Meaningful Connections in Vietnam: Denise Sandquist (CEO of Fika)

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Briefly on Vietnam & Overseas Vietnamese (Việt Kiều)

With a young and increasingly educated population, the late Lee Kuan Yew once said that Vietnam is the most dynamic of all the ASEAN countries and predicted that it will become a “small tiger or a little dragon” economically.

The recent success of startup unicorns like VNG (a tech conglomerate) and Sky Mavis (the game studio that created the famous Axie Infinity, a NFT-based online video game) confirms that this prediction has become a reality.

Despite the early struggles post the Vietnam war, the Vietnamese diaspora have created vibrant and thriving communities around the world. However, with the rise of Vietnam, I’ve noticed more and more talented Viet Kieu (overseas Vietnamese) exploring opportunities back home.

On Denise Sandquist & Fika

Born in Vietnam and adopted to Sweden, Denise is one of many young overseas Vietnamese that have come back to help contribute to their “mother country”. Speaking 6 languages and living in multiple countries, Denise is truly a global citizen that can easily navigate cultures and borders.

After finding her biological mother in Vietnam (a touching story that you can read more about here), Denise was inspired to help others find meaningful connections. So she and her co-founder, Oscar, created Fika – a female focused AI social & dating app headquartered in Vietnam, tailored for the SE Asian market.

Having only started in 2020, Fika has received over 700,000 downloads and the team has recently raised US$1.6m of seed funding. With a focus on female empowerment, user safety & authenticity, they have clearly found a gap in the market and I look forward to seeing how they grow in the future.


If you want to find meaningful connections, you can download Fika on the App Store or Google Play. You can also follow and connect with Denise on all social media platforms (LinkedInInstagramYouTube, etc).   

On The Episode

I can’t remember exactly how I came across Fika & Denise, but I was so inspired by Denise’s story that I had to reach out.

At 30 years young, Denise feels like a person that has already done it all. I hope her story and positive mindset gives others inspiration to “go and get it” and pursue what they want in life despite the setbacks and struggles.  

Unfortunately, with only 1 hour to spare, we could only get through so many questions.  Topics and timestamps below:


  • 0:00 – episode introduction
  • 2:16 – Denise’s introduction, life journey, finding her biological mother, starting Fika
  • 6:47 – experiences growing up in Sweden as a Vietnamese adoptee
  • 11:25 – advice for Vietnamese adoptees looking to find their biological parents in Vietnam

On Fika

  • 14:00 – what is Fika? Not just a dating app? On Gen Zs being connected and increasing loneliness
  • 18:20 – focus on user safety in Asia, manually verifying profiles, AI & data, future plans
  • 27:30 – how did Fika get traction in a crowded dating app market?
  • 29:45 – was Fika self-funded / bootstrapped? Did Denise have any doubts throughout?
  • 33:45 – the COVID situation in Vietnam. Has it had an impact on Fika / dating?
  • 37:20 – Denise’s fundraising journey

Fun Questions

  • 42:20 – Denise’s career journey / did she always want to be an entrepreneur?
  • 45:30 – Denise’s thoughts on female leaders in Vietnam and empowering women
  • 54:00 – Dating in Sweden vs Vietnam
  • 56:00 – how does Denise manage her stress? Thoughts on work-life balance
  • 59:30 – has Denise found anyone on Fika yet?
  • 1:01:16 – advice and opportunities for Việt Kiều looking to come back to Vietnam.  What is holding them back? What advantages do they have?
  • 1:06:53 – advice for young people that are feeling lost in life. On taking risks in life.
  • 1:11:00 – where to follow Denise & how to connect.
Denise Sandquist Podcast
Denise Sandquist

Episode Snippet