Behind The Geeks – ARC Hub PNH’s Ki Chong Tran

When brothers Ki Chong and Ki How started Cambodia’s first ever 3D printing business ARC Hub PNH, they had one goal in mind – to empower Cambodians to make their own products.

Since then, they’ve been very involved in Cambodia’s startup community. One of the key events they played a part in was the Phnom Penh edition of SEA Makerthon – an event for innovators and entrepreneurs to come together and build a product which will improve Cambodia’s agricultural scene.

The winning team at that event, Team Rat Hunter, eventually went on to win the regional makerthon hosted in Singapore. Ki Chong’s 3D printing startup ARC Hub played a big role in helping the team fabricate their first prototype.

Moving forward, 2017 looks to be a big year in ARC Hub’s development as they move into the brand new TRYBE space. They will also be focusing on a new project that helps recycle bottle caps.

To find out how else Ki Chong and ARC Hub would like to support the entrepreneurial community in Cambodia, we sat down with him for an interview.

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

What inspired you to start/get involved in the Startup Scene in Cambodia?

I moved to Cambodia at the end of 2013 to start my 3D printing business and one of the first things we did was to try and find out who else in Cambodia was interested in technology startups like ours.

Eventually we became friends with the community and started working  with many people in the Cambodian startup network.

What do you define as the role that you play in the Startup Scene?

I feel like I have a lot to share about my experience starting a tech business in Cambodia that would be helpful to people just starting out now. So I see my role as being someone who can share some very honest lessons that I have learned so that others don’t have to make the same mistakes. Hopefully, they’ll then have a better chance of creating a successful startup.

With many areas in the Startup scene, specifically for the Tech community, which area (EdTech, FinTech, AgriTech etc) do you think is developing the fastest and why?

In Cambodia, I think AgriTech has the most potential because the country is still heavily rural and agriculture-based as compared to other countries in Southeast Asia. As a result, there is a lot of potential in making Cambodian farmers become more productive and improving their agricultural output so that they can export their products to other countries.

What would a thriving entrepreneurial scene in Cambodia look like to you?  

A thriving entrepreneurial scene would have many new businesses started in Cambodia, owned and led by people born in Cambodia, that are profiting or at least are financially sustainable.

What are the areas you see in the scene that need improvement at this time and how can people support its improvement?

We need more Cambodian role models who have successfully started their own business as a source of inspiration. The wider community can then help support the growth of the scene with their wallets – buying products made in Cambodia or using services from Cambodian startups.

Even though it might not be the best quality or value, young startups all need a chance to prove themselves and learn from real world experiences.

Through your years in the scene, can you name some startups that have particularly left an impact on you and why?

SmallWorld Cambodia has done the best job in the startup scene and I feel that they have created the most meaningful and long lasting impact in the community. I also think BookMeBus is very good and has a great team behind them. ArrowDot is another startup that started around the same time we did and I respect them because they are also in the maker movement space and have survived this long, which we know is not easy!

Can you give us a little preview into what ARC Hub PNH has in store for aspiring entrepreneurs/startups next year?

Next year, we will open our new space inside of TRYBE. It will be an open community maker space where people can learn about 3D printing, Computer Numerical Controlled milling, tools, and get a chance to use it. We will also develop some training programs for startups and entrepreneurs.

How has the experience in contributing to the winning Rat Hunter team been like?

I have many ideas about startups/ entrepreneurship training programmes and it is great to test them out with the Makerthon, the Rat Hunter team, and the team at Doy Doy from Think Global Make Local to see which ideas actually work. I’m really proud of the Rat Hunter team because they worked super hard and definitely deserved to win the SEA Makerthon Finale in Singapore.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Believe in yourself. You don’t have to listen to anyone you don’t want to listen to.

That was our interview with Ki Chong, the co-founder of ARC Hub PNH! It’s really amazing to see how ARC Hub is coming alongside the entrepreneurial community with their knowledge and ability to help bring ideas to life.