How a Young Thai Questioned His Culture and Became an Entrepreneur

January 10, 2012

10:15 am

I’m chatting with Peach Rojwongsuriya at a Starbucks in a posh mall in Bangkok. Wearing a white Jimi Hendrix t-shirt, he’s chattering in great English about keeping his startup lean, Ruby, and the state of ecommerce in Thailand.

But 23-year-old Rojwongsuriya wasn’t always an entrepreneur. He studied at an international primary school – which is probably why his English is so good – then skipped high school and went straight to a Thai university at 15. In other words, he was exposed to two completely different education systems while he was still young.

“Foreigners are more competitive and more individualistic, compared to Thai-style,” he says.

After finishing a bachelor’s degree in computer science, he spent 3 years coding for a large software company called Venda. They left him little room for experimentation, and he longed to use his self-taught design skills that were increasingly becoming a passion. He also saw many of his friends complaining about their jobs on Twitter, and didn’t want to become like them. So Rojwongsuriya moved on to a web design firm called Schawel, with only 3 employees.

“It was pretty scary on the first day – I was complaining a lot about how I should have gone to other places because it didn’t look safe,” he recalls. But Rojwongsuriya learned more at Schawel in 8 months than he had at Venda, and he absorbed some of his American boss’s thoughts on how Thais are reluctant to take risks.

So now, while working at a startup called Oozou, Rojwongsuriya is taking his own risk by spending evenings on a project called MyColorscreen.

MyColorscreen lets Android users from all around the world share their creative homescreens. The startup grew out of Rojwongsuriya’s obsession with Android phones; he used to share his homescreens on Android forums, and other users replied asking for more details. So MyColorscreen lets users tag apps and wallpaper with links so others can download them, too.

Although MyColorscreen isn’t a full-time job yet, Rojwongsuriya is building up the skills to make it one. He’s studying for a Master’s degree in business and getting a crash course in entrepreneurship from MyColorscreen, as he learns to figure out what users want, how to perfect email marketing, and why traffic numbers are changing.

When I ask Rojwongsuriya what he wants to tell US readers, he replies with something I’ve heard before in Asia:

“There are entrepreneurs here in Bangkok, and we read the same news. Maybe investors might be interested in investing in some of the Asian startups; there’s no money flying around like Silicon Valley. I just want to let them know that we are out here and hopefully we can work together and collaborate as one community.”

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact [email protected]

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