Silicon Valley & Technology

Cambodia’s ‘Buzzfeed’ Attracts Silicon Valley Investment

Khmerload, a Cambodian entertainment news website modeled after the American media giant Buzzfeed, has become the country’s first local tech startup to attract the backing of Silicon Valley investors.

A $200,000 investment to be exact.

The money came from 500 Startups, a global venture capital seed fund and startup accelerator founded by PayPal and Google alumni, Dave McClure and Christine Tsai, who took notice of the website, launched five years ago.

The grant pushed the company’s value to more than $1 million, according to In Vichet, Khmerload’s founder and CEO.


Several sites, and growing

Vichet, also the CEO and founder of Cambodia’s popular Little Fashion ecommerce site, said he convinced investors that Khmerload had growth potential, enough for a return on the investment.

“We showed them that we are in the top three websites in Cambodia,” said Vichet, who did his graduate work in economics at the University of Michigan. “We also have traction in Myanmar, where we recently expanded. So they see that we have done a lot while already generating revenue. They saw our potential.”

Khailee Ng, the Southeast Asia-based managing partner of 500 Startups, said Khmerload’s probable growth extends far beyond Cambodia’s borders.

“Getting to the top media position behind Facebook and Google’s properties with such a lean budget is something not many entrepreneurs across Southeast Asia have done,” Ng said.

“I’ve actually never seen anything quite like it. To be profitable, yet have increasing traffic growth rates? This investment decision is easy,” he added. 

The $1 million may not seem like much compared with the $1.7 billion value of Buzzfeed, until measured against Cambodia’s per capita income of $1,070, according to the latest World Bank estimate.

More Cambodians on internet

The 500 Startups grant comes as more and more Cambodians are using the internet and Facebook, according to an Asia Foundation study that found most go online exclusively through their smartphones. This mimics trends for sites like Buzzfeed.

Khmerload has gained more than 17 million page views per month in Cambodia, allowing it to expand into Myanmar last year, opening a sister site, Myanmarload, which already generates about 20 million page views per month.

It has also carried out a successful pilot in Indonesia, said Vichet, and was incorporated in Singapore as Mediaload.

However, Khmerload’s Buzzfeed-style approach of viral content and quick clicks has led to criticism.

Content diversifying

Vichet admits that the site originally relied heavily on tabloid and entertainment content or, as he put it, “nonpolitical content,” an important distinction in a nation where the constitution provides for a free press, but where the state closely monitors the media and — one way or another — controls its content.

But as the site has grown to reach millions, he says, it has diversified to include more informative content, including educational materials and technology news.

And 500 Startups is no doubt aware of Cambodians growing embrace of the online world. In 2000, an estimated 6,000 Cambodians used the internet. Today, the company estimates 5 million active users in Cambodia.

Tech startups are also on the rise. About 120 have sprung up in Cambodia, along with some 10 co-working spaces in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, according to Thul Rithy, founder of Phnom Penh-based co-working spaces SmallWorld and Emerald Hub.

Mediaload’s next moves include expansions into Vietnam and Laos, Vichet said. He’s also keen to help other Cambodians obtain Silicon Valley investment.

“Even with a good idea, it is really hard for Cambodians to get an investment from [Silicon Valley], as there is no precedent of success,” Vichet said. “I hope I can deliver good returns to them so that in the future they will invest in other Cambodian technology startups.”

This report was originally published by VOA’s Khmer Service.

Science & Health

Kenya Releases Results of National TB Prevalence Survey

Kenya on Friday recognized World Tuberculosis Day by releasing results of a TB study by the country’s ministry of health  — the first of its kind since Kenya’s independence. TB remains high in Kenya, and experts say the country lags in the fight against the disease.

The survey represents a united front by many committed parties to determine the true burden of tuberculosis and how to best combat the fourth-leading cause of death in Kenya.

The survey is intended to provide an accurate estimate of Kenya’s TB burden, determine existing challenges in delivering TB testing and treatment, and identify people with TB not yet detected by the National TB control program. It was conducted to inform the government on how to effectively respond to TB control.

More than 63,000 people across 45 counties in Kenya were screened for the survey and, for the first time, there is accurate data on TB’s prevalence.

Dr. Enos Masini, the head of the National Tuberculosis, Leprosy and Lung disease program at the Ministry of Health, said the survey was driven by a need to know what the country was facing.

