a drive to Half Moon Bay, the weather is both sunny and windy today. The Fresh Market was just small in the corner, doesn’t look sharp or luxury. We came when there is no customer there. But many came after us and just order the take out instead of sitting to enjoy.

Why do I love this place?

The oysters are super fresh and milky, go well together with the hot sauce. The crab and shrimp cocktail are really nice as well. But my most favorite part would be the lobster, it’s probably the best lobster that I’ve ever enjoyed.

The clam chowder also fit very well with the windy weather of Half Moon Bay. I think it’s a very nice treat before heading to Ritz- Carlton — the signature of Half Moon Bay!

How to get there?

Address: 99 San Mateo Rd, Half Moon Bay, CA



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[Bay Area] Water Bar – San Francisco

Believe or not, I already live in Bay Area (Mountain View to be exact) for over 5 months. Despite the fact that my nails have been bothering me so much, I tried to set up my daily routine and making this place home. I have such a hard time to make new friends (unbelievable, huh?) and overcome my social awkwardness.

So, let’s talk about this place, the magical Silicon Valley and the fun part of its

How did I know about Water Bar?

The first person take me to this luxury restaurant was actually my college friend, Judy Mai. Judy was living in the same apartment with my best friend, Leslie Ngan, in San Francisco. I was obsessed with oysters ever since in Vietnam, and after that spoiled by Victoria Market -Melbourne. I remember I was walking to Victoria Market every day from Chen’s apartment and get a dozen of oysters.

Judy told me about the $1 oyster at Water Bar if I can manage to come before 6pm. And we did it!


How to get there? (RSVP is recommended if you don’t want to wait 1 hour+ )

Google it! Seriously, it’s like the first one show up on Google, but here is the Maps just in case

View Larger Map

Address: 399 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA


Why do I love it so much?

Oysters! It’s $1/each before 6pm, babe!

Moreover, they have all sort of oysters that you probably can’t even remember the names! But they’re all really good!

The view is absolutely breath-taking with the up-close Bay Bridge, perfect for date night or business meet-up.

And here is the remarkable lunch of Vietnamese Entrepreneurs in San Francisco — this table has a net worth over $500 mil (conservatively)



Socially awkward

Though I tried to keep this blog as most productive and informative for people to read, sometimes it would be a good idea to blend in some personal thoughts. I have been in Bay Area for little over three months. It was not that long, but it was enough for me to digest some of the culture and behaviors of people in this area. It’s pretty tough!

I went to couple of the networking event, some of them was literally just a door step away (right at 500 Startup office). However, the more I start talking to people, the more awkward feeling I get. At the beginning, I’m not sure why. For a period of them, I avoid all kind of social events. I know it’s a dumb thing that a CEO could ever done!

I’m not the popular person, but I think I’m friendly enough that most of my batch mates don’t have much problem with me. In fact, we love hanging out together very much! However, that kind of relationship was not built overnight. It took us a few months to be really comfortable around each others, to share more about of our lives rather than just fund-raising and business stuffs. I’m very glad that I made more friends from all around the world.

So, go back to the socially awkward situation that I’m currently experiencing. Honestly, I don’t know when and where it came from. That feeling appear in Vietnam once a while, when I come to a big crowd and doesn’t know anyone (or none of the people in the crowd know me). However, I still can carry on, make a few new friends, have a few good conversations without turning on my bitchy face.

I don’t know if a socially awkward person would even care to write and share that much on their social status. I do write and share a lot about my personal life on Facebook/Twitter/Path/blog! My Co-Founder, Elliot Lee, keeps telling me that I’m over-sharing.

Since coming to Silicon Valley, I have met many of my idols, from Tim D, Julie Z to Lynda W. Honestly, they’re not celebrities, and I don’t think they want anyone considering them as celebrities either. But it’s very hard to build a relationship here with anyone. I still cannot wrap my head around and get familiar with the fact that people need to send emails and schedule for lunch appointment two weeks ahead of time.

The most question that I have been asked as a 500 Startups member, “How often do you meet/work with Dave McClure?” I’m not sure if Dave even aware of how much influence he has on his own Accelerator Program – the world’s most notable one indeed. However, my best experience with Dave was not in the office. We met on the plane on our way to Montreal – Canada and decided to go get dinner together along with my Co-Founder and my mom. For a few hours, we sit, eat, drink, and chat about the past, the future, the presence … That was my best conversation with Dave! And it doesn’t happen in Silicon Valley.


