Cambodia Market Dynamics, Local Partnerships Nuance & Khmer Population and Industry - E318

· Creators,Southeast Asia,Podcast

“One main thing is that just don't expect things to happen in the short term. It's definitely a long-term game here. And I think if you can just be consistent and focus on execution you should do pretty well because I think execution is probably the main risk for why any business succeeds here. It's not competition or capital. I would say in general, if you find a business that you can work at that has the potential to be a good executor in their sector and you're working alongside some great human capital, you should have long-term end up in a great position, I would say, but from what I see, it's all about finding those companies that are at that point of stronger execution than their peers.” - Max Thornton

“It feels like a lot of the light is shone on the countries that are around Cambodia. Think about Vietnam, Indonesia, and some of these bustling ecosystems where you have tech startups coming out and being reported on, and on Cambodia's side, it is very much flying underneath the radar in terms of general news that is getting out more in the broader world. So one of the things that we did was to organize an event in Cambodia and bring together investors, creatives, and entrepreneurs who have been working on projects and businesses for the past couple of years, taking on that risk and wanting to grow to the next level. It's something where when you bring in outside participants to come join the conference, it takes a bit of a push to be able to really show the opportunities in the country, and you have to be boots on the ground to be able to realize that these of opportunities exist.” - Dom Kalousek

“Some statistics on the VC space here are that the valuations are still very reasonable. If you're coming in as a pre-seed or seed investor, it's rare to see a startup valued at more than a million in those two rounds, so you're probably looking at only about 20 active VC investors gere, and then some angels. FinTech and e-commerce are the only two crowded sectors, but beyond that, the landscape is pretty wide open for startups launching in other sectors. There are probably less than 10 SaaS businesses that have recently been founded. Edtech is just getting going. There's only one company in the entire sector that's had more than a few hundred thousand in investment. There's really only been a handful of crypto companies that have launched here. So it goes in stages. There are only so many participants, so the market does get interested in a few different sectors, and you see that focus and then those valuations going up, but it hasn't broadened to how many sectors you'd be looking at in Singapore, for example.” - Max Thornton

Max Thornton and Dom Kalousek, hosts of Rising Giants podcast, share about their experiences and insights in Cambodia. They touch upon three major themes:

1. Personal Journeys in Cambodia: Max and Dom's partnership began during the constraints of the pandemic, an unusual yet serendipitous connection. Their shared passion led them to dive deep into Cambodia's market, navigating its complexities and opportunities. They eventually started the Rising Giants podcast, which captures their drive to understand Cambodia's tech landscape, its nuances, and potential. They share the micro lessons they learned along the way, from the significance of local partnerships to understanding unique consumer behaviors.

2. Unpacking Cambodia's Market: They discuss how Cambodia is often overlooked in the broader Southeast Asia narrative. They delve into the country’s multifaceted identity, encompassing not just its economic indicators but the stories, experiences, and lessons that shape it. They also talk about the textile industry that contributes significantly to its GDP, and the unconventional use of Telegram as a business, and unmask an intricate tapestry of local players, the Khmer population.

3. Advice on Navigating Cambodia: Max and Dom emphasize the indispensable virtues of patience and courage. They share that success in this market hinges on deep-rooted local connections, genuine engagements with the local populace, and an authentic alignment with the market's reality over its perception. Their advice revolves around a deep-rooted respect for the local culture and a commitment to growth through collaboration.

They also touch upon the relevance of Rising Giants in the larger Southeast Asia narrative, the challenges and rewards of venture creation in emerging markets, and the pivotal role of execution in business success in such frontier markets.

Supported by Ringkas

Ringkas is a digital mortgage platform aiming to solve the access to financing problem for home seekers in Indonesia and Southeast Asia. Ringkas currently collaborates with all major Banks in Indonesia and the largest Property Developers across more than 15 cities. Ringkas vision is to democratize home ownership and create more than 100 million homeowners. Don't just dream about owning a home. Make it a reality. Explore more at

Jeremy Au: (00:36)

Good morning, Max. Good morning, Dom. Good to have you both. You're both the wonderful hosts of Rising Giants. I would say the premier source of news on a Cambodia startup ecosystem. And I think there are so many questions. I had a wonderful time hosted by your conference, but also a wonderful time having dinner with you all.

