Cambodia’s Startups: What You May Not Know

An Internet expert opined this:
“Cambodia’s tech startup sectors and funding are booming. But here’s the thing, if every fresh kid and their buddies only aspire to deliver cool big-screen “sexy” keynotes in their jeans and t-shirts, who are left going to do the good-old boring stuff like err… getting things done or honest-to-goodness wet work?”

I received these questions from a Cambodian university student who’s working on her master’s program. Her work focuses on the emerging entrepreuneurs in Cambodia. The questions center around the business technology startups in Phnom Penh. The answers are my observation and perspectives.

You may also want to read: Phnom Penh’s startups: ‘the art of battling giants’

Question: What is tech startup? When has it happened in Cambodia?
A tech startup is a process or a journey of transforming a idea into a business that generate profit by an individual or a group of people. An amazing idea is still cheap without the execution. That’s what a startup is all about. Just like any businesses, this startup concept has been here in Cambodia for a very long time. But in our modern time Cambodia, in this digital age in particular, we’ve witnessed more and more startups here and there especially in Phnom Penh.

Question: What is your view of technology business in Cambodia? Is it a big field and going on well?
It’s almost impossible to do business without relying on or integrating technology. Both business and technology are way better when utilizing one another. They’re seamlessly together. The future of technology business is here.

Have government or other key players provided financial and non-financial support for this technology business?
The ministries play a very vital role to encourage and support this technology business sector to grow. The Ministry of Education as well as the Ministry of Tecom are at the forefront to nuture the young generation of entrepreneurs to do well.

What are the opportunities for this kind of business in Cambodia? And what are the challenges they face in this context?
Cambodia has a growing population of young people who are fluent in English and can develop technology skill very well. The ability to take on an idea and develop it into something amazing is a huge opportunity. In content production business, some Cambodian groups can launch digital platforms in the local language, build the audience, and have the opportunity to scale them to the region with external funding from some investors. It’s like mining gold. However, this is not without challenges. The local ecosystem to support these early stage businesses, who are a shoestring budget through bootstrapping, is not yet fully in place. From mentorship to seed funding to regulations, Cambodia is still in its early phase.

Do you know any tech entrepreneurs in Cambodia? Their typical profile?
Most of the tech entrepreneurs I’ve met are young men in their mid 20s. They’re fluent in English-language communications, very tech savvy, and socialable.

What are your views on the female entrepreneur in Cambodia?
In tech business, the playing field is open to everyone with creativity and the ability to take or minimize risks.

Do you know any female entrepreneurs in technology startups? May you name some?
Malypoeur Plong who founded Stops Near Me, a mobile application for Phnom Penh residents to take advantage of riding the city bus. Leakhena Long of Joonaak Delivery is another entrepreneur to watch out.

What do you think the barriers women face? Especially in technology? Do you think men and women face the same challenges?

Are there any supporting organizations or investors in technology startups?

Is it hard to attract investor or get loan? And do those financial institutions discriminate between men and women entrepreneurs?

What do you wish to see from the Government as well as other stakeholders?

Life Inspiration

As written by my close friend, Socheata Vong

To those who lose inspiration in life: It is okay to lose inspiration in life sometimes. It will always come back to you. Inspiration can be either luxury or simplicity depending on who you are and what you want.

Get lost sometimes and you will find a way back again. Never embrace positiveness all the time because when negativeness happens to you, you will suffer from it because you don’t prepare yourself to face it. Learn to anticipate negative things and to accept them. That is how you grow as a human being. Never compare yourself to others. Never let anyone cause you troubles and never let anyone solve your own problems.

If you experience disappointments talking to people, talk to the nature instead. Nature gives you the best comfort. Embracing silence in the nature can enrich your mental state and spirituality. Don’t enjoy your success, wealth and fame too much while people around you are striving. Give a hand to them and inspire them to become better.

Life can become fragile any time even if you live in a mansion, fly high in the sky or drive in a motorcade. Don’t rely on an unaccountable government to safeguard your welfare. Look left or right before you come out of your house. Don’t let your bag get stolen or robbed just a few meters outside of your house or on a Tuk-Tuk.

Spend money in your wallet wisely. Buy a ticket for yourself and for your family members to a charity concert or an art gallery which can make your day and can help our artists survive and revive our past’s glorious culture. Give some of your money away to those who are in critical need. Join a social cause when an opportunity arises.

