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Hoang Dao Xuan from Hanoi, Vietnam

Founder & CEO of Monkey Junior

It’s okay to fail. Many people give up because they lose the passion but you have to keep going. That kind of attitude moves you forward.

From Vietnam village to global win for virtual venture

Hoang Dao is the founder of Monkey Junior, the most downloaded learn-to-read app in the App Store and Google Play. In a global pitch competition last year, he came first out of 29 entrepreneurs shortlisted from more than 1,000 applicants in 135 countries.

Hoang left a small village in Vietnam with little experience of the outside world, to study in Australia 13 years ago. His spoken English was so poor, he says, he “struggled to be understood.”  five-week English language program with UTS Insearch built his confidence before he started his software engineering degree.

He and his Vietnamese roommate dreamt of starting a business that would have an impact on society, and after they graduated they returned home to do just that.

“We inspired each other,” says Hoang.

After a few false starts, the pair identified an opportunity for a start-up. In Vietnam, text processing – a form of aggregating information from different websites – wasn’t being used. So they set up BH Media. Today, it’s a provider of video, mobile and web services with millions of daily users.

Hoang quit BH Media to set up Monkey Junior in 2014, and now employs 100 staff.

His app, for children as young as one-year-old, is not about using a screen to keep children quiet, he stresses.

“Technology is a tool. It’s not there to replace the role of parents. We want them to sit with their child and interact,” he says.

Hoang’s app is based on the methodology of Glenn Doman, an American physical therapist and pioneer of children’s brain development. Hoang discovered Doman’s research when he was teaching his own daughter, Lily, to read. When he found it was really successful, he decided to turn this method into an app.

In 2016, Monkey Junior won the Global Entrepreneurship Summit GIST (Global Innovation through Science and Technology) Tech-I-Pitch Competition in Palo Alto, California.

The judges chose Hoang from a shortlist of 29 entrepreneurs globally because of the app’s potential to bring reading skills to millions of children.

Hoang’s vision for Monkey Junior is to expand its capabilities into mathematics and create an entire virtual school.

His one piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is: “It’s okay to fail. Many people give up because they lose the passion but you have to keep going. That kind of attitude moves you forward.”

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