How a poor refugee from Vietnam became CTO of the billion-dollar startup Uber


Next Shark (by Ryan General):

Today, Thuan Pham is the successful Chief Technology Officer at Uber, the most valuable ride-sharing startup in the world worth over $62 billion, but as a child, Pham struggled to survive as a poor refugee boy escaping a war-ravaged Vietnam.

Pham was among the tens of thousands of refugees who fled from the Vietnam War in 1979.  The 10-year-old Pham, his mom and his siblings were crammed with hundreds of other Vietnamese refugees on a 60-meter boat on their way to an uncertain future.


The refugees endured a perilous journey with their boat being raided by pirates twice.

“We would not panic. In fact we would be calm and surrender ourselves,”  Pham told Tech In Asia. “That’s the way a startup journey is. Even if you lose all one day, you can build all over again if you retain your calm.”

Their boat landed on the shores of Malaysia but they were immediately rejected as refugees. Instead of returning to their country, his mother took a chance in taking her children on another boat to Indonesia, where the family stayed for 10 months.

Living on the island of Letung, young Pham would swim to the nearby town to buy candies which his mother sold in the refugee camp to earn money.

“We used to make 10 cents of profit a day, and that would be a luxury,” he recalled. “We could buy fresh fish.”


Pham’s life began to change after his mother’s asylum application in the U.S. was approved. They relocated to Maryland, where his mother worked as a ledger keeper at a gas station during the day, and as a grocery packer at a supermarket at night.

While studying in American schools, Pham struggled initially as he didn’t know English and had to start from scratch. He also wore donated clothes and shoes and found work at a local car wash station.

“I remember wearing girl socks for almost two years in oblivion, until someone pointed,” Pham told Tech in Asia.

A persistent and hardworking student, Pham graduated from MIT with a bachelor’s in computer science in 1991.

“I strongly encourage aspiring entrepreneurs to educate themselves, even if they don’t wish to graduate,” he said. “College education opens doors for you.”

After MIT, he found work at HP Labs, Silicon Graphics, DoubleClick and VMWare. When Pham joined Uber in 2013, it was already present in 60 cities with 200 employees. Currently, the company has an estimated net worth of $62.5 billion, has a presence in almost 400 cities and employs thousands of employees around the world.

As the Uber CTO, he has helped improve the Uber app which was prone to crashes in its earlier versions.  To ensure that the app is responsive and crash-proof, Pham has developed innovations that enable its architecture to keep running even if something goes wrong.

“Now we don’t crash, because we have done that in our early journey,” he said. “Entrepreneurs should fail fast in the early days.”


Growing up with hardship and the constant threat of death back in Saigon, which today is Ho Chi Minh City, Pham was forced to overcome fear at an early age, but that trait still stick with him today.

“It taught me that life is ephemeral,” he said. “I advise young entrepreneurs to treat their startups as a learning experience. Even if it all fails you can rebuild it again. You’re in a free world.”

5 unique cafés to visit in Asia


Audrey Magazine (by Alyssa Park):

Cafés are popping up all over America, and they are quickly becoming part of a global culture as well. For instance, all across Asia you can find amazing cafés with different types of aesthetics such as rustic, modern, traditional and even themed. If you are traveling through Asia, then these five destinations are a must.

1. Hoho Myoll Café : (Seoul, South Korea)

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Korea is known to have some of the most beautiful cafés in the world. With a bit of a rustic aesthetic, Hoho Myoll Café is an enchanting little café tucked away in the heart of Seoul.

2. Wangye Teahouse : (Zigong, China)

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Inside of what was once a 100-year-old temple lies a very famous Sichuan Teahouse in Zigong, China. Next to the Fuxi River, visitors not only enjoy a traditional cup of tea, they can also become engrossed in a rich cultural history.

3. Shirohige’s Creampuff Shop: (Tokyo, Japan)

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Shirohige’s Creampuff Shop is one of many of Japan’s themed cafés. Not only are the creampuffs Totoro-shaped, the café itself is extremely sophisticated while maintaining a youthful charm.