Reading could help you live longer. Reading books for 30 minutes everyday could make you live an average 23 months longer. Exercise yields a positive impact on your life span. An hour of running may add seven hours to your life. Traveling opens up your mind and expands your horizon. Travel to the nearest and to the farthest to understand how other people live their life. Travel into the deep nature to make an intimate connection with our beautiful Mother Earth. These things might sound very simple to you yet they are so priceless that your wealth and fame can never buy them for you.

Don’t look for an external inspiration. Look for it from your within. Your inspiration is defined by you, not by others. Learn to appreciate whatever you have in life.

Meet Cambodian Journalists: Inside The Phnom Penh Post Newsroom

In 2010, I had a one-year stint at the Phnom Penh Post. While it’s a newsroom, it’s also an informal academy. I had the opportunity to get to know some brilliant media students. These are the new generation of Cambodian journos who love beating the deadline and drafting the first drafts of Cambodian history.

Many of them are now doing remarkable work in PR. I hope one day (in a few years), they will buy an independent newspaper (if any) in Malaysia. But to only make it more independent.

Amazon, Alexa, & Echo

The future is here.

While I’ve been expecting to get my hands on Google Home Mini, I got this Amazon Echo first. As I’m writing this blog post, this the second day with the Echo (although I prefer to communicate with Alexa more). So the Echo is a smart speaker made by Amazon. Alexa is the digital assistant, whom I have a conversation with. The Echo Dot is on sale in Phnom Penh.

Before I can add more about my experience with this smart speaker, here’s some interesting things I like about the Echo:

  • It’s very straightforward to set it up with my home WiFi. It took me a few minutes install this device for the first time.
  • Before I headed out for lunch, I asked Alexa, are you hungry? Alexa said: I’m not hungry and thirsty. Thank you for asking. 😉
  • During work today, I had Alexa playing some NPR News. I also asked Alexa to open Ocean Sounds.
  • Each time I ask about tomorrow’s weather, Alexa points out the weather in West Lake (USA). But when I’m more specific by mentioning Phnom Penh, she can give the specific answer.
  • I believe Alexa is potentially a home tutor for English language. My 6-year-old son, Tom, will be able to ask Alexa about Pluto, Asteroid, and space, the way he used my Moto G 5 Plus smart phone to say Hey, Google.

Thank John for this 2018 gadget gift.

Southeast Asia Technology Trends in 2018

A story I wrote about Asia’s technology trends to watch in 2018 was published on Red Herring on December 22, 2017.
Read my full story here: Asia’s Top Tech Trends in 2018: By the Letters.

Across Southeast Asia, rising tech startups and firms are vying for glory in 2018. While artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) may be touted as the next big things in Silicon Valley, Asia will embrace simpler trends. According to a report by Google and Temasek, Southeast Asia’s Internet economy is flying along: it will reach $50 billion this year, and $200bn by 2025. Here are some of the biggest trends to watch out for heading into the new year.

When the best storytellers get together


I’ve started listening to Gary Vaynerchuk podcast lately through the word of mouth from Sereyboth. Seth Godin the magnificent marketer guru has long been one the best bloggers I’ve following for years.

I came to this YouTube video after listening to another video talk by Seth while I was gardening at my front yard.

This video title does really resonate with me in this 2017.

Calling for donations for children born into prison

Sophie, my 3-year-old daughter, started her first year at the kindergaten several months ago. This year, her school will be supporting LICADHO’s Early Years Behind Bars for its annual beloved Giving Night.

I’m supporting this cause. And I’m asking you to join this with me.

What: I’m now collecting donations of child/adult toothbrushes as well any gently used or new toys, books, clothes or art supplies for children born into Cambodia’s prison system.

When: I’ll bring the donations of mine and yours to The Giving Tree School (Tuol Kork Branch, house #5, St. 325, Phnom Penh) on December 11th, 5:00 – 7:00PM.

How: If you wish to send your donations of stuff (not money) through me, please drop me a line of your pick-up location (Google Maps link) and mobile phone number. Thanks!

Last year, when my son 5-year-old Tom was a pupil at the school for this Giving Night, I also donated a set of Raspberry Pi 3 starter kit to the Rabbit School Organization. This year, I’m planning to get old books for the donation.

