Kosoma Kim / Impact Hub
Looking around Cambodia, one cannot help but be struck by the youth of the nation, and where there is youth there is opportunity. Kosoma Kim is one individual that fully recognizes the potential of Cambodia’s youth as generators of change, which is why she brought her set of skills to Impact Hub, a platform uniting entrepreneurs and creatives.
Earning a bachelor’s degree in Business Economics, Kosoma worked in a variety of industries during her time in university as a way to gain experience and “find her true self”. In 2017, she joined Impact Hub as a Communication Junior, where she eventually discovered her passion for videography and has since continued to create educational and inspirational content to broaden the shared space’s network.
I have been part of an inspiring community of change makers, innovators, social entrepreneurs and creatives
With a love of communication and collaboration, Kosoma is always on the lookout for her next chance to engage with people and help them realize their potential, and she has plenty of opportunities. In her role as Business Development and Digital Impact Director, she is responsible for making the latest information available to her audience and facilitating the self-education of Cambodia’s entrepreneurs and creators.
Kosoma also contributes to and manages the Smart Unipreneurship Platform, the first digital entrepreneurship curriculum endorsed by Cambodia’s Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.
With enough awards to fill a trophy case – including a $10,000 grant from the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) in 2014 – Kosoma continues to offer her dynamic and unique outlook to the next generation of Cambodian innovators.
Speaking to the influence Impact Hub has had on her and her colleagues, she explained, “I have been part of an inspiring community of changemakers, innovators, social entrepreneurs, and creatives. These people have inspired me to see the world and Cambodia differently with the high hope that together we can make the world a better place to live.”
Sokcheng Seang / Wapatoa
Helping Cambodia’s youth navigate life and improve society is at the heart of Sokcheng Seang’s work with Wapatoa. Born and raised in Cambodia, the 25-year-old chief-editor’s life changed at the age of 13 when she discovered the internet and the wealth of information that was suddenly at her fingertips.
Getting her start blogging, Seang made a name for herself in Cambodia’s increasingly digitized youth culture before launching the media collective Wapatoa with co-founder Alix Feschotte in 2018. The pair began generating entertaining digital content with the goal of providing young Cambodians with trustworthy information to help them deal with life’s challenges and live up to their full potential.
“The world is changing and young people need to be empowered and equipped with the tools to examine the traditions they are handed and the foreign ideas that are imported,” she said.
Producing videos on a wealth of topics ranging from emotional wellness and personal health to financial education and local entrepreneurs, Seang believes that accessing relevant and reliable information is essential for Cambodia’s next generation of culture creators.
If people are respectful of themselves, each other and the earth, they can solve many of society’s problems
She summed up the big picture goals of the project. “We are trying to help young people be kinder to themselves and improve their critical thinking skills because if people are respectful of themselves, each other and the earth, they can solve many of society’s problems.”
Borey Chum / LUMA System
Even before he understood the ins and outs of the technology, Borey Chum knew that he wanted to work with computers. After graduating high school in Siem Reap, Borey – like so many young Cambodians – entered the hospitality industry at the urging of his parents, although his fascination with computers sent him to internet cafes in what little spare time he had.
His time in the hospitality industry allowed him to practice his IT skills by solving problems in the hotels where he worked and eventually inspired him to create LM Systems, an online booking platform used by businesses throughout Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos. However, it was his desire to create solutions to benefit society at large that led him to found LUMA System.
I want to do something that impacts the everyday life of lots of people across Cambodia
One of LUMA’s early projects addressed Cambodia’s growing traffic problem by analyzing information about specific vehicle types, speed, and congestion at monitored locations, using AI, Big Data, and computer automation. They have also begun development on a Solid Waste Management Platform in conjunction with the Ministry of Environment. Using a mobile app, the system will provide real-time data about collection schedules, bill payments, and allow citizens to report on collection performance and illegal dumping of waste in Phnom Penh.
As CEO Borey explained his desire to use technology to benefit people, “I want to apply technology to solve other social problems, not just a business owner’s problems. I want to do something that impacts the everyday life of lots of people including myself, my family, friends, and people across Cambodia.”
Monorom Tchaw / Compost City
Out of sight, out of mind. This is a common attitude when it comes to waste collection, however, it isn’t a sentiment shared by Compost City’s founder, Monorom Tchaw. Born and raised in France by Khmer parents, Tchaw returned to Cambodia in September 2015 – however, her journey into the world of waste management began long before her relocation to Phnom Penh.
Inspired equally by stories of the mafia-backed garbage strikes in 1990s Italy and the growing zero-waste movement, Compost City was born out of Tchaw’s personal mission to cut waste out of her life. Shortly after arriving in Phnom Penh, she began volunteering with Young Eco Ambassadors (YEA), organizing seminars and workshops educating the public about sustainability and zero waste living, all while personally composting the organic waste from YEA meetings.