4.Up Café: (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)

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Up Café is a mandatory destination in Saigon mostly for it’s novelty. With all of the furniture and windows hanging upside down from the ceilings, you can’t help but feel like you are in another dimension.

5. Audrey Café & Bistro: ( Bangkok, Thailand)

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Audrey Café & Bistro is one of the most popular destinations in Bangkok, Thailand because of its beauty. With decor that only reflects elegance and class, your experience here will be nothing short of luxurious.

7 Asian female emcees worth bumping on your stereos 


Audrey Magazine: (by Arianna Caramat)

In a culture that’s been relatively dominated by a heterosexual male narrative, Hip Hop has been a hard place for women–let alone Asian American women–to truly dominate. As raptivist Aisha Fukushima once described to me, booty, bullets, and bling have countlessly been glorified by male rappers. I mean, take Big Sean’s “Dance (a$$)” for example. It’s blatantly written in the title.

But don’t give up on hip hop just yet! We have a list of strong Asian female emcees who are still under the radar but counter that male-driven narrative. Of course, they also prove women can keep it one-hundred.

Rocky Rivera (U.S.)

This thought-provoking, powerful spitter and Bay Area-native started out as an accomplished journalist before dedicating herself to her musical craft.

Suboi (Vietnam)

Hailing from Saigon, Vietnam, Suboi stands as the country’s number one female emcee and Queen of Hip Hop. Not to mention, she became the first Vietnamese artist to perform at SXSW.

Akwafina (U.S.)

Don’t be fooled by the comedic moniker! Akwafina’s tongue-and-cheek lines have been embraced by countless other women and celebrated as something good for feminism since her song, “My Vag,” went viral.

Yacko (Indonesia)

This emcee is a lecturer for an international college during the week, a rapper by weekend, and a full-time mother. With a full plate like that, Yacko still manages to be recognized as one of Indonesia’s most respected emcees.

Miss Ko (Taiwan)

This Taiwanese American emcee made the move from New York to Taiwan where she garnered a government grant to produce an album; however, all production was halted after an almost-fatal accident. After 2 years of healing and an album later, Miss Ko became the first female rapper to have a No. 1 album in Taiwan.

Ruby Ibarra (U.S.)

She may be fun-sized, but her raps will knock you out! Also a Bay Area local, Ibarra has started gathering national attention and is known for melding together English and Tagalog into her flows.

Yurika (Japan)

Yurika isn’t a stranger to the rap scene in Tokyo, she’s the emcee who’s spearheading the next generation of rappers in Japan. With her cuteness and juxtaposing hard flows, she caught the attention of the Dream Boy label and became their most recent signee.

Photographer An Le’s ‘Situation Saigon’ photoshoot with models Huynh Nu and Thanh Thuy

Huynh Nu + Thanh Thuy by An Le for Tush Magazine


An Le shoots Huynh Nu and Thanh Thuy (Runway Models) in ‘Situation Saigon’ for Tush Magazine.

Styling by Cong Tri. Hair and makeup by Quan Nguyen and Pu.


Huynh Nu + Thanh Thuy by An Le for Tush Magazine

Huynh Nu + Thanh Thuy by An Le for Tush Magazine

Huynh Nu + Thanh Thuy by An Le for Tush Magazine

Huynh Nu + Thanh Thuy by An Le for Tush Magazine

Huynh Nu + Thanh Thuy by An Le for Tush Magazine

Huynh Nu + Thanh Thuy by An Le for Tush Magazine

Huynh Nu + Thanh Thuy by An Le for Tush Magazine




How Asian immigration is changing America’s heartland


Office Tu Train of the Lincoln, Nebraska police force.

NBC News: 

Tu Tran’s cell phone rings at all hours of the night. His number is well known in this city’s growing Vietnamese population. He is called into duty to quell disputes, serve as a confidante and a role model.

