Ministry of Science and Technology of Viet Nam

Initiative for Startup Ecosystem in Vietnam

Otrafy CEO Nhat Nguyen: "Companions to help remove barriers when returning to homeland"

Photo: The Otrafy Team: Lucas Cunha and Nhat Nguyen

Otrafy focuses on B2B with food manufacturers. According to the laws around the world and in Vietnam, when producing a certain food such as sausage, it’s necessary to know how many input materials are required. In the case of sausage, we need to know about meat, packaging, and seasoning. To run a process, we must ensure that the suppliers provide food safety certificates. Only if the ingredients are standard can the production of food be standard. The common way to get information is via email, and the information about the expiration date of the organic food safety certificate is available via email. There is a team dedicated to handling that information. 


In the U.S., there are some competitors who apply a digital process, but they put forward the sample and require the food manufacturer to use that one. Meanwhile we can help food manufacturers create their own samples and suppliers don't need to fill out each form by themselves, the software can help them fill out different forms.


That's why I didn't mention barcode scanning. I found that including barcode scanning information requires inserting valuable information. Now that we have to provide information through the supplier anyway, why don't we get that information, process it and give it to the supplier.


How potential is this market in Vietnam?


This is the trend. The requirements for information are increasingly strict. There are more substandard food recalls. People are demanding more information from GMO, organic, vegetarian food. As consumers are changing, more information is demanded. Vietnam market is still behind foreign ones. In the Vietnamese market, people still consider price the most important factor. In foreign markets, people are willing to spend a lot of money to get the things they are most satisfied with. Vietnam will have potential in the upcoming time. In Vietnam, there will be pioneer manufacturers who will build a pioneering system in constructing a safe and secure food production system. It is necessary to create a good premise and good luck in Vietnam.


Then who are the companions of Otrafy?


Otrafy originated in Canada. When returning to Vietnam to understand the market, I looked for ecosystem builders. Currently, I’m participating in the program of BLOCK 71 - a collaboration between a Singapore university and BECAMEX - a corporation with offices in Singapore and Indonesia.


I joined Block 71 from the end of March 2021. There are many startups participating in the program which helps me understand the experiences of other startups in Vietnam. Block 71 helps me connect with investment funds, mentors in the ecosystem in Vietnam. Every week, there are workshops to share experiences. The first session was about how to hire people in Vietnam, how to access talented human resources in Vietnam? The beauty of the BLOCK 71 program is that I can approach the program in both Indonesia and Vietnam. So while understanding the Vietnamese market, I also understand more about the Asian market – this is very helpful to me that I can understand the Southeast Asian market. BLOCK 71 offers a mentor who communicates with me weekly. In addition to companies in Vietnam, BLOCK71 also has a network in Singapore, Indonesia. So they can connect to companies around Southeast Asia. This helps me better understand the ecosystem in Southeast Asia and our products can expand in many markets. BLOCK 71 will be accompanying me in the upcoming time.


We always want to work with food manufacturers and one partner I look forward to is Masan – They can help me bring my products into this company.


Otrafy set up its headquarters in the U.S. After that, Otrafy went back to Vietnam and did not fully understand the market. Block 71 gave us knowledge about the Vietnamese market, building our skills in building customers-identifying products, and constructing a staff team. Not only that, they also connect with potential customers in more than just Vietnam or Singapore. This is comprehensive help.


With the knowledge of the product market that the mentor shared with Otrafy, how has it been applied in the development process?


Two weeks ago, a mentor of a startup company who had a lot of experience working with large enterprises shared their experiences. After that, I connected with that mentor and now, we still meet every week to apply the process of working with large enterprises. I use the same process to continue working according to my experience. They work in a different industry, but it is the same as I am doing so it can be immediately applied to my work. Not only can I apply it in the Vietnamese market but also in other markets like in the U.S. There are only a few changes in project implementation. I can always apply it immediately to the work I am doing, without waiting.


So it means that there is knowledge that you have yet to be equipped with in the U.S.?


I was in the U.S. in 2020 and everything was online. It was very difficult to connect with others and implement anything. BLOCK 71 runs an offline program. I  could directly meet the mentors who shared a lot. Meeting online is very limited in time so it is difficult to connect. But when carrying out in person, I can get so much more.


How to choose companions?


To me, the first criterion is the network with resources. I knew that BECAMEX is a partner of BLOCK 71, so they have many connections with large businesses and food manufacturers, I can meet customers faster. 


Because we sell a B2B product, we must connect with some startups who can share their B2B sales experience. We can both share our experience and learn from theirs. Both sides learn from each other and move forward together.


The biggest investor accompanying us is Techstar - top 3 Startup Accelerator in the US. They are always the most important companion. They have an extremely large network, invest in and support us with a team of experienced startups. I can always learn from them.


I started working with Techstar in the middle of 2019. Not only didn’t we have to spend money on the office, but they also supported us financially to run the Techstar program for 3 months. The program completely changed my understanding of startups and the ecosystem. Techstar has the most methodical training. I can share my experience in other programs. I also get the highest level of profit from Techstar partnerships, the same as Microsoft.


Without participating in Techstar in 2019, I can’t build the product I'm working on because when I joined Techstar, there was a different product. But the training of Techstar helped me focus on the product and develop it the fastest, most reasonable, orderly and beneficial to customers. Techstar connected me and the world's largest manufacturer, Cargill. In 2020 Cargill ran Otrafy's software experience program to manage their suppliers' food safety information.


BLOCK 71 offers the most powerful support


The greatest value received from 2 companions is the mentors. My ability is only limited to one field and the mentors come from many different fields. I will use their knowledge to develop my company better. A team of mentors in different fields helps me build trust with investors.



Creating a favorable environment for the creation and growth of startups

Creating a favorable environment for the creation and growth of startups

Establishing and improving the legal framework for supporting startups

Establishing and improving the legal framework for supporting startups

Creation of National Startup Portal

Creation of National Startup Portal

Support 2000 startup projects with total value of 2000 billion VND

Support 2000 startup projects with total value of 2000 billion VND