At the beginning of the 1980s, 22-year-old Yung Nguyen left Vietnam—one of millions of Vietnamese who fled the country after the Fall of Saigon and the resulting takeover by the Communist regime. He and two friends set out to walk and bike across Cambodia and Thailand. Of the three, only Nguyen completed the trip; his companions were arrested and imprisoned.
He made it to a refugee camp, then out of the region. “When I got to the refugee camp, I would go anywhere,” he explained, but since he had family already living here, and since he had studied the United States in school, he ended up in Louisville.
Nguyen went to college here—first at JCTCS, then in the engineering program at the University of Louisville, where he met Mike Davis, a fellow student who shared his entrepreneurial ambitions. Together, they developed VINE, a system that notifies crime victims when their perpetrators are released from custody and when court dates are scheduled. VINE is now used in 48 states and has expanded across the border to Canada.
“When we started, we just thought that we’d develop something to address a problem here locally, but then we learned afterward that it’s a national problem,” he explains. “I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to work to develop that solution.”
He sold his share in the company and is now CEO of his newest start-up, IVS, an accessibility system that allows people with disabilities to vote independently and in private.
WFPL’s Phillip M. Bailey spoke with Yung Nguyen about his journey and his experiences as an immigrant entrepreneur in Louisville.
This interview is the first in a month-long series on immigrant entrepreneurs in Louisville, made possible by a grant from the Greater Louisville International Professionals.