* Myanmar Digital Startup NEX Wins 2nd Round Funds From Blibros

Myanmar digital startup NEX has won second round funding of  US$150,000 from Singapore’s Blibros Group, the privately-held investment arm of Sweden’s Böcker family. Yes, this is the family of Magnus Böcker, CEO of the Singapore Exchange and former CEO of Nasdaq OMX Nordic. NEX got its initial angel investment of $50,000 last year from Singapore  investor Ned Phillips, formerly of  E*Trade and Chi-East.

I met NEX’s founder and CEO, Ye Myat Min, who’s all of 23, a few months ago when I was in Yangon. NEX had 15 employees then; now there’s 20.  The new investment will enable the company to build on Fyre, its Web-based software introduced in May  that enables small businesses to quickly set up an online storefront. One of the first customers was TAC, the country’s first authorized re-seller of Apple products.  ”Most small shops want an app, but they can’t afford to get their own. Instead, they can pay … MORE

 

* Rocket’s Asian Ups and Downs

By Susan J. Cunningham
Forbes Asia

Philippine Long-Distance Telephone’s 8.6% stake in Rocket Internet is a no-brainer: Telecom and Internet giant PLDT is a pioneer in online and mobile payments, and Rocket’s own payment system, Payleven, quickly foundered in 2012 when the first Rocket e-commerce sites were being established in Asia.

For many poorer residents the cheap smartphones now flooding into the far reaches of East and South Asia will mean their first access to the Internet, and mobile wallets will make them more likely to become online buyers. As it is now, Rocket’s six Amazon-like general shopping sites in Southeast Asia (called Lazada) as well as its nine Zappos-like apparel sites (Zalora in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong, and Jabong in India) offer the option of … MORE

* 48 Heroes of Philanthropy – 2014

By John Koppisch
Forbes Asia

For the eighth straight year we spotlight notable philanthropists in the Asia-Pacific region, especially those who made news in the past year by launching new and innovative projects. The 48-member honor roll ranges from billionaires with expansive visions of how best to help society to less well-known business people whose generosity is also leaving a huge mark.

Our goal is not to rank the biggest givers–the figures would be impossible to collect. Instead we aim to call attention to people and causes. We try to identify a new group of altruists each year, though several people here are returning to the list because of an important donation or project announced since a year ago. MORE

I contributed to this annual list of Asian givers.

* Burma’s Last Royals

The King in Exile: The Fall of the Royal Family of Burma by Sudah Shah (Harper Collins)

Reviewed by Susan Cunningham

MYANMAR’S LAST ROYAL FAMILY, summarily ousted by British colonizers more than 125 years ago, hasn’t been a sensitive subject since independence in 1948. But less than three years ago, The King in Exile by Sudha Shah might have run afoul of censors just for noting that Taw Phaya Galae, a grandson of the last Burmese royal couple and one of her sources, served a stint in prison after participating in the squelched 1988-1990 democracy movement.

It is one of many signs of change that an edition of Shah’s family biography, already available in English in Myanmar, will soon be published in Burmese.

4 Daughters of Myanmar's King Thibaw

The Final Four Burmese Princesses

For the past two years, Myanmar’s military government has assumed a gentler, less martial face as it bids to welcome tourists and Western investors. After nearly 20 years of house arrest, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi won a seat in Parliament in 2012 and ventured abroad to collect her 1991 Nobel Prize and other laurels. The strides the country has taken toward greater freedom of expression in the past two years have received less attention, but are also important.    MORE

* Keeping Up With Rocket’s Southeast Asian Adventures

By Susan Cunningham
Forbes.com

Beginning with fashion site Zalora in the Philippines in late 2011, Germany’s Rocket Internet has been hatching dozens of copycat e-commerce sites in Southeast Asia and the general vicinity–and quickly shutting down some of them. It’s invested at least $200 million already in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam–perhaps more like $500 million if Rocket startups are spending tens of millions of marketing dollars in each country as rumored.
rocket in SE Asia


In the coming year,  we’ll  probably see  some of that money expended on the intense city contests for taxi-booking apps and restaurant delivery services.  I also think that, as new fashion sites pop up  or existing ones become more visible, Zalora will have to come up with a better selection of women’s clothing. MORE

 

* Pete Bodharamik Goes Big on Broadband

Forbes Asia July 2013 Richest Thais

Jasmine’s Pete Bodharamik

By Susan J. Cunningham
Forbes Asia

Five years ago Pete Bodharamik was a 35-year-old with a big challenge. He had just taken over as chief executive of Jasmine International, the telecom holding company his father had started back in 1982. It was going through rough times, emerging from years in bankruptcy court after his father had diversified madly on borrowed money in the 1990s.

One of Jasmine’s biggest assets, a 30% share of fixed-line operator TT&T, was in bankruptcy itself. And expectations weren’t high that Pete was the one to turn things around. He had held what he calls a “small job” at Jasmine for a few years, dabbling (and losing) in the dot-com boom, before leaving in 2003. “It was surprising,” one equity analyst recalls. “To many observers he was just a rich boy with a big inheritance. No one thought him capable of cleaning up his dad’s mess.” MORE

* Thai Beverage Man Tan Passakornnatee Is On a Mission

By Susan J. Cunningham
Forbes Asia

April 15, 2013

As he clowns around for a photo shoot in front of the giant fiberglass animals adorning his restaurant compound off of tony Thonglor Road, Tan Passakornnatee is sporting vivid yellow pants and a polka-dot shirt, his customary style for addressing college students or business groups.

When he’s in an even more casual mood, he wears T-shirts with the image of a pig (he was born in the year of the pig). But either way he always dons a captain’s hat–not least when he flies amid tall buildings wearing a caped costume in the commercials for his company’s current promotion. The tubby superhero “Tan Man” is on his way to change the lives of 60 people–one a day for 60 days–who are about to win 1 million baht ($33,000). As consolation prizes, he’s also giving away … MORE