Why This French Expat Moved to Cambodia and is Loving It
Despite being in a market that is new and untested
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Since moving to Cambodia four years ago, Adrienne Ravez has missed many things. “I miss my morning runs and long walks in my hometown in France,” she says, “and the giant food sessions with my awesome family.”
But she has also traveled and lived abroad since she was a young girl and says she ends up missing a little bit of all the places she has loved – “the hiking in Australia, the ‘taxi-brousse’ and road trips in Madagascar, the nights out in Barcelona.”
But when she made the decision to live in Cambodia in 2013, both for professional and personal reasons, “living here is worth missing these things, even though being away from my friends and my very big family will always remain tough for me.”
From halfway across the globe
Ravez and a co-founder established Endorphine Concept, a digital media company, in France in 2010, and brought it to Cambodia after three years. “The market presented very promising perspectives for the digital industry,” she says.
Endorphine has since built up a client base of international brands or companies “establishing a presence in Cambodia and needing digital strategy to serve their objectives: activation, leads generation or conversion in sales.”
Aside from Endorphine, Ravez and her business partner, Yohan Brizolier, also founded Geeks in Cambodia, the first media company in Cambodia fully dedicated to new technologies and start-ups. “It aims to provide relevant resources to local start-ups and aspiring entrepreneurs,” she says, “and also to highlight the local talents and initiatives to showcase the potentials of Cambodia’s tech and start-up scenes.”
What keeps her
Ravez seems happy in the new home she has made in Phnom Penh. “Kindness and smiles have been making my days for four years now,” she says. “The people I have been collaborating with have been very open-minded and welcoming.”
Family these days is her team in Phnom Penh, composed of employees from Cambodia, Singapore, and France. “We are supportive and we like to learn from each other,” she says. More than that, they are friends. They share experiences about their work and skills, or about their habits and passions from their own cultures.
“Food is a recurring topic,” she says.
What challenges her
Of course not everything is dandy in a market as new and untested as Cambodia.
Investors, for instance, will find difficulty in the people’s unfamiliarity with economic models and technical business skills, Ravez says.
There is also a lack of readiness, compliance, and transparency in the business practices of many companies, especially SMEs.
Moreover, Ravez observes that some entrepreneurs find it difficult to leave one’s mark, at least in terms of profits, in a country that relies on a collectivist rather than an individual mindset.
“Cambodia is strongly influenced by the non-profit sector,” Ravez says, pointing out that the country ranks second in the number of non-government organizations per capita.
Finally, she observes that entrepreneurs may be anxious to let external parties such as investors take control of their business, or even a part of it.
Despite all these, Ravez is convinced Cambodia’s future as a tech and start-up haven is certain. “The entrepreneurs, or at least the ones I have met, are driven by an unshakeable passion that keeps them motivated,”she says.
Cambodia, again and again
But why did she choose Cambodia, and why does she continue to choose it, still?
There are initiatives by the government to make it more conducive to entrepreneurs and investors alike, she says.
And then there is the promise of change. “The industry is changing very quickly. In a few years, it will be fun and interesting to see how Cambodian tech and start-up companies have evolved,” she says.
The promise, of course, will not dawn upon Cambodia on its own. Ravez believes that Cambodian companies should avoid strictly replicating models from the West. “Instead it should use an inclusive approach that caters to the requirements of both international market and local specificities.”
Finally, she says, go for impact: Cambodia is unique because people have expressed how much they care about the impact of their work. “I have not encountered such a strong socially driven mindset in neighboring countries.”