It’s all part of the job as Lincoln’s only Vietnamese-speaking police officer.

I don’t mind,” Tran said in his cruiser during a recent ride-along. “Sometimes, I’m the only one they can call.”

Officer Tu Tran on patrol in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Officer Tu Tran on patrol in Lincoln, Nebraska. As one of only two Vietnamese officers on the police force, Tran serves as a crucial link between the city and its growing Vietnamese population.


When Saigon fell to the Viet Cong in 1975, thousands of Vietnamese found refuge in the United States, many starting new lives in Houston, San Jose, and other large metropolitan areas. But they also arrived in the country’s heartland, including a significant community of Vietnamese that established itself in Nebraska’s capital city of Lincoln.

Tran’s father fought in the war alongside U.S. soldiers until the fall of Saigon and spent eight years imprisoned by Vietnam’s communist government. Roughly a decade after being released, he brought his family to the U.S. It was a cold winter’s day in 1992 when six-year old Tu arrived in Nebraska.

Catholic Social Services brought Tu and his family to America as political refugees, along with tens of thousands of others helped by the relocation agency. The Trans settled along the 27th Street corridor, now the hub of the Lincoln’s ethnic neighborhoods. Today, Vietnamese restaurants and groceries share the strip with Mexican eateries and African markets.

“Sometimes, I’m the only one they can call.”

The United States is home to more than 1.7 million residents of Vietnamese descent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, with California and Texas accounting for more than half that population. Nebraska’s population is relatively modest, numbering around 9,000. Larger numbers have settled in nearby Kansas and Oklahoma.

But the Vietnamese represent the first major wave of refugees being hosted by the Cornhusker State, a place that remains predominantly White but is now home to increasing number of refugees from Iraq, Sudan, Bhutan and the nation formerly known as Burma.

Nebraska has some of the country’s fastest growing communities of color. The Hispanic population has nearly doubled since the 2000 U.S. Census. Residents who trace their heritage to Asia and the Pacific Islands increased by more than 70 percent over that same time. Meanwhile, the number of White residents grew by a mere 1 percent.

The Lincoln Police Department has about 20 officers of color among its 320 sworn officers. Tran is one of two officers on the force who are of Vietnamese heritage, and the only one fluent in Vietnamese.

Lincoln Police Officer Tu Tran meets with other officers before heading out on patrol.

Tran says he was amused when an article that explored the diversity of languages spoken across the country began circulating through social media. According to that map, Vietnamese is the third-most-spoken language in Nebraska, behind English and Spanish.

Having witnessed the influx of fellow Vietnamese to his town, Tran says he wasn’t surprised.

“They don’t want anyone else to know about their problems…But I can speak their language so they trust me.”


Police Chief James Peschong acknowledges his office faces challenges in dealing with an increasingly diverse population.

We need to reflect the diversity of our community,” he said. “And that means hiring officers who can bridge cultural divides.”

Some Vietnamese aren’t always trusting of police, says Tran. Particularly older generations who lived in their homeland during the turmoil of war. Then there is the cultural practice of keeping issues of the home, private.

They don’t want anyone else to know about their problems,” said Tran, who often serves as a counselor to immigrant families.

But I can speak their language,” he said, “so they trust me.”

This report was made possible by The Heartland Project, an initiative to broaden news coverage of Nebraska’s communities of color, as well as gay, lesbian and transgender issues. The project is funded by the Ford Foundation in collaboration with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications, the Asian American Journalists Association and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.