And I think this would be an amazing conversation. Could you please introduce yourselves real quick?

Max Thornton: (00:56)

Hey, Jeremy, thanks for inviting us to the BRAVE Podcast. My name is Max Thornton, born in the UK and since then lived in nine countries, but Cambodia is where I've been for the last three years before, before setting up Rising Giants and coming to Cambodia. I mostly worked in I worked for in, in the crypto space as well as in doing emerging market consulting for a company called Oxford Business Group. And then the fund was called Sharp. I came to Cambodia middle of 2020, right in the middle of COVID and just saw the opportunities here. And yeah, since then, founded Rising Giants in 2021 and it's been a good journey since.

Dominic Kalousek: (01:29)

Thanks, Max. And thank you, Jeremy, for having us on the show today as well. Really excited to dive into the conversation. As introduced, my name is Dom or Dominic Kalousek, and Cofounder and co-host of Rising Giants. A little bit about my background, I was born in the US, went to university there worked at the Bank of America for three years before taking the jump and the journey over to Cambodia in 2019 and kind of putting myself in the impact investment space, then slowly going over to the consulting side to work more hands-on with startups in the clean planet agriculture space as well. And as Max had said before, we really kicked off Rising Giants at the beginning of 2021 and yeah, it's been a journey since.

Jeremy Au: (02:08)

Amazing. So how did you both end up co-founding a podcast and community in Cambodia?

Max Thornton: (02:14)

I can start. I rode in Cambodia, in August 2020 and ended up doing the networking rounds and figuring out who else was working in the VC or just the investment space and at the same kind of age or level as me. And Dom was someone that I came across. And then literally, he called me up in November and just said, Hey, you know, I'm thinking about launching a podcast. Do you want to do it together? And that was really it. Dom and I actually didn't meet in person until February 2022. So it was all online for the first year.

Jeremy Au: (02:42)

That's kind of like a meek, cute, romantic, comedy, pandemic.

Dominic Kalousek: (02:46)

It really is what the slight bit of detail that Max forgot to leave out was the initial call after just getting to know each other was the introduction to some of the friends in the football group there. So yeah, that was kind of the precipice of our entire friendship and then just evolved to founding the park, the podcast from there.

Jeremy Au: (03:05)

So talk about why picking Cambodia, right? I mean, both you met each other and both of you share this interest, but I mean, Cambodia. You could have picked, I don't know, like I said, football, right? There could be a topic, it could be something else, it could be another country. So why Cambodia?

Dominic Kalousek: (03:18)

Yeah, so for me, personally, I had my initial journey to Southeast Asia. It started actually before that. I had done a trip over there after graduating from university for a couple of months and coming and going through Cambodia had been very influenced, there was a really strong connection so when it came time to take that next step after leaving my first job and going towards more of a career that I wanted, it just aligned in which the job opportunity to work in the impact investment space had led me to Cambodia. And from there, it's as Max had mentioned, you could feel the energy when you're on the ground there, when you actually are talking to founders as well it's a different kind of, of feel to the conversation where there's a lot of motivation.

It's just, about how you can culminate that to be able to really kick off that growth to the next stage, but I would say for me, was a lot of it.

Max Thornton: (04:07)

Yeah. My day job, literally before coming to Cambodia, was interviewing roughly three CEOs, and founders a day, working for this company called Oxford Business Group. They work in 30 kinds of emerging markets and they do basically investment content about what's going on in some of these up-and-coming countries. So we were covering a lot of emerging Asia. At the time I was in Kenya. And then, prior to that, I was thinking a lot about going to this part of the world and I think Myanmar was going to be my next project prior to COVID. And so then it was just sitting down in the UK in the middle of 2020 and saying, okay, I need to make my own way because, at that time, that company had actually paused operations.

And so then I just made a list of countries that I felt were worth entertaining over the long term in Southeast Asia slash Asia. So I was looking at Myanmar, Cambodia, Uzbekistan, and Nepal. And so then just started applying for opportunities in those four countries, and then something just came up, jumped on a plane, and yeah, just came through. But at the time, COVID wasn't even a big factor, I guess, in this part of the world that only really came through in 2021.


