Behind The Geeks – BarCamp’s Be Chantra

Since 2008, the BarCamp Cambodia team has engaged over 21,000 participants across 10 provinces and cities in Cambodia to come together and share new tech and innovations.

In 2016, BarCamp marked yet another milestone as they organised the first ever Barcamp ASEAN, which brought together participants not just from the Kingdom, but from the region as well.

One of the key men driving the BarCamp events in Phnom Penh is Be Chantra, who is also currently the managing director of Emerald Hub.

On top of being involved in BarCamp, Chantra is also actively involved in organising another hallmark event in the Kingdom – Startup Weekend.

Previous editions of Startup Weekend include one focused on lady entrepreneurs and another focusing on education. Come February next year, the next iteration of Startup Weekend will be focusing on FinTech.

To find out more about Chantra’s (C) story, as well as the plans for the 2017 editions of BarCamp and Startup Weekend, we sat down with him for a little chat.

The following interview has been edited for clarity, language and flow.

What made you decide to get involved in Cambodia’s startup scene?

C: I started getting involved in the tech community in Cambodia in 2005 and I read a lot of stories and books about tech startups. This inspired me to tell myself, “hey, why not I do something about this in Cambodia” because I was already in touch with the tech community.

At that point, the focus was only on promoting technology itself and not so much on startups. So we just had to do something to move us into the world of young entrepreneurs and startups.

After being involved in the scene for so long, are there any startups that have particularly left an impact on you?

C: Well there are several that have really interested me including Peng Pos, an online platform that allows you to buy fresh food in Cambodia and BookMeBus, the online travel platform. Other than that, the account management software BanhJi has developed very well along with Bong Chhlat, a location based discount app that you can use at eateries in Cambodia.

The Bong Chhlat platform is especially great because it also allows the companies who are using the app to understand which discounts are popular amongst consumers and how well their customers are receiving the promotions.

Which areas in the Startup Scene, spefically in the Tech Community do you see growing the fastest?

C: For now, I think FinTech is still relatively new for everyone here although I think 2017 will be a big year for FinTech to grow. But in terms of the scene this year, I think Tech Startups as a whole are gaining a lot of momentum in the areas of AgriTech and EdTech especially. With EdTech, we’re seeing a lot more apps become available on the market.

You mentioned FinTech there. How do you see that growing in 2017?

C: I think there’s a lot to be explored with FinTech, especially with an increase in payment platforms. So next year, I believe that there will be more payment platforms created through tech and there will be more exploration into online payment as well. From there, I think it’s likely that people will move away from more traditional payment services like Visa or Master to make use of these FinTech solutions.

Also, beginning with Startup Weekend in February, which will be focused on FinTech, I think there will be a lot of events next year that will help to support FinTech development in the Kingdom.

In additional to Startup Weekend, you’re also very involved with BarCamp. Can you give us some insight into the plans for BarCamp next year?

C: Right now, we’re at a stage where we hope that BarCamp can happen again next year. We’re planning to do it, but we’ll need to secure more funding to make it happen. I mean, if we only wanted to do BarCamp Phnom Penh, it’s possible now, but we want to be able to host it in the provinces like we have been doing for the past 4 years.

What’s more, we’re trying to streamline the content to deliver only the very best because next year will signal 10 years of BarCamp too! To do that, instead of just allowing there to be a vast variety of topics during the event, we’ll be focusing more on sharing with participants about business basics so that they are able to develop their idea into a business.

This will include things like a business canvas model and talks about customer development. That’s pretty much the overview of what’s happening with BarCamp next year.

Nice! We look forward to next year’s BarCamp and Startup Weekends. One last question, what would be your advice for aspiring startups?

C: Through the years, I’ve seen many different people try and launch a startup without success because they didn’t stay really committed to making it succeed. So my advice would be really simple – stay committed to your idea, from beginning to the end.

That was Geeks in Cambodia’s (GIC) interview with Be Chantra, the managing director of Emerald Hub who is also largely responsible for events like Startup Weekend and the various BarCamps in Cambodia.

If you’re interested in either BarCamp or Startup Weekend, keep visiting GIC as we’ll bring you the latest updates about the events!