Meet Linh Le, the NI17 Pitch Competition Audience Choice Award Winner

By: Net Impact staff | December 14, 2017

In this blog post, we interviewed the 2017 Net Impact Conference Pitch Competition Audience Choice Award winner, Linh Le, MBA Candidate, Babson College. For more information about the Net Impact Pitch Competition, visit https://www.netimpact.org/pitch-competition

Can you tell us more about your winning idea?

I want to build Seed Planter - the first entrepreneurship school in Vietnam for people who want to build high-impact startups. 

Seed Planter provides aspiring and early-stage entrepreneurs with 4-month intensive training, mentorship, and a network. We also provide early-stage funding so that they can scale their impact and will help them along the way. 

Seed Planter is a not-for-profit business. We’ll have two revenue streams: the tuition from our program and the capital gain from impact investment. We’ll transform a part of the donation, which is currently spent on charity, into impact investment in the sustainable business.  After 3-7 years, those companies will pay back the money that can be used to reinvest in other high-impact startups.  

How did you know this was the right project for you to work on?

I remember talking to a female founder who quit her job and sold her house to run a company that created jobs for 13 disadvantaged people: the deaf, the mute, people who suffer from the martial syndrome, and ex-prisoners. Unfortunately, the company could not find a good monetization method, thus was on the verge of bankruptcy. I felt heavy-hearted witnessing many meaningful social enterprises dying and was obsessed with the question: “What should I do to help them? What do they need? What do I have?” 

As a venture capitalist, I started by supporting TBK Greenfood to raise funds, enabling the company to scale and create more jobs for poor women in a rural village. It gave me a great sense of fulfillment. I asked myself: “Why shouldn’t I do more of this? How can I help more people?” 

Talking to many entrepreneurs, I realized the biggest problems they are facing is the lack of skills and knowledge to run a business. Entrepreneurship learning programs are not accessible to most people in Vietnam. The idea of creating a school for entrepreneurs sparked in my head. 

Seed Planter would call upon my skills, experience, and network as a venture capitalist and would engage my lifelong passion for education and social entrepreneurship – a combination I have long been searching for.

How was your experience at the 2017 Net Impact Conference? 

Excited. I had chances to connect with like-minded people and was inspired by them. There were many workshops on diverse topics. As I want to set up an impact investment fund, I attended many panel discussions around impact investing. They gave me more insights about the industry and helped me understand how to break into the industry given my background as a VC.

Also, the conference gave me time to reflect and understand my motivation. One of my favorite workshops was “How to align who you are with what you do” led by Kate Hayes from Echoing Green. It reminded me of all the reasons why I started Seed Planter, from my bittersweet childhood in a rural village to the seed of compassion my mother sowed in me, to the desire to help passionate social entrepreneurs I met. All of these fueled my determination of pursuing my dream. 

How has this experience shaped your future plans?

The Net Impact Conference and especially the Pitch Competition strengthened my determination to pursue Seed Planter. I got to know more like-minded people who were inspired by my dream. Now, some of them are helping me run a Bootcamp in Vietnam for high-impact startups.

What excites you most about being a social entrepreneur?

People I meet in this industry. They have a beautiful heart and an inspiring dream.

What advice would you give to someone who is passionate about making an impact, but is not sure where to start?

When I first started, I tried to reach out to many social entrepreneurs and find a way to help them. I was inspired by the impact that TBK Green Food was creating, so I used my skills as a venture capitalist to help the company raise funds. 

I also attended many social entrepreneurship events in Bangkok and joined Yunus Center at AIT as a part-time intern, thus, having opportunities to meet and support social entrepreneurs. Owing to this experience, I found out my dream.

You can start in the same way - talking to people who are making an impact and see how you can help. 

Where do you find inspiration?

My diary and people who believe in me. My diary is where I spend time to reflect and capture my own thoughts and emotion. It reminds me of why I am doing what I am doing.  

If you were given an extra hour every day, what would you do with it?

30 minutes to read and 30 minutes to meditate. 

Net Impact staff