“We undertook to do this survey in the community to provide us with the exact data of the burden of the disease in Kenya, but also to go further and find out which groups of people are affected by the disease and what would be the best strategies for us to reach them,” he said.

The report states that there are more TB cases in Kenya than previously estimated, with a TB prevalence of 558 per 100,000 people.

TB was found to be higher in men between the ages of 25 and 34 years, urban dwellers, and women over the age of 65.

The majority (83 percent) of TB cases were HIV negative, suggesting that broad efforts at controlling TB in people with and without HIV are needed.

“For a long time, the estimates that we have used to accurately determine the burden of tuberculosis has been provided by the World Health Organization,” said Masini. “And this has been derived from the data we get from hospital records. We have always suspected that there could be a huge number of patients in the community that go untreated and undiagnosed and, therefore, fuel the transmission of the disease.”

Now, with the findings, he said the government and various stakeholders can deal with the disease effectively.

“Now we are not groping in the dark,” he said. “We know how much disease there is in this country. Secondly, we know that 40 percent of disease that occurs in this country remains undetected and untreated, and then we have a pretty good idea where people who are undetected, who are called missing TB cases, are.”

Masini said this information will help with planning. “We can … have strategic plans that really target people at most risk, people who are missed. And so we are able to find them and provide them with treatment.”

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided technical and scientific support to the government of Kenya in the design and implementation of the survey and $575,000 in funding to conduct it.

According to Kenya’s National Tuberculosis, Leprosy and Lung Disease Program, the major factor responsible for the large TB disease burden is the concurrent HIV epidemic.

Other contributing factors include poverty and social deprivation that have led to a mushrooming of peri-urban slums between cities and the countryside, and limited access to general health care services.

The survey findings also reveal that the current practice of screening for TB symptoms and using microscopy as the only test misses many cases. Using GeneXpert, an innovative technology for the diagnosis of TB, has led to the detection of 78 percent of TB cases among those screened, making it a more reliable and efficient test.

A statement from the Cabinet secretary of Health, Dr. Cleopa Mailu, said in part “the government was committed to making TB diagnostics accessible”  by expanding “the use of Chest X-rays to screen all persons presumed to have TB and make GeneXpert the first diagnostic test for all presumed TB cases.”

The government also said that it would increase engagement with the private sector, carry out targeted approaches through community-based action, and improve community awareness of TB symptoms in an effort to make TB everyone’s business.

Arts & Entertainment

Director Boyle Revisits ‘Trainspotting’ Gang 20 Years Later

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Danny Boyle reunites with his original Trainspotting cast twenty years later to make a sequel that deals with aging, accountability, friendship and, once again, betrayal. Trainspotting 2 becomes a worthy companion to the original, as VOA’s Penelope Poulou reports.

Arts & Entertainment

Director Boyle Re-visits ‘Trainspotting’ Gang 20 Years Later

Academy award-winning filmmaker Danny Boyle reunites with his original Trainspotting cast 20 years later to make a sequel that deals with aging, accountability, friendship and once again, betrayal.

Those who saw the original film remember four friends in their twenties. They are up to no good, living on the fringes, immersed in drug culture and pulling a heist. Their exuberant youth and reckless lifestyle captured the popular culture of the 90s.

Trainspotting became a cult movie and few could believe that a sequel could measure up. Yet, Danny Boyle’s T2 Trainspotting  becomes a worthy companion to the original.

As in all Danny Boyle films, T2 Trainspotting  takes us on a wild ride from its first frame. The camera focuses on treadmills at a gym and on a seemingly fit Mark Renton, running on one full speed when suddenly he falls off with a bang. He’s just had a heart attack. With this jolting introduction, Boyle reunites the cast from the original Trainspotting, which became a cult film in the 90s.



In this sequel, 20 years have gone by since Renton betrayed his gang after their heist in London, running away with the money. Now Renton, a broken man with a broken marriage, returns from Amsterdam to Scotland and to his ‘frenemies,’ seeking redemption. “He’s had a heart attack and he’s come back. These are the only people that really know him that he knows. And I suppose it’s a midlife crisis of sorts or a life crisis of sorts,” says Ewan McGregor, who played Mark Renton in 1996 and rose to stardom when the original Trainspotting became such a hit. The movie was a landmark in the lives of each of the cast members, but also for the filmmaker who — despite his wide-ranging success — reserves a special spot in his heart for this film.