Jeremy Au: (05:50)

So I'm just kind of curious. What was some learning you had about Cambodia? Because both of you were learning about a country. You picked a country and wanted to go dive deep into it. So what was that learning journey for you from your perspective?

Max Thornton: (06:00)

Yeah. For me, it was really just doing the research, like the desktop research, and looking at some of the main indicators and then just coming to the country and actually just seeing some of the opportunities and what was reality versus perception. And I think a lot of the startup space here is not covered around the region. And so when you actually show up here, you kind of realize what's going on as opposed to what's being reported.

Jeremy Au: (06:22)

So what would you say are some of the differences between reality and perception?

Max Thornton: (06:25)

I think one of the main ones would be the overall adoption of technology here. It's not something that I thought would be as high. And that's something that when you do show up here you just see this emerging generation of people that are really ready to do that. The average age being mid-twenties here, I think that's one thing that's really apparent when you even compare it to Europe, for example.

Jeremy Au: (06:45)

Yeah, I think you hosted this Cambodia startup ecosystem event and you were very kind to invite me as a speaker and panelist and I think when I told a lot of folks that I was traveling to Cambodia, a lot of folks were like, okay, wait, I've never heard of the Cambodia startup ecosystem. What are the major features? Is it large? Is it dense? What are people focused on? So I'm just kind of curious, Dom, from your perspective, what you think those aspects are.

Dominic Kalousek: (07:08)

Yeah, that's a great point. And it also feels like a lot of the light is shone on the countries that are around Cambodia. I mean, think about Vietnam, Indonesia, some of these bustling ecosystems where you have just tech startups coming out and being reported on, and on Cambodia's side it is very much flying underneath the radar in terms of just general news that getting out more in the broader world. But one of the things that we did, and especially putting on this event, it was just to go and show that once you really bring together the investors, creatives, and entrepreneurs that have been working on projects for the past couple of years and businesses taking on that risk and wanting to grow to that next level. It's something where when you bring in outside Participants like yourself to come join the conference, it sometimes takes a bit of that push to be able to really show like you have to be boots on the ground to be able to realize these kinds of opportunities exist.

Jeremy Au: (08:03)

Yeah. So Dom, what kind of opportunities do you feel exist from your perspective? You've been on the ground for the past few years. You've been at a conference, what verticals or what opportunities do you see exist in the Cambodian market?

Dominic Kalousek: (08:13)

Yeah, definitely. So I think two of the biggest ones are around fintech and healthcare. Specifically on the healthcare side, there are opportunities now where the digital startups are growing, but I think one of the things that may be a little bit overlooked is also part of these traditional healthcare businesses that may not be run to the full efficiency levels, but if there is the opportunity to come in and work together with the founder or the business owner at that level you can really be able to bring on that kind of growth that maybe wasn't exactly there or wasn't exactly clear in the first place.

And then on the FinTech side, if you just look at e-wallets in general, the exponential growth for, I think at the end of last year was around just over 19 million e-wallets that were set up in Cambodia, which is greater than the population. But still it just goes to show that the digital adoption, the curve to that is getting pretty exponential.

Jeremy Au: (09:04)

And Max, from your perspective, you put together a conference, and can you share a little bit of the numbers there, like the number of participants, what you saw on the demographics, how you thought it went?

Max Thornton: (09:14)

Yeah, sure. We had 400 attendees, 25 speakers, and then about 20 or so booths. I think the main thing that we tried to do that was different was really have a private sector-focused startup event. That may sound kind of random to someone sitting in Singapore, but in Cambodia in general, the startup space is still dominated by the NGOs and the development sector. And so we just wanted to have an event tha t could be fully unscripted and really have sponsors that could work with us and let us get on with it. So I think that was one of the main things.

And then also being able to have the startup and the investment side of things, but then also add this other third thing that was more about the creator economy. So yeah, we're happy with the overall reception. I think one of the main surprises for us was that the attendance was a lot younger. Actually, we ended up having probably 80% Khmer attendees which we were really happy with because we thought originally we might be a little bit too skewed to foreigners, expats, for example.