I can see why the whole world want to come to Silicon Valley to build their start-ups, this place is where most of things happen. It’s the best, I agree! However, be prepared, the rest of the good things actually happening outside of 415 and 650 area code. People more open to socialize when they’re not in their comfort zone, I wonder if that’s true.

Mountain View, Sep 2013

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Put your damn phone away!



“Put your damn phone away!” is clearly a very controversial topic nowadays. Some people will clearly get offensive right away, and it always depends on the relationship between each others to ask politely or aggressively. Many times I have been asked to put my phone away as well.

Every body has their own priority in life. I remember a few years back, when we were still using feature phones, which are not connected in Internet, neither free message service like Viber nor WeChat nowsaday; people spent countless amount of time talking on phone together. Not necessary for dating, but just closed friends and family, whether it’s a drive home from work, or before bedtime. In many cases, a person driving on the car with other friends, and keep talking with other people on the phone. It’s not just about the noise bothering people but making other friends feel that they’re less important than the person in the phone. Bottom line, if you can not enjoy the moment with the one you’re with, why bother make yourself to be with them anyway?

Fast forward 8-10 years later, the concept of spending time together is more texting, whether it’s via SMS, Viber, Facebook, but rarely talking. The smartphones has clearly  changed the way that we communicate, things a more smart, but certainly not everything!

An business appointment have to be arranged in the Calendar 2 weeks ahead of time, in order just to get a 30-mins phone call. I know people are busy, everyone has an agenda. There are things that we certainly can talk over the phone, why bother meeting up? Gas, driving, coffee, etc. However, I would really really surprised that people still be able to close the deals over the phone. Really? Someone would put their hard-earn money to the person they never met? And someone would take the money and commit to build a long-term business partnership and accept investment from person that they never meet?  Unless the transportation doesn’t make economic sense for the deal or investment, I always think that by looking into each others eyes to understand their determination in the partnership is very important.

In my first business, I raised nearly $400k without even a business plan, or slide decks at age of 23 — 100% purely on my credibility and hard-work. My investors was not strangers, they were my friends, knowing me for years. When I open my first frozen yogurt shop, they came to store to visit and support. They know exactly how hard I work, I open the store in the morning and close it at night, I taste every single batch of yogurt before put it into the machine to serve the customers. I live, breath, and commit the build the best frozen yogurt shop. I did not approach my investors, they approached me to talk about the potential partnership and expand the business. We made use the best of every single dollars that my investors putting in, expanding slowly to 5 different locations a very short period of time. However, when the business fail, there were a lot of factors, scaling and growing so fast with lack of capital, management, and leadership. However, the Parallel brand forever standing for the meaning of premium service and products, and more important is the determination and commitment of the young entrepreneurs dare to dream and do things.

I don’t know if I could ever convince my investors to put the money into my shop with just phone calls and pictures. Every single investors of Parallel know how to mix the yogurt and doing cashier  a few times. Bottom line, we did not just build a business, we build the partnership where people are growing up and learning together at the same time.

When I go home to have dinner with my family, my auntie always remind everyone to put our phone away when we sit down to the table. Family time is precious and priceless! At first, I feel it’s normal and just put my phone. However, after couple times, I start wondering why my auntie has to do that nowadays but not 10 years ago. How does things got change and the family-time has to be reminded for its value.

I don’t mean to always put the phone away when we’re at home! However, changing the phone to “Do not disturb” or “Airplane Mode” when you have some special event (date night, family dinner) with your loved ones is definitely a way for your to show your appreciation with their time, but also your time.

  • We don’t need to check-in everywhere we go so that you can remember, it’s the moments with that special ones will stay in our minds forever
  • We definitely don’t need a picture of the food you enjoy to remember, we will always remember the taste of love, and it’s will be sweet for sure!
  • We need to have an agenda for our daily life, but keep in mind that not everyone will have an agenda for theirs*.
  • Time is always limited, you don’t need to make time for everyone, but the very few special ones that matter!
  • Sometimes, a picture will remind us lots of memory about someone, but we definitely don’t need a hundred picture to remind us once someone was so important.

Now, put your phone away because life is short, very short, enjoy the moments!

Some day, we will probably start see more “no cellphones” in the appropriate places, similar to “no smoking” signs!

444 Castro – August 24th, 2013 – Silent night

* I cried at the moment that Steve Wozniak walked away from Apple in Jobs Movie


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