The Giving Week: Raspberry Pi 3 Starter Kit to the Rabbit School

Starting December 12, The Giving Tree School will host the Giving Week with several initiatives and events to give back to children in need. My son, Tom, has been a kindergartner with the Giving Tree School for over a year.

I will be giving a set of Raspberry Pi 3 Starter Kit to the Rabbit School, selected by the Giving Tree School as one of the recipients of donation. If you’re interested in giving, please let me know. You can email me the items you want to donate to tharum at gmail dot com. Happy 2017! 

An interview with BookMeBus CEO Chea Langda

This is a full interview with Langda Chea, a co-founder of Cambodia’s most exciting startup, BookMeBus. This year, the Cambodian startup was awarded the gold medal at Cambodia ICT Awards. Langda’s dream for his startup is to become Cambodia’s main system for reserving millions of bus and ferry trips every year.
Based the startup’s investor (Mekong Angel Investment Network), the evaluation the business is worth up to $100,000.

How did you get into the startup? What did you do before?

Langda Chea: I stepped into startup life because at that time I failed to convince my former boss to approve my proposal (not bus ticketing); thus after a careful thought with a big belief on the project, I decided to quit my job in order to execute my own plan. At that time, I was an IT project manager of one Japanese company. It tooks me a few months to remember my bus ticketing idea (BookMeBus) which was conceptualized since 2013 yet it had been put on hold because of full time job.

What’s BookMeBus? And why?

BookMeBus is a ticketing platform, both web and app, which allows traveller to book their bus tickets within Cambodia and across the borders of our neighboring countries like Thailand, Ho Chi Minh, and Laos.

The naming wise, BookMeBus sounds like a phrase that is “to book me something” so I think it is easy to remember since this phrase is very common and being used in everyday life.

The reason why I chose to start BookMeBus because the way how people buying bus ticket in Cambodia is such a hassle. Passengers have to either call to the bus station to make a temporary reservation or buy over the counter. However, bus counters are often far away from each other, there is central bus station exists in Cambodia. Thus, I think it would be great to have a one-stop shop for buying bus tickets that is to use technology to fill the gap.

How did you first start it out?

I started by building a prototype, a few HTML pages, and show them to my cousins and close friends in order to do the crowd funding. Luckily, the idea is convincing since the other also see the same thing and belief. As a result, I collected $20,000 to legally register a company and set up an office.

What’s the 3 main challenges facing BookMeBus and Cambodia-based startups?

Talking about challenges, there are so many as the internet things, especially e-commerce in Cambodia has just emerged. If I am to choose 3 main challenges I have encountered so far, these are as follows:
It happens on the demand side where there is very little trust given to online things by local passengers. They worry about the E-Ticket might not be as valid as the paper-based ticket that they obtain from the bus company themselves. More than this, they have a stigma that buying things through agent is always more expensive and full of scam. Yet, they forget the point that it is online things that bring transparency, convenience, and cost saving. I think we need to do lots of PR things to build the awareness and trust.
Most of the bus company owners in here are old-school people. All booking are recorded manually on their books (paper-based work) which do not allow them to accept the advance booking from Foreign market. And when we proposed management system to them in order to help controlling their booking well as well as to drive them more sales, they have so many concerns. On one hand, they worry that their left-over seats of each departure are shown publicly to their competitors. On the other hand, they afraid that their genuine sale transactions are being revealed to auditors of TAX department. I think time & result are the medicine of this illness.
Last but not least, Bank’s online payment fee in Cambodia is very high comparing to other neighboring countries’.

How did you manage to raise VC funding? How did you pitch them?

We are expanding so we need intelligent people to help us, to work with us in order to scale up the business very fast. Then, we decided to take investment from angel investors who do not only provide money but also resources and networks.