Jeremy Au: (10:10)

Yeah. So you're surprised there's 80% Khmers. So why were they there? Why were they interested from your perspective? Why did they buy a ticket?

Max Thornton: (10:17)

Well, I think the ticket price was quite reasonable. We did $10 for students and we work with a few different universities as well. I think there are some people who are listening to podcasts, but then there are also some who actually just like to go and have that osmosis and meet people. And so there were a lot of silent fans that we weren't really aware of that. So yeah that was some of the main things.

Jeremy Au: (10:39)

Dom, any interesting stories of people that you got to meet at the conference? You were always just running around organizing and wrangling.

Dominic Kalousek: (10:45)

Yeah. There's this guy named Jeremy Au. I don't know if you've heard of him before. He's a really interesting fellow. No. I mean, of course, meeting you was fantastic. But I would say that most of the time, as you said, it is running around like a chicken with your head cut off, trying to keep things organized. And I will say it was a lot of the conversations afterward that happened on telegram or messages and follow-ups that led to other conversations too. I think at the event, one of the biggest surprises was the amount of other businesses or potential sponsors that came up throughout the day. And we're just, for example, like coming up to Max and saying like, Hey, we really are impressed with the turnout. If you put on something like this again next time, please let us know we're more than happy to support you. I would say that everyone who was a participant there, there were on the panels are people that we've had on the show before or have had multiple conversations with. So it was great to be able to catch up with them. And it was also great to be able to have them on stage and be able to share their stories and experiences. And hopefully, the audience was able to come away with one or two learnings from it.

Jeremy Au: (11:45)

Amazing. And then from your perspective, Dom, I think one interesting part was that " I'm going to do it again". How would you do it differently? When would you do it?

Dominic Kalousek: (11:53)

Yeah. I think one of the things that we would do next time is probably reach out to more regional investors. I think it was great to have you come all the way up to Cambodia. And I think that more of that push to continue to have that boots-on-the-ground impact of seeing it for yourselves versus what's technically being reported on. So, I think that's one way.

The second thing is also one of the takeaways and feedback that we've received is a lot of people come to conferences to see who's speaking, but the more important conversations that are happening are right afterward, and creating that space of that next level of conversation of those that are in the crowd are being able to share ideas and being able to try and create synergies or some ideas might come up where it will lead to something down the line. So I think for next time it's being more intentional and creating a time after the speakers or the panel discussion is finished.

The last thing would be just thinking about if we were to do a full-day event versus a half-day event, then maybe creating some break-off, more specific deep dives into maybe technical lodges, so knowledge, so things that are 200, 300 level may be specific around financial literacy or things that business owners may run into on a daily basis that a speaker who has professional experience on, or has dealt so that it could be able to have a more of a breakout small group. I would say those are probably the three things.

Jeremy Au: (13:11)

Yeah, and Max, I think what I've noticed as well is that you've been working hard and also the podcast as well, putting out the materials on the resources and adding education about Cambodia as a market, I'm just kind of curious from your perspective, what are some aspects of the market that you felt resonated particularly with folks who are trying to understand Cambodia for the first time, in terms of statistics or in terms of facts.

Max Thornton: (13:32)

Yeah, I would say, some statistics on the VC space here are that actually, the valuations are still very reasonable. If you're coming in as a pre-seed or seed investor, it's rare to see a startup valued at more than a million in those two kinds of rounds, and so you're looking at probably only about 20 active VC investors here, and then obviously some angels as well. But then there is that focus on certain sectors, like Dom was saying, FinTech has been a big focus, and e-commerce as well. I'd say those are the only two crowded sectors, but beyond that, the landscape is pretty wide open for startups launching in other sectors. For instance, SaaS businesses, for example, I'd say, probably less than 10 that have recently been founded, that are selling SaaS products here. Also, looking at edtech, that is only really just getting going. There's only one company in the entire sector that's had more than a few hundred thousand in investment.

There are just these sectors where when you look at other countries, they're just seeing a lot flowing in even. The other one would be crypto as well. There's really only been a handful of crypto investments or companies that have launched here. So it just kind of goes in stages. I feel like the market because there are only so many participants, the market does get interested in a few different sectors. And you see that focus and then those valuations going up, but it hasn't broadened to how many sectors you'd be looking at in Singapore, for example.

