Vietnam’s ‘Startup Queen’ Passes Away at 35 After Lung Cancer Battle

Vietnamese American serial entrepreneur Truong Thanh Thuy, also known as Thuy Muoi, passed away on Jan. 24 in Los Angeles after more than three years of fighting lung cancer. She was 35.

Thuy Muoi, who had contributed to NextShark, was known as Vietnam’s “Queen of Startups.” She founded the Salt Cancer Initiative (SCI), a nonprofit organization that provides information, education and emotional support for cancer patients in the Southeast Asian country.

Born in 1985, Thuy Muoi immigrated to the U.S. with her family in 2003. She graduated from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in computer science.

In 2008, Thuy Muoi returned to her hometown of Bien Hoa to establish her first business along with a few friends. It was a yogurt production company called Parallel Frozen Yogurt.

Image via Thuy Muoi (Supplied)

While running her yogurt business, Thuy Muoi, along with another friend, started her first tech venture called GreenGar. The company, which eventually shut down in 2014, was responsible for the collaborative drawing application Whiteboard.

Thuy Muoi also continued to develop Tappy, a messaging app that was later acquired by Weeby, a mobile gaming company based in Silicon Valley. She also worked at Weeby as business development director for Asia.

Image via @thuymuoi

Thuy Muoi was diagnosed with end-stage lung cancer in September 2016.

“It’s not the first time I was suspected with some health issues. But, CANCER, really? Out of everyone, ME?!” Thuy Muoi wrote in a Medium article.

With determination to fight her condition and a wish that “no one has to fight cancer alone,” Thuy Muoi established the Salt Cancer Initiative. The organization is the first support ecosystem for cancer patients in Vietnam.

“Think of cancer as the way God tests the strength of us. This challenge comes with much difficulties and [is] full of fatigue, but we do not need to fight alone,” she said.

As founder and supervisor at SCI, Thuy Muoi helped connect thousands of cancer patients and their relatives, implemented sustainable projects, and increased the general awareness of Vietnamese society on cancer.

SCI also organized large-scale events, such as the Vietnam Oncology Conference and Patient Forum (2017 and 2018), which gathered top cancer experts from the U.S. and Japan to share information and experience with doctors and patients in Vietnam.

A fundraising event called “5,000 Happy Steps — Walk for Cancer Patients” created a shared space for 1,000 participants to accompany cancer patients, while an outdoor flash-mob activity gathered more than 200 cancer patients.

“Cancer somehow teaches me how to open my heart more and let me look at my life in a different perspective,” said Thuy Muoi, who found her daily dose of happiness from the smallest things, such as walking 200 steps more from the previous day.

Image via @thuymuoi

Thuy Muoi received multiple accolades for her work. SCI, for one, received a We Choice Award (2018) and the National Volunteers Award by Central Committee of Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union in Vietnam (2019).

Thuy Muoi was also included in Forbes Vietnam’s “30 Under 30″ list in 2015 and “50 Most Influential Women of Vietnam” in 2017. She was also the subject of a documentary titled “She Started It”, which depicted her startup career and was distributed in hundreds of tech companies and universities across 30 countries.

While Thuy Muoi has passed, SCI vows to continue her mission with more projects and events. This October, the organization, in collaboration with the Michelson Cancer Research Institute at the University of Southern California, will hold the International Oncology Conference for the first time in Vietnam.

Feature Images via Thuy Muoi (left: supplied; right: @thuymuoi)

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