Check out this link:

How Asian immigration is changing America’s heartland


Us Versus Them goes to Vietnam with 2014 Spring Lookbook


Image of Us Versus Them 2014 Spring Lookbook
Southern California mainstay Us Versus Them took to the backdrops of Saigon and Hanoi for its latest 2014 spring lookbook. Transcending its raw fashion sensibilities onto the urban landscape, the lookbook exhibits a handful of bold graphics, and collegiate and Old English fonts on raglan shirts, tees, fleeces and pullovers, while cargo shirts and camouflage hats nod at the collection’s military influence.
The label’s machete vs. palm tree logo is used on updated pieces elsewhere, providing another definitive selection for the spring season. Head to UVT’s online store for the full collection and look for it later in the season at select stockists including the HYPEBEAST Store.
Image of Us Versus Them 2014 Spring Lookbook
Image of Us Versus Them 2014 Spring Lookbook
Image of Us Versus Them 2014 Spring Lookbook
Image of Us Versus Them 2014 Spring Lookbook
Image of Us Versus Them 2014 Spring Lookbook
Image of Us Versus Them 2014 Spring Lookbook
Image of Us Versus Them 2014 Spring Lookbook
Image of Us Versus Them 2014 Spring Lookbook
Image of Us Versus Them 2014 Spring Lookbook
Image of Us Versus Them 2014 Spring Lookbook
Image of Us Versus Them 2014 Spring Lookbook
Image of Us Versus Them 2014 Spring Lookbook
Image of Us Versus Them 2014 Spring Lookbook
Image of Us Versus Them 2014 Spring Lookbook
Image of Us Versus Them 2014 Spring Lookbook
Image of Us Versus Them 2014 Spring Lookbook



Beijing-based custom shop Bandit9 presents the EVE Concept motorcycle


Beijing-based custom motorcycle design shop Bandit9 presented their latest creation in Saigon, the EVE Concept. Using a 1967 Honda SS as the starting point, which was supposedly the first Japanese bike ever imported to Vietnam, the team finished the bike with a chrome unibody, custom exhaust, custom handlebars, exposed suspensions, a cattle skin leather seat and chrome/bronze detailing.
Priced at $4,600, you can pre-order yours by emailing the shop.
Check out this link:

Vietnamese American actor makes choice not to run anymore from Miss Saigon


Miss Saigon, the tragic, musical love story set in war-torn Vietnam, has been at the top of Vi Tran’s blacklist since as long as he can remember.

It was the “I’ll never, ever do that show” show.

Tran, then a young Missouri-based actor, would not be typecast, he proclaimed.

I avoided the show like the plague,” Tran said. “When you’re a young actor, especially one who’s ethnic, you want to prove to yourself that you belong. You don’t want to run to ‘Miss Saigon’ just because you’re a Vietnamese actor.”

Vi Tran was born in Vinh, Vietnam, a “tiny little village” 90 minutes northwest of Saigon. He began life on the run — a sometimes refugee, sometimes prisoner.

I was a refugee baby, like the little kid that the plot of ‘Miss Saigon’ revolves around,” Tran said. “His mom wants a better life for him and my parents lived that journey.”

Tran’s parents, with two kids in tow, escaped Vietnam when he was a year old. Over the next two years, the family lived in limbo, first in Khmer Rouge-controlled Cambodia before reaching a neutral zone in Thailand.

In Cambodia we were captured by the Khmer Rouge and were in a prison camp for a time until the Red Cross was able to smuggle us out,” Tran said.

After years on the move, the family landed in Garden City, Kansas, in the early 1980s, with $10 and the clothes on their backs. Tran’s parents immigrated into Kansas during the height of a meat-packing boom in the state. Like a lot of Southeast Asian and Mexican immigrants, Tran’s parents both took factory jobs where the language learning curve wasn’t a significant barrier to employment.

They worked 70-hour weeks “so that I may not know how impoverished we were,” Tran said.

Today, Tran thinks of the Vietnamese actors who “had the chops to perform this show” on Broadway when it debuted in 1989, “but like my parents, they were working doing practical things so that their kids might choose for themselves.”

Tran’s “never-ever” attitude toward the Miss Saigon story began to shift after a while.

I think of them when I finally made the leap to join in telling this story, the ‘Miss Saigon’ story,” Tran said. “I now see it as part of my responsibility to become part of that dialogue.”

Check out this link for the full interview:

Vietnamese American actor makes choice not to run anymore from Miss Saigon