Jeremy Au: (14:52)

Yeah, I think one thing I was surprised by was finding out that one-third of Cambodia's GDP is linked to textiles. Frankly, I always thought that clothes, for example, are being made in China, for example in South Asia. But I thought it was interesting to find out that Cambodia was a big piece. And I think I started paying attention a lot more to my labels after that. And of course, a lot of that textile industry is also linked to China. And then, I think I was talking to other participants and they were saying like, there's a lot of Vietnamese influence of players, as well as Thai players in the local Cambodia ecosystem by function of geography. So what do you think about that in terms of Cambodia's place within Southeast Asia?

Max Thornton: (15:25)

I think you put it pretty well on the podcast that we did together and talked just about GDP per capita. I think the other indicator to look at is FDI that's been coming in, or FDI divided by GDP. And I think Cambodia does end up being in the top three to five. But you do have a lot of that investment that's coming in is a lot of it is crowded in the real estate space. You only have to go to one of the outskirts cities the port city called Sihanoukville, and that's had massive amounts of Chinese investment in the real estate sector and had a bit of a bubble.

So there are a lot of buildings that haven't been completed yet. I think the big difference that's happening over the last maybe five years is you're also seeing a lot of this manufacturing starting to come in. I mean, not necessarily that high-tech manufacturing, but you see companies from Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. These kinds of more emerging, more developed countries in Asia, then come and see Cambodia as a place to also put a factory or something like that. But I would say the garment sector is definitely stalling to some extent. I don't actually have the full figures on that, but it's a lot to do with the rules for still having access to the European market, and there's been a lot of change that's happened there. So yeah diversification definitely happening in exports.

Jeremy Au: (16:32)

So what do you think are the industries that are being focused on from a governmental perspective to take the country forward? I guess one aspect of course is tourism. I've been a tourist there as well. Wonderful scenery, wonderful food, wonderful attractions. I'm just kind of curious what are the verticals for focus from your perspective?

Max Thornton: (16:49)

Yeah, actually Kamai enterprise, which is basically the part of the government that really focuses on that, on promoting that. One of the big sectors that they're focused on is agro-processing. Basically taking these kinds of raw products and actually making them marketable and exporting them. That's a big focus. You also see a lot of services in general, that's how they term it, like service businesses. And then you've also got, definitely a big push on tech in general and how that relates to the services sector.

And then just making everything more lean. So I would say those are some of the main sectors, but agriculture is still 30% of GDP, but it's about taking that to then.

Jeremy Au: (17:25)

Yeah, I guess one of them was gin, right? I think we had a wonderful time at the gin distillery, but I had an interesting conversation with the owner about taking the raw ingredients, but kind of like having to process that, but also create event space and then sell that to both the domestic and regional audience was really quite interesting and obviously a great way to move down the value stack. So Dom, I was just kind of curious from your perspective, obviously you've also been building a podcast. And you've done so many different episodes. I'm just saying like, are there any particularly interesting learnings from building a podcast?

Dominic Kalousek: (17:57)

Yeah, that's a great question. There's a great post that I saw on LinkedIn, and I'll share it afterward. But it kind of revolves around how the first 50 episodes is just actually doing it, then the next 50 episodes are about refining your craft. And then the next 50 episodes after that are about building your audience. And I think one of the biggest learnings is that things take time to grow. You just have to stay consistent. You have to really just dig your heels in and make the effort to be able to reach out to whoever it is that you can get on the podcast early on. And being able to just build that network, it just ultimately becomes pretty organic from that point on and we were very fortunate early on to have some really great guests at the very beginning who were able to help provide referrals and get some really great guests early on, such as like Ritzy tool and some other really great guests. So, I think that was probably the biggest learning to this point, since the beginning, consistency is key.

Jeremy Au: (18:52)

How do you build in that consistency?

Dominic Kalousek: (18:53)

Having a lot of telegram conversations

Jeremy Au: (18:57)

With who?

Dominic Kalousek: (18:58)

With every, with everyone.

