Inside Toong CEO Duong Do’s Bag

Toong was founded in 2015 in Hanoi. Since then, the co-working space company has expanded to Nha Trang, Saigon, and regionally to Cambodia and Laos. And they’ve done so with a nurturing, creative mindset inspired by CEO Duong Do.

Read on in Vietnamese

“That’s a tricky question,” Duong Do shrugs modestly when we ask him who he is. “For me, any crystal-clear definition limits the real person who we really are.” We’re with the softly spoken Toong co-working space CEO at Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts to talk about evolutions in the industry, Toong’s dramatic but sustainable growth, and to find out what’s in Duong Do’s bag.

More than just a co-working space, Toong (which means “beehive”) – under Duong Do’s lead – has embraced culture, creativity and lifestyle. “All of my businesses, whether they revolve around working environments, property management, concept developments or local cuisine, focus on how products can elevate experiences,” he explains. “I believe there are universal principles that are applicable to every specialty, and an entrepreneur can also be involved in art, architecture, culture and so on…” 

Duong Do, Toong’s CEO, at the Ho Chi Minh Museum of Fine Arts.

That’s one reason Toong, which is now a regional chain of co-working spaces, has retained its soul. “That’s right, I feel Toong can expand at such a fast pace because investors and customers are engaged in its philosophy, its core values,” Duong Do confirms. Not that the industry is completely stable. With recent challenges for the world’s largest co-working chain investors are questioning the efficiency and profitability of the business. “But we’ve never been too interested in trends,” Duong Do explains. “More than developing co-working spaces, we are setting our sights on nurturing wholesome working environments that foster a certain kind of conscious lifestyle…every human needs a work environment that makes them a better person.”

That philosophy has attracted a diverse customer base to Toong. “No matter whether you are a banker, a developer, a filmmaker or an investor, you are all welcome at Toong,” Duong Do continues. In fact, the Toong team have counted staff working in 36 different domains so far. “So there are artists and filmmakers at Toong 126 Minh Khai, Saigon (some of them are the most prominent filmmakers in Vietnam’s contemporary cinema). At Toong Hoang Dao Thuy, in Hanoi, you will be surrounded by a tech community. Meanwhile, at Toong Hoang Dao Thuy, there are also businesses in marketing, classical music, education…”

“More than developing co-working spaces, we are setting our sights on nurturing wholesome working environments.”

Naturally, diversity fosters human connections. The grand opening of Toong 126 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai was a good example. “It may seem strange, but the whole event program was prepared and organized by the clients who were working at Toong,” the co-working chain’s CEO smiles.

Convinced by Toong’s pulling power we turn our attention to the contents of Duong Do’s bag for the latest in our series.

The contents of Duong Do’s bag.

1. Aromatic oil and three bracelets

Duong Do shows us a set of aromatic oil, with different flavors: melaleuca, peppermint, and lavender and frankincense.

“Instead of trying to control the world around, I decided to control the world within myself. I always have a set of aromatic oils in my bag, as fragrance is the best catalyst that helps you wander into another landscape, where nothing can disturb your reflection.

Next, he shows us the three bracelets made from wood and aluminium in different colours. “This collection of bracelets serves quite the same purpose. Sometimes I wear the blue one, sometimes I go with the red. The variations allow me to proactively teleport to any corridor in my mind.”

Capturing Duong Do in a break from his “nomadic travels”.

2. JBL Headphones

Headphones are the modern ‘do-not-disturb’ sign. Duong Do agrees. “They allow me to vanish from the outer bustling world and conceal myself in my own sphere whenever I need some self-introspection and contemplation,”

3. A collection of SIM cards and a passport

Any nomadic millennial with empathise with Duong Do’s next items, a collection of SIM cards and a passport. Toong have recently opened in Cambodia and Laos, so these things have been really useful for Toong’s CEO lately.

“You can say I’m a nomad. Every now and then, besides my work trips, I often feel a sudden inner impulse to travel somewhere far away for fresh inspiration, so I have to be well-prepared for such spontaneous journeys.”

4. Ballpoint pen and pencil

It’s interesting that, despite our hi-tech lives, traditional mediums like pen and paper still prevail. Especially for brainstorming and note-taking.

“As most of my life takes place on the road, a ballpoint pen is inseparable. A pencil is a powerful tool to keep the ideas flowing. And a wave of creativity can unexpectedly hit anytime…so I must be ready to ride it with my pencil.”

“No matter whether you are a banker, a developer, a filmmaker or an investor, you are all welcome at Toong.”

5. Scientia Sacra by Hamvas Béla

Duong Do’s final object is a book. Even though he admits he rarely reads. “When I was at university, I used to absorb just the preface of the textbooks to grasp the key principle of all subjects. But Scientia Sacra, in which the enlightened Hungarian thinker pierced into the collective spiritual knowledge of humanity and exchanged views with the greatest sages in human history from Heraclitus to Buddha and Lao Tse, is the book that I can go back to again and again.” 

Photos by Nam Tran Duy and Khooa Nguyen. Edited by David Kaye.


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