Chris Freund grew up in Chicago, Illinois, and subsequently attended the University of California in Santa Cruz, where he focused much of his studies on psychology and religious experience.
Since his teenage years, Chris had been interested in Buddhism and other spiritual inquiries, so in 1992 Chris embarked on a junior year abroad and enrolled in the Buddhist Studies program in Bodh Gaya, India. When the program completed, Chris backpacked around Asia for 6 months, starting for one month in Vietnam. Chris immediately fell in love with Vietnam and resolved to return to Vietnam upon graduating from his university.
From the end of the U.S. war in Vietnam until February 1994, the U.S. has imposed a trade and investment embargo on Vietnam. When the trade embargo was lifted on the 3rd of February 1994, it opened the floodgates to foreign investment, trade, and career opportunities for foreigners in Vietnam. Chris was excited about the opportunity to live and work in Vietnam, so in mid-1994 he took a leave from his university to engage in an internship project in Ho Chi Minh City, researching investment opportunities in Vietnam. Templeton had recently launched a NYSE-listed Vietnam fund, but they had no one working yet in Vietnam. Upon graduating in early 1995, Chris joined Templeton and became their first employee in Vietnam, opening Templeton’s Vietnam office and scouring the market for investment opportunities.
In 1998, after having made 3 investments in joint ventures with state-owned enterprises, and in the midst of the Asian Financial Crisis, Templeton closed its Vietnam office, and moved the Vietnam team to Singapore. In Singapore, Chris was a Portfolio Manager, analyzing and recommending investments in tech companies in Taiwan and Israel, while continuing to oversee some investments that Templeton had made in Vietnam. Having the opportunities to meet the founders and CEOs of many successful companies in Taiwan and Israel, Chris was inspired by the possibility of launching a business. Chris really wanted to be back in Vietnam. And he wanted to pioneer a model of investing that has much more hands-on and value-added than what he had seen investors doing until then.