Jeremy Au: (19:00)


Dominic Kalousek: (19:01)

Potential guests, with Max, with everyone. I think building that consistency is just having an open line of communication. As you're aware I'm primarily based in the US and Max's full-time in Cambodia. So even then we're working on a sometimes 11-hour time difference, depending on daylight savings. But from there, it's always just having this open line, clear communication and just making sure to work through anything that comes up. So I would say that's probably the biggest thing. Is just having that open line of communication and being able to understand where we're both at whenever it comes to a topic or a decision or guests or anything along those lines in the spectrum.

Max Thornton: (19:38)

Yeah, maybe just a quick follow-up on that. Literally, Cambodia lives on telegram. The email response rate is probably three to four days, but the telegram response rate is probably three to four hours. So, that's where all business is done. So, Rising Giants, we must have over a hundred telegram groups that we have with all our guests, that we just communicate with them and stay up to date, et cetera.

Jeremy Au: (19:57)

Kind of crazy. Telegram. I mean, who knows what the messaging standard is? But in Singapore and Indonesia, it's WhatsApp. So it's just how does Telegram become like the defective standard in Cambodia? Any idea?

Dominic Kalousek: (20:08)

That's a great question. It's just, I think adoption once.

Jeremy Au: (20:11)

Cool. I'm just wondering. I'm just saying this should be, this would be a great podcast deep dive, which is like, hey, Southeast Asia, how did all the various standards come into existence? Why Telegram?

Max Thornton: (20:21)

Well, it's like Line in Thailand. Is that the one? I think it's Line. Everyone uses that.

Jeremy Au: (20:26)

Yeah. But I think also because of the Japanese connection. So I think early on the connections the density, that one feels a little bit more straightforward to me in some ways. Telegram is a new one.

Dominic Kalousek: (20:36)

It is. Yeah. Maybe even just double-click on it, it's the user interface. It's similar to WhatsApp, but at the same time, it feels like when you're actually using it, it's pretty simple, even on your desktop. It's just so nice to be able to drag and drop files or pictures or things and be able to compress them and send them over and just being able to create a simple group or being able to create a channel even just for distribution of for example, a lot of one of our media partners, Cambodian investment review, they have a Telegram channel where they release all of their articles on, and so people can't really comment on it or text message or message back on it, but they receive it as if it's like a newsfeed.

Jeremy Au: (21:15)

Yeah, I think it's just mind-blowing how many different messaging standards there are across Southeast Asia. So it's WhatsApp in Singapore and Indonesia, obviously, Telegram is very popular with Gen Z in Singapore. So they don't, you know, I think I was talking to one person and I was like, what do you use WhatsApp for? And he was like, Oh, to talk to people like you. And I was like, Oh, what a burn. And then, I mean, like the Philippines, and then they're like, yeah, we don't use WhatsApp, we use Facebook messenger. And so I'm like, yeah, that makes sense. There's a lot of Facebook, right? In the Philippines. So anyway, that's where we're at. Could you share a little bit more about one of the interesting times, from both of you, a time that you personally have been brave?

Max Thornton: (21:50)

Sure. I can start, I think in my early career, I definitely took a bit of a career risk and I basically went and worked for one of the first crypto funds that was being set up in London at the end of 2017. So right in the middle of that, like the first bull run. And I think a lot of people looked at me and said, what are you doing? This seems like a really risky thing to do, to go and join a very small team and just get that startup experience. So I think that was when I originally felt that kind of moving from a company of over a thousand people down to like 10 in a sector that was, at that point, it was unproven.

Jeremy Au: (22:21)

Right. How about you, Dom?

Dominic Kalousek: (22:22)

Yeah, I think mine's a little bit more on the personal side. And that's with actually taking that jump to come to Cambodia. Growing up in the US and going to university there, and you're very fortunate to have that opportunity and you're kind of ingrained to say, do well in school, go get a job, go put money in your 401k, and stay at your business for 30, 40 years, kind of. Like how you, maybe your family did or something, it's always putting your head down and working and trying to do anything that is outside of what might be the social norm might spook people. But I think right at the three-year mark, when I was leaving, I sat down with my manager at the time and told him, Hey, I'm going to go take this opportunity in Cambodia. It's something that I'm passionate about and feel like I just feel like this is the stuff that you take. He was like, do it. Didn't even do anything and said, go and do it. You're in your early twenties, you have the opportunity to try and do that. And stepping away from family, and friends, like a clear vision of a career going into somewhere where it was completely new. It was probably the time to be brave, but it was also probably one of the greatest decisions I've ever made in my life because it led us here in this podcast together today.

