Tharum Bun musings from Cambodia

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.

Lately, I’ve written several blog posts about Internet Providers (or ISPs) in Cambodia. In this latest, let’s take a look at Google Wifi, one of the most simplified WiFi routers, that’s both easy to install and use. In addition to this, Google Wifi is pretty much stable and fast.

At my home in Tuol Kork district in Phnom Penh, I subscribe to a fiber optic Internet connection, SINET Fiber Edge.

The dedicated speed for both upload and download is 10Mbps. Having the best of Google Wifi is a great addition to my home Internet. One pack of Google Wifi covers 457.2 meters home, while 3 packs have the capability to blanket your entire, large home of 1371.6 meters. I live in a 2 story flat house. So having one is good enough.

 

Technology websites like CNET, The Verge, and Engadget gave some great reviews about Google Wifi. CNET wrote that “Google Wifi is easy to use and a breeze to set up. It has strong Wi-Fi coverage and fast speed. It costs a lot less than other mesh Wi-Fi systems.” In The Verge, the review site said: “Google says that the Wifi system is the product of three-and-a-half years of work — and it has previously released a router, called the OnHub.”

This Google’s mesh Wifi router is taking on products like Netgear and Eero. Yet, Google multi-point router system is still priced cheaper than these brands.

In Cambodia, you can buy Google Wifi here at Sweet Memory Store. One pack is for $149.

Fiber Edge is an ideal Internet package for small, family-run businesses and technology startups on a shoestring budget in Cambodia. As I’ve been using this Fiber Edge Internet service plan for nearly a year, it’s a good time to share my experience with those who look for a good Internet plan from SINET, one of the best Internet Service Providers (ISP) in the Kingdom.

Over the past years, I used a shared Internet plan, an ADSL (not a dedicated Internet). Common uses for email and web browsing were just okay, but for the conference call and HD video streaming were an issue. Connection stability was just unpredictable. The pain came when the connection was down several times a month, and the support came to fix only a week after I contacted that ISP. I decided to switch my ISP for the first time in years.

In August 2016, I contacted to SINET, Cambodia’s dedicated Internet provider, to install the Internet at my home in Tuol Kork district. While I already did some online research into this Internet provider, the saleswoman still insisted on giving me more information about the package, Fiber Edge (8Mbps) I wanted to go for.

In less two days after I signed up with SINET for Fiber Edge, the fiber-only Internet provider sent their staff to survey the location and do the installation. This is the first time I’ve got this so-called fiber optic connection for my home, where about ten users with multiple devices connect to the new connection through a new, decent WiFi router, too.

The difference between the previous provider is that SINET’s support is far more responsive. It took them a shorter time to come fix when the connection is down. There were times when the Internet cables from the pole on the street were cut off without anyone’s notice. In Phnom Penh, this is so common. Good news is that SINET also has the MetroLink, the underground fiber optic cable, in many parts of the city, including in my area. So hopefully, I will soon have this connection over the MetroLink instead. I could imagine that the city hall has been working tirelessly to beautify Phnom Penh by having less messy cables across the streets and boulevards.

Starting in January 2017, SINET offered a free speed upgrade Fiber Edge from 8Mbps to 10Mbps, which is quite noticeable. I feel that this Internet package is much more than enough for a small office or a shop that need stable Internet with dedicated support. With a lof of the jobs relies on a reliable Internet connection, this $400 per year Internet plan is also just the beginning. I recommended this Fiber Edge to a friend who runs a small web design firm, to begin with before upgrading to a bigger bandwidth plan, Fiber Plus (20Mbps) when her company grows with more clients and staff members. Next, you’ll get to know more about Fiber Plus.

Also: Cambodia’s fastest Internet Provider ISP