In a way, T2 Trainspotting  is Danny Boyle’s return to a familial place dealing with his own existential crisis. The filmmaker tells VOA he didn’t want to make just another sequel. He wanted a companion piece reflecting on the life of these aging men, who failed to amount to much in life and stubbornly cling to a youth that is not there.

“I think we were all conscious returning to it. How much a huge part it played in our individual careers. It gave us a life into the world which was surprising! We set the film to resemble the first film, everybody was paid the same, there wasn’t huge amounts of money, we didn’t treat it as a cash cow, we were not cashing in on our successful original, and we also wanted to surprise people with what the film has to say,” says the Oscar-winning filmmaker.


The reunion is dramatic. Simon, played by Jonny Lee Miller, schemes revenge, and Begbie, the most feral of them all, played by Robert Carlyle, recently escaped from prison and has vowed to kill Mark Renton. But the most redeeming character is Spud, played by Ewen Bremner. The hopeless addict, stuck in an endless loop of addiction and rehab, attempts suicide but is saved by Mark Renton.

“There are scenes in it which we benefited from addicts who told us that ‘you can’t really eradicate addiction,’ what they do in modern treatment is replace it with another obsession, an alternative obsession which is often sports. But in Spud’s case, it’s actually this writing and it was certainly true in Irvine Welsh’s case, the original writer. So, the film becomes ironically full of hope by the end,” says Boyle.


Spud goes on to write the original story of Trainspotting. Boyle says he wants to create this loop between the two films, showing that despite our aging process, our outlook to life is not linear. Like any other Danny Boyle film, T2 Trainspotting  offers exuberant music, electrifying visuals, brutal scenes and yet its success lies in the honesty and tenderness with which the filmmaker and screenwriter John Hodge treat the aging characters.

“If you’re gonna do a sequel, a 20 years later sequel, the actors are not going to be able to hide from that. You’re gonna feel it in every frame of the film. It’s gonna be the protein of the film. And so, it’s a more confessional film, although there is a lot of the film that enjoys some of the pleasures that you get from the first film,” says Boyle.

Whether it appeals to the nostalgia of the older fans or the fast sensibilities of younger ones, T2 Trainspotting  is slated to be another Danny Boyle success.

Economy & business

Mnuchin: US Growth Prospects Not Fully Reflected in Markets

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Friday he believes financial markets could improve “significantly” once they fully reflect the potential for U.S. economic growth from President Donald Trump’s economic policies.

Mnuchin said at an event sponsored by news website Axios that optimism about U.S. growth from policies such as regulatory reform and tax reform is “definitely not all baked in” to market valuations.

U.S. stock prices and the dollar have strengthened significantly since Trump was elected in November, largely in anticipation of corporate profits rising as regulatory burdens ease and tax rates fall. Some of those gains were retraced this week as Republicans in Congress faced stiff opposition from

conservatives in passing a bill to replace the Obamacare health law.

“I think there is some good news that’s baked in, but yet, I think there is further room for significant growth in the economy that would be reflected in the markets,” Mnuchin said. “The consequence would be that the market could go up significantly,” Mnuchin added.

Treasury secretaries in the past have shied away from publicly discussing market valuations.

But Mnuchin said Trump’s policies could produce growth of 3 percent to 3.5 percent, which is significantly higher than the fourth quarter reading of 1.9 percent.

“We’re in an environment where the U.S. assets are the most attractive assets to invest in on a global basis.”

Mnuchin said he is still aiming to achieve passage of comprehensive tax reform by the time Congress takes its August recess. He also said he expects the Trump administration’s Obamacare replacement bill to pass later on Friday.

Science & Health

Spacewalking Astronauts Prep Station for New Parking Spot

Astronauts ventured out on a spacewalk Friday to prep the International Space Station for a new parking spot.

NASA’s Shane Kimbrough and France’s Thomas Pesquet emerged early from the orbiting complex, then went their separate ways to accomplish as much as possible 250 miles up.

“We are ready to get to work,” Mission Control informed them.

Their main job involves disconnecting an old docking port. This port needs to be moved in order to make room for a docking device compatible with future commercial crew capsules, and provide more clearance. The new docking device — the second of two — will fly up late this year or early next and hook onto this port.