Compost City is a sustainable company that helps make composting easy and fun
After taking over as the Sustainability Director of Phnom Penh’s Farm to Table restaurant, Tchaw plugged into the entrepreneurial network at Impact Hub where she heard about the SmartSpark competition focusing on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. She went on to win the competition, riding the ensuing momentum directly into the launch of Compost City.
“Compost City is a sustainable company that helps to make home composting easy and fun by offering turnkey home composting solutions and nurturing a community of composters with events and workshops,” she explained.
Sovan Srun / Edemy
Finding your passion is the first step towards realizing your dreams and Sovan Srun, co-founder and CEO of tech startup Edemy, got this step out of the way at a young age. A love of education led her and her friends to run youth camps during university focusing on leadership and the learning process, opening her eyes to the joys of education.
Srun’s love of science developed later on, when she read the biographies of innovators like Benjamin Franklin and Elon Musk. These figures, along with her discovery of science fiction, sparked insights about the exhilaration of education and her own personal need to share this excitement with the youth of Cambodia.
Understanding that the best solutions require cooperation, Edemy brings together a diverse team with a broad range of expertise to develop technological solutions that “seamlessly combine learning with technology” with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. The Tesdopi app allows students and teachers to track learning in real-time and see where individuals may need help or are excelling in order to optimize the learning process for everyone involved.
For us it’s about creating a technology that really has an impact on learning
Srun and her team are constantly testing new ways to encourage students to use technology to embrace education and overcome obstacles to discover the joy of learning.
“For us, it’s about creating a technology that really has an impact on learning. The journey can be both exhausting and exhilarating at times but overall it is a meaningful experience for everyone at Edemy,” she concluded.
Narath Chheav / Decathlon Cambodia
“Do what makes you happy and live your life with meaning.” This idea is at the heart of Narath Chheav’s philosophy, but this isn’t to say that the 35-year-old isn’t serious about business. Over the course of ten years with the French sporting-goods firm Decathlon, Narath moved through every position in the Production & Export Unit and played an instrumental role in ensuring the quality of goods produced in Cambodia met the company’s strict standards.
This time spent on factory floors helped Narath gain valuable experience with international supply chains and his roles as the head of the Production & Export Unit and Leader of HR for Decathlon Cambodia allowed him to recruit new team members and guide them on their path with the company, sharing his personal experiences and offering valuable advice.
While he has recently parted ways with the company to explore the next chapter of his life, Narath’s experience and vision continue to pay off for the company. At his urging, Decathlon opened retail operations in Cambodia, a decision that has proven successful as sales remain strong despite the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Follow your passion. Happiness and profit will be a consequence of your passion
Between Decathlon and lecturing at the Royal University of Law and Economics, where he earned his bachelor’s degree before completing his master’s in France, Narath still finds time to make his presence felt in other areas of Cambodia’s business world. In September 2020, he became the youngest board member of EuroCham and was soon selected as the Chairman of the Human Resources Committee. He also volunteers as a mentor for the Phnom Penh SA-AT Project, an educational campaign that aims to promote behavioral changes toward waste management in Cambodia.
Throughout all of his endeavors, his belief that living with meaning and loving what he does is the foundation of Narath’s life. As he tells his students at the Royal University, “Don’t pursue happiness. Follow your passion. Live your life meaningfully and find a way to bring it to people around you. Happiness and profit will be a consequence of your passion.”
Soreasmey Ke Bin / Confluences Incubator
Born and raised in France, the 43-year-old Soreasmey Ke Bin arrived in Cambodia in 2001, hit the ground running and by 2002 had launched his first startup in the Kingdom, an IT engineering company that is still operating today.
In 2015 he started Confluences, a consulting firm, logistics provider, and platform linking entrepreneurs through coworking spaces and unique incubation services. As Managing Partner, Soreasmey thinks of Confluences as a one-stop solution provider for anyone interested in exciting business opportunities in Cambodia. He explained his vision, “Confluences is the natural gateway to the Kingdom of Cambodia and Southeast Asia for entrepreneurs and corporations from all around the world.”
We want to help our clients and partners, and society as a whole, achieve their business and economic goals by being part of this growth
Starting Confluences on a shoestring budget, Soreasmey has overcome the obstacles that many entrepreneurs experience in Cambodia, however, he believes this makes him uniquely qualified to provide guidance and insights about business in Cambodia and the region.
The president of the French Cambodian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIFC), Soreasmey is optimistic about the future, “We see the potential in Cambodia and its growth. We want to help our clients and partners, and society as a whole, achieve their business and economic goals by being part of this growth.”