To pitch to investors is easy but to win their hearts is the big challenge. Luckily, there is a MAIN (Mekong Angel Investor Network) come to Cambodia. In this event, startups are given a chance to be mentored and one-on-one coaching by successful people from different countries. At the end, it comes a pitch event which I am given 5 minute to present my business to investors and only 3 startups were selected among 13 startup to meet privately with respective investors. BookMeBus was one of them.

One of the investors told me that he like my team, commitment, achievement and BookMeBus’ vision that is to become the travellers’ first choice of making every means of transportation bookable in the next 5 years.

1. Yes we aggregate bus lines on our site. So far we have around 30 bus companies in partnership with.
2. The current practice is that in order to buy bus ticket people need to travel to different bus counters which are far away from one another. This is totally a hassle. Since there is NO central bus station in Cambodia, fraud, poor service, and market dominance remain.
3. BookMeBus offers only pre-paid booking. People can pay by VISA, Master, JCB, and some local payment gateways like Wing, Pay&Go, SmartLuy, and E-Money. Currently, BookMeBus is the biggest site who provides variety of online payment method.

4. We have only one competitor which is founded by an Indian. In term of market position, BookMeBus has taken the lead now based on its sales volume which is about USD 40K monthly. What makes us unique is that we are a local brand which have more advanced technology and market understanding. As of now you can either book your bus ticket on the go with mobile app, Kiosk, and some off-line stores available at populated area in the city.
5. Our unit economy is that we are given commission fee from the bus operators for every ticket we sell. Besides, we also earn from providing our SaaS based inventory to our bus partners.

– Who are the investors?
Mekong Angel Investors Network (MAIN) and a group of local investors (successful business people)

– What’s the name of the regional incubator where Bookmebus got accepted?
BookMeBus is in one program of SmallWorld (local) which is called Startup BoomCamp. It is kind of incubator program.

– Where will you specifically spend the money you just raised?
hiring talented people that can help expanding the business and do some digital marketing campaigns

– Is this seed round or pre-seed?
It is seed round

How to remove your personal info from your iPhone

In our digital age, much of our privacy is in our pocket. It’s in our personal gadgets.

Apple has it all: What to do before selling or giving away your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch! This is an important step to do before you decide selling your Apple idevice.

You can use these steps to remove your personal information from a device, even if you don’t have it anymore. This is very very important because there are a lot of personal content, including your Gmail and Facebook account you don’t others to have access to. This also applies to your other electronic gadgets and computers.

If you still have your iOS device
You shouldn’t manually delete your contacts, calendars, reminders, documents, photo streams, or any other iCloud information while you’re signed in to iCloud with your Apple ID. This would delete your content from the iCloud servers and any of your devices signed in to iCloud.
On your device with iOS 10, make sure that you sign out of iCloud before you erase your device.

Follow these steps:
If you paired an Apple Watch with your iPhone, unpair your Apple Watch.
Back up your iOS device.
Tap Settings > iCloud. Scroll down and tap Sign Out. In iOS 7 or earlier, tap Delete Account.
Tap Sign Out again, then tap Delete from My iPhone and enter your password.
Go back to Settings and tap General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings. If you turned on Find My iPhone, you might need to enter your Apple ID and password.
If asked for your device passcode or Restrictions passcode, enter it. Then tap Erase [device].
Contact your carrier for help transferring service to a new owner. If you aren’t using a SIM card with your device, you can contact them to get help transferring service to the new owner.
When you erase your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, Find My iPhone and Activation Lock is turned off.

If you no longer have your iOS device
If the steps above weren’t completed and you no longer have your device, use these steps:
Ask the new owner to erase all content and settings using the above steps.
If you’re using iCloud and Find My iPhone on the device, sign in to or the Find My iPhone app on another device, select the device, and click Erase. After the device has been erased, click Remove from Account.
If you can’t follow either of the above steps, change your Apple ID password. This won’t remove personal information that’s stored on your old device, but it will prevent the new owner from deleting your information from iCloud.
If you’re switching to a non-Apple phone, deregister iMessage.
If you’re using Apple Pay, you can remove your credit or debit cards at Choose Settings to see which devices are using Apple Pay, then click the device. Next to Apple Pay, click Remove.