Jeremy Au: (23:27)

You know, I think one interesting thing is that Cambodia is seen as a very frontier market. So obviously, a lot of market information and symmetry is opaque. A lot of these facts that you mentioned obviously are new. People are going to have to figure out how to use Telegram. So what advice would you give to folks who are entering Cambodia as a market, either as a founder or as an investor?

Dominic Kalousek: (23:47)

I would say listen to Rising Giants. It's the number one source of startup news. No, I think it's just to have an open mind and to know that, truly, go in there and speak to the people. Try to understand as much and know that whatever knowledge it is that you feel like you're coming in with is how you're, working with with Cambodians and, it's more of you have to have an open mind in this to be able to know that you aren't going to have the power or any sort, and change that you would want to guide and direct. It's more that you're there to grow together, not that you're there to go in and make the actual change. You're there to go and grow together with the local founders.

Jeremy Au: (24:25)

Max, how about you?

Max Thornton: (24:26)

I would say that one main thing is that just don't expect things to happen in the short term. It's definitely a long-term game here. And I think if you can just be consistent and focus on execution you should do pretty well because I think execution is probably the main risk for why any business succeeds here. It's not competition or capital. I would say in general, if you find a business that you can work at that has the potential to be a good executor in their sector and you're working alongside some great human capital, you should have long-term end up in a great position, I would say, but from what I see, it's all about finding those companies that are at that point of stronger execution than their peers.

Jeremy Au: (25:04)

Max, how have you seen that patience play out in your own learning journey in Cambodia?

Max Thornton: (25:08)

Yeah, I think one good example would be the beginning of 2021. I was working at a fund here and they wanted to raise their next fund. It's called, they're called OBOR Capital. I'm still an advisor to them. They're one of the first VCs here. And I think the main learning with that is that just takes way longer to launch another fund and raise the capital. Obviously, COVID was a big part of that. So I think that's one thing that I came in expecting things to move quicker in that regard, but I think building those relationships and bringing in capital to the country is a very long-term game and you've just got to be willing to put in the time to build those relationships and.

Eventually, something should come of that, but yeah, I think with Dominic, the first step with rising giants has been to build the podcast. The second step has been to do these events. And then for us, the third step for us is to figure out what role we can play in the startup investment space, but we just haven't been rushing that because we know it's something that will take.

Time to build that credibility and build those relationships. So, yeah this year is the year that we hopefully start doing something in that regard, but we can't be in a rush.

Jeremy Au: (26:06)

Awesome. Thank you so much for sharing. So on that note, I'd love to summarize the three big takeaways I got from this conversation. First of all, I thought it was really nice to hear, I think your learning journey both in terms of that neat, cute story about meeting each other during the pandemic.

But also in terms of what you took to learn about Cambodia as a market in terms of your personal learning journeys, but also. What Rising Giants would do as a group. So I think it's really interesting to hear all these micro lessons about what you learned along the way. The second thing, Kinnick, the second thing I appreciated was hearing about, I mean, you sharing about Cambodia as a market. Obviously, it's a frontier market for so many folks around the world, but also within Southeast Asia. So I think it was good to hear some statistics. Also, hear some of the stories and lessons that you've learned along the way about. What Cambodia is and I think what are the different aspects that Cambodia features, for example, in terms of the textile industry, but also in terms of telegram as a messaging app as well as was, I'd like to work with local players and Kima population.

Lastly, thank you so, so much for sharing the advice that you would give to people who are exploring the market. So I think it was interesting to hear about the patience that you need to have, but also the bravery needed to explore, to move, and to make local connections and be really embedded with reality rather than the perception of the market.

So I thought it was a wonderful story all in all. So thank you so much, Dom and Max for coming on the show.

Dominic Kalousek: (27:23)

Thank you, Jeremy.

Max Thornton: (27:23)

Thanks for having us.