Dan Hieu Vo is passionate about teaching his entrepreneurship classes, and he has experience from being an entrepreneur himself. Vo has been a professor with the California Lutheran University School of Management since the fall of 2018, working as an Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship teaching both undergraduate and graduate classes.
Before he decided to come work for Cal Lutheran, Vo was an assistant professor of Business Administration at Hartwick. While working here, he was also the director of the Entrepreneurship Program and the founder and academic advisor of Hartwick College’s Investment Club.
Vo was raised by a family of entrepreneurs, as his parents own and run their own business back in Vietnam, where he is from. Entrepreneurship has always been the big dream, Vo said.
Vo received his Ph.D. in Economics with a special focus in entrepreneurial finance from the University of Victoria in 2013. When he was looking into a project to do for his dissertation, one of his professors had received a grant from the government to research venture investment. His professor then asked him to join his project, and Vo accepted.
“Since I’m interested in entrepreneurship, it was a natural thing for me. This project led me on a path to do more research on entrepreneurship, especially financing of startup projects,” Vo said.
While he was studying for his Ph.D., Vo also started his own sourcing company, connecting wholesalers in Canada with manufacturers in Vietnam. Vo explained that within big companies, the manufacturers will often make an excess of the amount ordered in case of any defections, making the excess products available for purchase at a cheap price.
“I started buying the excess products from these companies and selling them to Canadian companies at a higher price to make a profit,” Vo said.
The company still exists, but since Vo moved to the United states it became harder to keep in touch with the Canadian partners while starting a new life here. However, as he gets used to the environment here, Vo said he is planning on eventually picking up with the company again.
One of the main things that drew Vo to come work for Cal Lutheran and settle down in the Thousand Oaks area besides the location was Hub101. His in-laws live in Anaheim, and his wife has always wanted to move back to California. When researching new jobs, Vo found the position online while still living in New York, and thought that this would be the perfect job for him. After interviewing with Mike Panesis, Executive Director for Cal Lutheran’s Center for Entrepreneurship, he got the job.
Vo said besides teaching at Hub101, he uses the place to connect with other entrepreneurs and network. He also attends the events, which he has learned a lot from.
Vo has also been involved in a variety of Cal Lutheran projects since starting his new position. He judged the New Venture Fair at Cal Lutheran in spring 2019, advises and consults with other entrepreneurs and he also does research on entrepreneurship.
Victoria Young, Program Coordinator at Hub101, knows Vo through his work as at the Center for Entrepreneurship, and describes Vo as a professor who knows his subjects very well.
“He is just a joy to work with, because he is very professional, has an eye for detail and he knows what he is talking about,” Young said.
After years of experience, Vo said that the most important thing potential entrepreneurs need to consider if they want to start their own business but do not know where to start, is to develop a product or a service that is actually wanted by consumers.
“When I talk to entrepreneurs, they all have crazy ideas, but when I talk to them it seems that the biggest challenge is that they love their idea and therefore assume that other people will also love it, but when you consider the whole market, people might not be that interested,” Vo said.
Vo therefore encourages any entrepreneur to present their ideas and let people criticize and give feedback on them. He also said that partnering up with someone who has different skills than you do can be a good idea. Many of the students he meets have great experience within leadership, marketing and general economics, but might lack skills within coding, for example.
“Nowadays, many business ideas involve coding—you need to have an app. Therefore, what I always advise students is to not start their business alone. Find a partner who can complement the skills you have,” Vo said.
Vo also believes that anyone can benefit from taking entrepreneurship classes, regardless of whether or not they are planning to start their own business. He believes entrepreneurship is important for anything you do in life in order to identify problems, find solutions and take initiative.
Vo says he is very happy with where he is now, living in this area and teaching entrepreneurship.
“This is an ideal place for entrepreneurship, with the amount of intelligence, the amount of capital and the amount of expertise related to entrepreneurship. Anyone who wants to work within entrepreneurship wants to be here. I could never wish to be anywhere else than here,” Vo said.