Elijah Ferrian sits down with young entrepreneur DK Long to talk about his web development company, Dagiac, and the evolution of Vietnamese startups capturing the interest of Western business and tourism. Photo by Vinh Dao.
I just met this guy, Do Kim Long, a 28-year-old digital marketing business owner. He’s reserved and calmly funny. We take helpings of fish curry, and sip on tea while I try to understand all of the various industries he has his hands in. I make it simple for myself, so today we are here to talk about his company, Dagiac.
“It means ‘polygon’ in Vietnamese.” Long breaks down the history of how he came to spark the web development company he began around the age of 20.
“I self-learned web development, and digital marketing when I was in high school. I didn’t go the typical route that most people take. While all of my friends were constantly going to school, I was trying my best to both learn skills and get real-world experience that helped me reach the level I am at today.”
As we continue to talk about how he got to where he is today, all of these different ideas are being shared. In between bites of lunch, we still find time to rap back and forth about all of these ventures and concepts that he is excited to start really investing his time into.
“I started as a freelancer after graduating in 2006. I worked with individual clients in the beginning, but quickly realised that I was completely able to work with larger companies. I was like, ‘I need to start a company with all of the proper licenses so I can deal with contract signing and everything else.’” His eyes smile.
The native of Saigon grew up in a household that was open-minded and absolutely supportive of his desire to work for himself. His father, seeing the drive and skill that his son exhibited, always trusted that although his son had taken an atypical route for the average Vietnamese young man, it didn’t matter.
Long continues his history. “I was working for larger companies, I got an opportunity, but I knew it was not for me. After explaining myself to the company, I was awarded contracts to work on for myself, and I was allowed to work from home.”
He continued this work, but a theme in the story always remained. Working for others was just taking up more of his energy and time, and he was always quickly reminded that he was skilled enough to do all of this work himself. He finally had enough, and decided to start his own business at age 20.
“Initially I was focusing on local business, but I switched to many Western clients basically because I was motivated to develop even further than what the local Vietnamese market would’ve allowed me at the time, and not many people here understand what Western people want.” Long looks off and turns to me.
I respond. “Your English is pretty damn good, especially for your unconventional beginnings. I would hire you, and I’m not even completely sure I understand what you do exactly.” We both chuckle and take a sip of tea.
He enlightens me. “I consult and execute web development, and digital marketing focussing especially on Western business owners. I’ve amassed a lot of business over the last couple years, so I employ eight people at my office space. About the time I reached 24, I just understood that my English was good, and I could develop a product for Westerners that was easy for them to understand. They don’t have to worry about the details. I handle the hosting. I handle the design. I handle the technical issues. It’s just a worry-free business relationship once we get established.”
The tourism industry in Vietnam is obviously booming more than ever. The numbers of foreign visitors spending their money to see this great country has been steadily rising since 2000. The figure for 2015 was a total of 7,943,651 visitors through the entire year. With young entrepreneurs like Long heading the charge of novel business ideas to captivate the would-be adventurers keen on stepping foot onto Vietnamese soil, it doesn’t seem like there will be any significant slow down if he and his employees have anything to say about it.
“I want to make it easier for everyone to visit Vietnam. Not only to just see the tourist sights in Saigon, or to do the motorbike trip up to Hanoi, but to have an authentic experience that is special. Something that stands out.”
He aims to accomplish this by developing websites that streamline the entire process of travel to his nation. From the initial beginnings of a trip, to the more detailed and stressful aspects like planning itineraries, and setting up tours with reputable operators.
The scope is large, but it seems DK Long has always anchored his ideas in a larger than life idea spectrum. It will be an exciting time for future tourism in Vietnam, and the growth of travellers can only be reinforced by bright business owners that are bridging the gap between locals and foreigners.