Gold Rush, dot-com bubble, blockchain big bang

Currently, I’m on a Telegram chatroom of nearly 40 Cambodian tech folks (less than 10 are active) discuss about the potential of blockchain, Bitcoin, and Ethereum, among their personal pursuit in mining the next the big thing.

This Sunday late afternoon, I came across this blog post (in my Gmail inbox sent from The Brain Food Newsletter) from my favorite blogger, Seth Godin. His latest catchy post is Money for nothing.

In his blog post there is also a link to another blog post, which mentioned this book, Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital: The Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages.

Personally, I thought The California Gold Rush (1848–1855) and the dot-com bubble (1997 to 2001) are pretty the same thing as this blockchain big bang.

Updated: December 7, 2017
The National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) has just warned the public about the risk of the Bitcoin and other cryptopcurrency. While the rejection has been widely publicized in the media, it’s not just warning but also a big publicity for this blockchain technology and cryptopcurrency.

Cambodia & Facebook: a story of love and hate

Cambodians spend much of their time playing on Facebook, the world’s popular social networking website. Despite Cambodia is a hotbed for Facebook experiment, I expect that it will not affect the number of growing users. Of course, a small number of people here (including me) don’t like it.

If you’re wondering why Khmer people are in love with Facebook, please continue to read on.

Each and everyday, Facebook asks me: What’s on your mind? Here’s my answer to Facebook the company and its shareholders.

1- Cambodians started to hate TV because TV talked to them without listening to them.

2- TV is expensive. They spend money to buy a TV set just to watch. That’s all. Not fun. Nothing much on TV are cute. No cute cat. Not much to see selfies.

3- Cambodians think that everyone in Cambodia and all over the world is on Facebook. So they have to be on Facebook even being the last one in the kingdom to get on the social site.

4- Cambodians can create organic content with high reach. Cambodian users are probably the best viral content creators on the planet.

5- Cambodians have already abandoned TV. Facebook is the main source of all things day and night.

6- Ads spending on Facebook is high and growing non-stop. Why? Big, medium, and small businesses no longer want to spend their marketing money on TV and newspapers. They can easily pay Facebook to the work. $1 per day? Acceptable.

7- Cambodia’s Facebook users care about being on Facebook. Facebook Explore Feed. Who cares?

8- On Facebook, business is business. You have to pay to get in the frontpage if you want to sell.

9- On Facebook, you’re completely free to share your personal information and content (photos from your backyard, yes).

10. Blockchain? What? Facebook invests in you all and mine your data like a pro.

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Facebook Explore Feed for Cambodia

There is this new thing called Explore Feed for all the not sponsored Page content. It’s a Facebook’s experiment. And Cambodia is among the six test countries. So only sponsored Page posts get shown on the prime Frontpage.

The world’s most popular social networking site has just launched a new version for Cambodia’s users, among 6 other countries, the Facebook Frontpage. This newest test version is dedicated to updates from its users and sponsored content only. No more. For those publishers and brands who spent their budget on gaining the quanity of Likes will not get the same treatment of having their messages on the first front page. Those messages are now placed in a secondary section called Explore Feed. Just like its name, it means Cambodian Facebook users will need to do their own exploration.

Also: 12 reasons why Facebook is so popular in Cambodia

Facebook is a tech company that focuses on the result. Tweaking a small feature to get more advertisers to continue spending more money is the goal for the company and the shareholders. User experience is secondary. Publishers or Page owners with largest followers has already spent their marketing budget on getting the number of Likes. It’s as if the number of Likes is useless. This new feature allows Facebook to keep earning more from these businesses and others.

Cambodia has a lot of love stories with Facebook. But the interesting timing is Facebook, Google, and Twitter, are being grilled for their role in the last year’s US election.

I think the majority of Cambodians may not notice this tweak. What matters is that they still see that Facebook is working and feeding them the content they want to consume. If the social networking site were having a one-hour downtime, the public will get angry much more
than this introduction of the Explore Feed.

It’s the first time ever that this issue has happened. Facebook should have done much better than this. But after all, it’s the global tech company that can decide without listening to their users.

This is the worse tweak ever. My tweets here (also others’)

Most users will never know or notice. Nobody should ever blame Facebook.
https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/10/this-could-be-the-end-of-facebook-hive-podcast

I was quoted in this VOA News article here: Facebook Faceplants in Cambodia.