Krasna Cham / Soma Group
Cambodia is a country full of opportunities, and Soma Group is a collection of enterprises spanning a breadth of industries that relies on next level coordination in order to remain viable in the fast-changing business environment. At the heart of this cooperation is 35-year-old CEO, Krasna Cham.
Working her way up through the organization’s ranks, Krasna started at Soma Group in 2008, filling the role of marketing manager for the agriculture division of the brand’s operations. On the path to her current position, Krasna gained valuable experience in a number of industries which has proven essential to her success with Soma Group.
“The group of companies operate in varying sectors and I need to have the ability to switch caps for multiple topics, industries, and scope throughout each day,” Krasna said, emphasizing the knowledge and versatility required of her on a daily basis.
We incorporate sustainability into our vision, in an attempt to address both social and environmental impacts across multiple generations
Not content to simply facilitate other people’s success, Krasna also has her own franchises that vary from a women’s footwear outlet to a seafood restaurant, as well as a real estate project in development.
Speaking about what sets Soma apart from other Cambodian conglomerates, she cited Soma Group’s investment in essential infrastructure and education. Krasna continued, explaining the group’s big-picture goals in the country. “We are contributing to development through important, impactful industries that not only provide benefits for our shareholders but for all stakeholders. We incorporate sustainability into our vision, in an attempt to address both social and environmental impacts across multiple generations.”
Ratana Phurik-Callebaut / Cambodia expert
There is no shortage of dynamic individuals in Cambodia’s investment landscape, however, in terms of sheer scope of influence, Ratana Phurik-Callebaut stands out. Born and raised in France, the 48-year-old left a comfortable position in Switzerland’s private banking sector to return to her native country. “As soon as I arrived, I felt I was finally home,” she said of the strange but heartwarming experience.
17 years later and Ratana has positioned herself as a highly respected consultant, advising some of the most notable international organizations in the Kingdom. Beyond her work with the UNDP and GIZ, Ratana shares her expertise with entrepreneurs and startups.
In Cambodia, nothing is easy but everything is possible
“My contribution to the SME and startup ecosystem is something that I find very rewarding and promoting excellence, even at my limited level, is always fulfilling,” she said.
The knowledge that she has accumulated over the course of nearly two decades in the country makes her advice highly valuable for those looking to enter the market. Speaking of doing business in the Kingdom, Ratana continued, “The motto I like to repeat is ‘In Cambodia, nothing is easy but everything is possible.’”
From her tenure as the Executive Director of EuroCham, to her work with international development organizations, Ratana is continously inspired by the potential that the Kingdom holds. “My journey now, is to demonstrate to the world that Cambodia is a country full of opportunities. Cambodia today is about youth, dynamism, growth and a tremendous eagerness to move forward.”
Hok Kang / Urbanland
In the last ten years, Phnom Penh has seen an explosion of development, driven by international investment and shaped by a new generation of Cambodian architects. Co-founder and Managing Director of Phnom Penh’s Urbanland, 37-year-old Hok Kang is one of the figures working to transform the capital into a sustainable, inclusive, and modern city.
Inspired by a trip to Singapore in the 1990s, Hok was struck by the meticulous and intentional design of the city. “It was the first time I encountered an environment which felt like it was designed holistically, with beautiful parks, well-manicured streets, and modern architecture,” he said.
This formative experience continued to shape Hok’s path, piquing his interest in design and sending him on an architectural journey that has taken him to the United States, Denmark, and Japan before finally settling back in Phnom Penh.
Beginning in 2009 with the launch of HKA & Partners, Hok sees his passion for design as more than just a desire to plan buildings. “I wanted to show people that architecture matters and can make an impact on people’s quality of life. As an architect, I believe in creating inspirational spaces for Cambodians,” he explained.
Hok’s inspired take on city planning led to the 2013 launch of Urbanland, which has since completed a number of projects in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap such as Embassy Central and the Treeline Urban Resort. However, more than any single project, Hok sees his greatest achievement as the sense of awe experienced by people when they enter one of his buildings.
Understanding the Cambodian context is crucial because whatever works overseas may not work here
“What gives me the most pleasure and happiness is if people come into our buildings and they just love it, and they don’t know what it is that they love. They can just feel that it is great,” he explained.
In terms of investment, Hok sees Cambodia as a distinct environment full of potential for those with an appreciation of the country and its people. “Understanding the Cambodian context is crucial because whatever works overseas may not work here.”
However, he doesn’t view the uniqueness of his country as a detriment to investors looking to enter the market. “The situation here is fluid, full of opportunities worth exploring,” he concluded.
With a focus on the human experience of architecture, people are at the heart of Hok’s vision of Cambodia’s future. He elaborated, “If we are empathetic to people, understand them, their ambitions, we can build something in the long term which will impact and benefit how people live their lives.”
This article was first published in Globe Media Asia’s Focus Cambodia 2021-22 magazine.