Tharum Bun musings from Cambodia

With coffeepreneurs Bunleang Chang and Sakada Sam

Left: Bunleang Chang of Brown Coffee, me (middle), and Sakada Sam of K.E Cafe.
A morning of talk about all things coffee and everything in between over coffee at Brown Coffee in BKK1.
Got to the cafe in the BKK1 district from Tuol Kork by bike for the early morning exercise and double espresso. Bunleang had coffee latte and Sakada had hot Americano.

In 2008, I flew to Bangkok and then took a mini van to Pattaya. It’s the first Mekong ICT Camp that took place in Thailand. The week-long workshop was inspired by Asia Source. 

The series of this Mekong ICT Camp continues the following years, 2010, 2013, 2015, and 2017. Only the latest one, 2017, that it’s organized outside of Thailand. I fortunately attended all those events. I started as a participant. Later on I took part as a facilitator, board member, and organizer. 

In 2008, upon the return from the first Mekong ICT Camp, I managed to work with a few Cambodian participants to initiate and start the first BarCamp in Phnom Penh. The BarCamp Phnom Penh is now everything for everyone across Cambodia. It’s amazing to look back and see how a idea and inspiration can aspire me to start doing things that now involve or impact thousands. I didn’t really imagine that. I just wanted to do something I’ve learned and feel that I pay back. 

After these five Mekong Mekong ICT Camp, I think the mission is accomplished. This latest camp took place in Siem Reap. It’s an attempt. Now it’s done. I retire from this, although knowing that it means a lot to me.

Now I I have to think about the next thing after nearly a decade. The built network among people in the region and lasting friendship are the best things to have and to nurture. Let me start from for the next decades.

Chea Langda, BookMeBus CEO
Chea Langda, a doer and fearless founder

Chea Langda is a startup co-founder of BookMeBus. The young Cambodian left his 8-5 job to launch a website that lists bus trip information. It came out of his frustration when finding a bus seat to his hometown, Battambang province, from Phnom Penh. The BookMeBus now is one of the most popular websites among expats, foreign travelers, and local to book their bus tickets with a just a few clicks or swipes.

The first few days at The Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park for IFC Asia 2017.
June 25 – July 1, 2017

Bangkok from the above

Skytrain is the fastest way to get around Bangkok

A Digital strategy for crowdfunding masterclass where Professor Beth Kanter and I were co-teachers on the very first day of IFC Asia 2017.

Fantastic food in Goji Kitchen & Bar of the Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park

Inside the giant Goji Kitchen & Bar

The last several days in Bangkok

A soft shopping in the IKEA Bangna in Bangkok

IKEA’s newest SLADDA Bicycle

This is an email interview I gave to The Cambodia Daily’s journalist Hang Sokunthea today

Date: 22 June 2017 at 12:09

I am writing a story today about the Beta test that Uber has launched last week and wondering if you could comment on the story?

A tech blogger has written a story as a review: http://wheninphnompenh.com/uber-launch-cambodia/

Do you know about this? What do you think is the significant of Uber coming to join the current market in Cambodia? We have Exnet for metered taxi, PassApp for both taxi and Tuk Tuk, and a few like GoTukTuk for only Tuk Tuk ride. Isn’t that already enough to serve the 1.5 million population city?

My full response
Uber is a unicorn disrupter (valued at $1 billion or more). So it’s not surprising that the Silicon Valley startup has to prove that it takes the world, including the Cambodian and other Asian markets, with its ride-hailing application.

Taking the recent Uber’s global leadership aside, I think this arrival will transform the Cambodian transportation sector positively.

I don’t really think the city has enough transportation service providers just yet. Let’s welcome other players like Lyft and GrabTaxi to come and compete here for the best offerings and services for the growing population of the city.

The presence of Uber in Phnom Penh will gradually change Phnom Penhers’ perception of access to private transportation. Most of the middle-class Cambodians prefer to own their vehicles. Some expats may rent a car. The convenience of ordering a ride with reasonable price (without being ripped off) offers an ideal choice.

The presence of Uber also proves that Cambodia has it all it takes for global businesses to launch and operate. Super fast Internet? Yes. The majority of the young population who embraces digital technology? Yes.

Read more:
The Cambodia Daily: Ride-Services Giant Uber Launches (Softly) on Phnom Penh Streets
Cambopedia: Taxi services in Phnom Penh
WhenInPhnomPenh: Uber finally launched their beta in Cambodia and here’s how you can ride for FREE

This is a recent interview I gave to a foreign correspondent. In the email questions & answers, I talked about the technology community and the emerging startups that Cambodians think help taking the Kingdom of Cambodia on the global map. You can also read my previous blog post about the Cambodian tech startups and coffee culture.

1) How was Cambodia’s tech scene changed since you started covering it?
Nearly ten years ago, tech geeks here worked quietly on their own. No collaboration, no exchange of what they’re doing. Basically, there was little communication and community in place for that. Today, the tech community is just amazing. It’s growing, and people are well-connected. This means people have more organic support and collaboration than in 2007.

At a tech event in Phnom Penh

2) What kind of challenges and opportunities do Cambodian tech startups face? Are they particularly active in some industries vs others (e-commerce, mobile money, etc.)?
Cambodian tech startups don’t, at this point in time, don’t really have the kind of support from the government like in Singapore or even Thailand and Vietnam. The main challenge facing the startup people here is: to change the mindset of the users (or customers). For example, even a successful startup that can build the best tech platform with a lot of payment methods, local customers are not willing to take the risk.

3) What are for you some of the most interesting Cambodian tech startups active today?
There is a big gap in term of doing things and living life in an ordinary way. To me, some of the most amazing Cambodian startups are those tackling the common issues. It’s not really about disrupting a sector but transforming it. For example, Cambodian startup like BookMeBus offers a convenient way to book online bus tickets. Home delivery service like Joonaak is changing the way Cambodians shop their products and get them delivered to their doorstep.

4) In what ways do you hope to see the country’s tech scene improve?
I’d love to see Cambodia’s tech scene to grow organically. The community, the service providers, the government, the investors, and everyone in between have the belief that to have a good environment, infrastructure, and support in place will help tech startups doing well. One day, Phnom Penh would become the most amazing city in the region for startups.

5) What’s the typical profile of Cambodian tech entrepreneurs?
This is so typical that a lot of founders I’ve met and talked to are men in their late 20s and early 30s. They’ve got the enthusiasm, commitment, and necessary skills to start things out. They’re much more connected within the community, too.

6) What kind of financing opportunities do Cambodian tech entrepreneurs have? Are more private investors investing in Cambodian tech startups?
I don’t really think there are many opportunities just yet. Right now, it’s small. So it’s a big opportunity for those interested in doing more things with Cambodian startup people.