Learn more
Make a backup of your iOS device or restore from a backup.
Get help if your iOS device is lost or stolen.
Learn about Find My iPhone Activation Lock.
*When you tap Erase All Content and Settings, it completely erases your device, including any credit or debit cards you added for Apple Pay and any photos, contacts, music, or apps. It will also turn off iCloud, iMessage, FaceTime, Game Center, and other services. Your content won’t be deleted from iCloud when you erase your device.
Last Modified: Oct 11, 2016


TekHub: new co-working space for Cambodian tech startups

The Cambodia Daily’s Hang Sokunthea quoted me in her latest about ‘Incubator Opens a New Home for Tech Startups.’

Bun Tharum, a tech blogger and communications specialist, said the hub provides a “great combination of hybrid resources where new and successful startups continue to grow organically.”
“TekHub might be an ideal place where tech startups can benefit the development and nonprofit sector as they tend to execute fast,” he said. “This is something you don’t find in the nonprofit DNA—to improve and iterate if something doesn’t really work.”

My complete email interview:
I think the new Tekhub is a strategic collaboration. The Asia Foundation, the Impact Hub, and internet provider SINET are all a great combination of hybrid resources where new and successful startups can continue to grow organically. Tekhub might be an ideal place where tech startups can benefit the development and non-profit sector as they tend to execute fast. This is something you don’t find in the non-profit DNA to improve and iterate if something doesn’t really work. Tech startups can be a catalyst of change in this regard to come up with tools and business models for this so called sustainable development.

A lot of startup founders usually start working on their ideas from their bedroom and cafe. But a place where a good group of skilled people can ideate and collaborate is a just starting point to create social impact.

Full news story: Incubator Opens a New Home for Tech Startups

From Twitter to coffee chat with Jose B. Collazo

Morning coffee chat with Jose B. Collazo, a self-claimed ‘accidental expat’, about Cambodian/US politics and how foreign businesses starting out in Phnom Penh. And of course, compared note on social media/communications landscape.
From Twitter chat to coffee chat. @josebcollazo thanks again for the coffee treat! A good chance to check out Starbucks flagship store Boeung Keng Kang 1.

Starbucks BKK, the Phnom Penh’s first flagship store by the American coffeehouse chain. Wondering whether Howard Schultz ever dreamed of opening the store in the far east country like Cambodia when he first started out.

To learn more about Starbucks, you might want to check out this book by Howard Schultz the CEO.
‘Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time’

Professor Dumbledore to run Hogwarts University of Witchcraft and Wizardry in Cambodia?

Phnom Penhers woke up with a major news story of the month, published by The Phnom Penh Daily Prophet, that professor Albus Dumbledore is trying to get a license to run Hogwarts University of Witchcraft and Wizardry in Cambodia. 

While the news remains very vague for the time being, people are curious about the curriculum. Will the students learn how the fly ‘up’ in the air with broomstick so that they can avoid the city traffic jam and flood after heavy rainfall?  Some people wonder how their Muggle kids are eligible to enroll the Hogwarts University. But one thing for sure, the main concern is “The Phnom Penn Central Station will have to expand in order to have platform 9 ¾.”

Pathmazing: Cambodia’s tech giant

I had a tour at Cambodia’s tech giant Pathmazing and its academy this morning. A large, open space where 80+ young Cambodian coders and software developers take on global projects for clients like eBay. Some new in-house products for the Cambodian market are coming out in a couple of months.
Steven Path, the CEO of Pathmazing, told me about how his new app Tesjor will shape the lifestyle of Cambodian youth and budinesspeople here.

The future of Cambodian tech sector is here in the heart of Phnom Penh. Thanks Steven Path for the amazing one hour tour. Kounila Keo and I will try to catch up with you for lunch soon and we might be the early users of the your Tesjor app.