My Remote Year Series // Entrepreneurship on an island that sits on a crystal? Posted at 0:00, Thu, 15 December 2016 in Industry Insights

Following a big-city month in hectic Kuala Lumpur (revisit my first Remote Year instalment here, my fellow remotes and I enjoyed a relaxing month living the island life in Koh Phangan, Thailand. Koh Phangan is recognised world-wide as a party island and best known for the infamous “Full Moon Party” which draws crowds by the thousands each month. However, it equally offers a calming and spiritual energy which draws in those seeking healthy living, spirituality, healing and self reflection. Many locals and expats attribute this to the claim that the island sits on an ancient bed of crystal (rose quartz).

Island Office for Digital Nomads

These two extremes left little in the middle and offered quite an interesting environment for a bunch of digital nomads. We were fortunate to be set up in the one and only co-working space on Koh Phangan (KP), BeacHub, which was co-founded and run by Melody Hidalgo, who was there almost every day and extremely helpful with anything BeacHub or KP related. While working every day with a stunning view of the crystal clear waters surrounding the Gulf of Thailand, I was introduced to a diverse assortment of travellers in our shared working space.

Multiple Businesses and Serial Entrepreneurs

Like many of the business I encountered in Thailand, BeacHub’s owners, Melody and her business partner, are serial entrepreneurs and also own one of my favourite restaurants on the island, Karma Kafe. If I wasn’t at the co-working space you almost always could find me at the cafe enjoying their delicious vegan food; my favourite dish being “The Hola!” – a Mexican inspired salad with hummus and broccamole (like guac, but with broccoli).

After much success with Karma Kafe, the business duo decided to embark on another business venture, with the goal of bringing something new to the island that didn’t exist already. They noticed many people worked remotely from Karma Kafe which sparked the idea of a co-working and networking space. Now that the space is up and running they see a steady stream of entrepreneurs, writers, bloggers, developers, designers, marketers, eCommerce professionals, and a host of other remote employees working for either startups or corporate businesses. These people are a mix of travellers passing through, long-term expats, and people like us that are somewhere in the middle. They also host various events like a weekly master classes/skill shares, networking dinners, and ‘wine’ down Fridays.

Multiple business entities seemed to be a recurring theme in KP. The owner of my accommodation for the month also runs a wellness center, focusing on yoga and healing. A couple I met ran a salon in one part of town and a burger bar in another. Another woman I met ran an in home threading business and also a lively hotel. Of course, all of these people have their own unique stories and reasons for their way of life and business but there are definitely common themes.

Entrepreneurship in a Tourist Hub

A big one is the unpredictability of tourism and living in a place with a distinct high and low season. The couple with the salon and burger bar said the salon brought in a lot more revenue during low season, probably because more people were looking for massages and pampering during the heavy rains. Other expats with multiple business ventures explained that this was just in their blood. They are explorers at heart so of course they would want to try their hand at different careers. Another reason is unpredictability of island life, or life as an expat. Most expats don’t have rights to land or business ownership so you have to rely on a business partner which can get tricky. Also, cultural or historical events can have massive impacts. While we were in Thailand, King Bhumibol Adulyadej died, leaving the country in mourning. The beloved king was the world’s longest-reigning monarch in history and people across the nation were visibly devastated. With the country in mourning, curfews and noise restrictions were put in place to respect the king, even the infamous Full Moon Party was cancelled.

Lessons Learned as a Remote Worker

Koh Phangan was our second stop of the year and I noticed people were really starting to find their groove in work and even launching new businesses. I saw remotes start to connect on side projects, and we even saw the beginning of a creative agency with three remote founders.

While some people were motivated and rolling on interesting projects in spite of the island life, others encountered scary conversations at work about time management, communication, and productivity. The first month felt like we were just getting situated and figuring out our new space, new family, and new work environments. Month 2 seemed to be more about learning from your mistakes and becoming a more effective and efficient remote employee.

For anyone considering a remote lifestyle the one piece of advice I’d offer is over communication (keep in mind this is only after 2 months of the digital life). Many of us learned that we needed to be more proactive in setting 1:1s with different colleagues and managers, sending emails at the beginning of the week laying out weekly plans and goals and then following up at the end of the week confirming what you did and did not do. It is important to remember that your colleagues are now really far removed from your day to day so you need to take ownership of sharing that information and making sure everyone is kept in the loop. A big part of being a remote employee is taking responsibility for your own work schedule, input and output. This means you might have to sing your own praise one week, and then explain why you might miss a deadline the next week. Even with the best manager, you are now the only one that truly knows what you are contributing and you need to be vocal about that.

Tech Scene in Thailand
If you have your eye on Thailand, here is some additional information on the tech scene in Thailand and references of different co-working space and incubators.

Who are the established and up and coming tech companies in Thailand?
AsiaSoft, gaming company focused on multiplayer online games
ZmyHome – site for homeowners to list their properties with no agents involved
Priceze – shopping search engine and price comparison tool
Silkspan -price comparison website specialising
ClaimDi – Mobile app to make insurance claims in real time
ACommerce – E-commerce solutions provider
Builk – crowdsourcing construction data
Page365 – Invoicing system
HotelQuickly – Impromptu booking engine
Blisby – E-commerce marketplace for handmade products, similar to etsy
HipFlat– Property portal

Co-Working spaces
HUBBA – Thailand’s first co-working space based in Bangkok, and now has 7 locations.
The Hive – Offers two locations in Bangkok: one in the heart of Thonglor and the other in Prakanong.
HATCH – In Phuket with shared spaces and private rooms to rent by the hour.
Punspace Nimman – the original co-working space in Chiang Mai with a quiet grassy courtyard.
Launch Pad – Open space co-working space in Bangkok with 5 private meeting rooms.
FabCafe – Global co-working network, starting in Taiwan with spaces in Thailand, Japan and Spain.

Startup Incubators/Accelerators
AIS – Annual program focused on digital entrepreneurs.
Dtac Accelerator – 3-month program for early stage startups that already have a team and a product that is getting traction.
True Incube – 3-month program for tech startups in Thailand.
Business Incubation Center (BIC)- Business facility for entrepreneurs providing support with new technology and state-of-the-art innovation.
mSEED – Supporting business in the beauty and personal care industry.

Bangkok Post

Gemma is on an envy-inducing remote working journey where for 12 months she’ll be living in 12 different cities across Southeast Asia, Europe, Central America and South America. While she’s exploring the world, we’re hard at work in offices across Singapore, Australia, Europe and North America – drop us a line and let’s work together on finding you your next role, or helping to fill your team with talent. Contact us here.