If all goes well, flight controllers in Houston will relocate the old docking port Sunday, using the station’s robotic arm. Then next Thursday, the crew will conduct another spacewalk to secure the unit.

SpaceX and Boeing are developing capsules capable of flying astronauts to and from the space station. Until the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing Starliner come on line — possibly next year — U.S. astronauts will have to keep riding Russian rockets to orbit.

Before working on the docking port, Kimbrough replaced a computer-relay box with an upgraded version. Pesquet, meanwhile, looked for signs of a small ammonia coolant leak in outdoor plumbing. He patted and tugged at hoses, but did not spot any frozen flakes of ammonia. A GoPro camera caught his every move for playback later.

“No flakes. All good,” Pesquet reported.

Also on the spacewalkers’ to-do list Friday: Replace a pair of Japanese cameras and grease latching mechanisms on the end of the big robot arm.

NASA wants to cram in two and possibly three spacewalks before Kimbrough, the station’s commander, returns to Earth on April 10.

Before a third spacewalk can be conducted, however, Orbital ATK needs to launch a cargo ship to the space station with replacement parts. That shipment was supposed to be there by now, but repeatedly has been delayed because of rocket concerns. It’s unclear when the Atlas V rocket will be ready to soar from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

NASA has been contracting out cargo deliveries since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011. The space agency is counting on private companies to do the same with astronauts.

Silicon Valley & Technology

Could ‘Internet of Skills’ Be Next Technological Leap?

What happens when a piano is combined with technology?

“Kids or anybody could learn how to play the piano really properly from the best musicians in the world,” said Mischa Dohler, composer and professor of Wireless Communications at King’s College London.

‘Could we digitize skills?’

Dohler’s aim is to build a database that records the movements of a piano player’s hands with the help of a special sensing glove that tracks every movement of the musician’s joints. Once the data is collected, a piano student can then wear another glove that can train the student’s hands.

“You could imagine this so-called exoskeleton that you can put on your hand. It will pressurize the hands and the joints, and will move it gently at the beginning, and nudge essentially the body into the right shape and in the right way of moving your hand,” Dohler said.

It is an example of what Dohler calls the “Internet of Skills” that he is demonstrating at the Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exhibition in Los Angeles.

“We use digital today to negotiate for jobs. We use LinkedIn, emails, etc., but then to execute the work, we still need to drive. We need to fly. We need to walk. So I was thinking, ‘Could we virtualize it? Could we digitize skills?’”

Health care application

Another application for the “Internet of Skills” is health care.

Motivated by the Ebola crisis in Africa, Dohler is trying to develop a way for doctors to treat a patient thousands of miles away, especially in remote areas where medical skill is lacking, where virtual reality and low-cost technology can link the doctor and patient in a way never before possible.

“What I’m trying to do is first of all give the surgeons back the feeling of touch, so he feels what he does inside the body; and the second thing is, I want him to be able to have this console somewhere in another hospital. So the only thing we’re doing is the cable between the console and the patient and make it longer and make it an internet,” Dohler said.

It is only possible if large amounts of data can travel very quickly, more specifically, 10 milliseconds for action and reaction to occur. Companies are already developing hardware to move information faster.

Depends on data, speed

“It all came about with video. The way we view content today is very different from the way we viewed it before, and getting content to everybody, whether it’s on their iPhone or their android devices or on their PCs everywhere takes the underlying network,” said Eve Griliches, product line manager at Cisco Systems.

She said many new networks that transport and transmit growing amounts of data are being built by private networks.

“Everybody has a stake in the game now. Everybody has a stake,” she said. “And the beauty about getting the content to everybody, more so the other step, is as we’re opening up the networks and creating the sort of open source society in the networking area, it allows people to build on it,” Griliches added.

As technology continues to catch up with what the brain can imagine, Dohler envisions the “Internet of Skills” democratizing labor in about a decade, just as the internet has made knowledge available to all.

Science & Health

On World Tuberculosis Day, Doctors Warn of New Drug-Resistant Bacteria

Friday marks World Tuberculosis Day, aimed at raising awareness of a disease that kills an estimated 1.8 million people every year. Six countries account for nearly two-thirds of the cases: India, Indonesia, China, Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa. As Henry Ridgwell reports, resistant forms of TB bacteria are undermining efforts to roll out new treatments.