Trailblazing Cambodian game designer sets sights on animation series

By: Euan Black - Posted on: July 28, 2017 | Business

Ahead of Saturday’s Cambodia Young Entrepreneur Awards (CYEA), we caught up with Ear Uy, the founder of the gaming studio Sabay Osja and former award winner to discuss being on the cutting edge of business in the Kingdom

In 2011, Ear Uy and three other gaming aficionados set up Osja, the country’s first ever gaming studio. The company went on to win the 2014 ASEAN Character Award for its work on the mobile game Asva the Monkey, and Uy picked up another award at the Cambodian Young Entrepreneur Awards (CYEA) a year later. Their exploits caught the attention of Cambodian media company Sabay Digital Corporation, which invested in the studio in 2015. Osja became Saby Osja, but Uy maintains that the partnership has not undermined the studio’s creative control, but simply helped expand its presence.

Fresh from launching Sabay Osja’s first augmented reality (AR) mobile application – technology that integrates virtual images into reality – in March this year, Uy talked to Southeast Asia Globe about the Kingdom’s startup ecosystem and his plans for the future.

What’s new with Sabay Osja?

One of the new features of our Sabay AR mobile application is our Business Card function, which I like to call ‘magic’ business cards. If companies want to make their business cards interactive, we can integrate a lot of functions – we can animate them; we can allow users to call the number or email the address on the business cards by simply tapping the business card on their phone screen. Businesses can also add interactive links to their company profile. They can show their team, they can show their product, or they can include a link to a video or a downloadable PDF.

Users can also save business cards on the app, which allows them to access the details even if they don’t have the card with them.

How many companies are using the business card service?

Currently, the function is just getting off the ground. We are developing and adding more cards to it and, because everything is online, we can add new business cards anytime – we don’t need to update the app or anything. We have a few that are beginning to add up.

What other areas do you envision Sabay Osja moving into?

We’re always looking for new technologies that we can use. We started with games, now we are doing AR. In the future, we hope to do some VR [virtual reality], which is a similar feature. Another area that we want to get into is animation. We want to make an animation series.

From your experience, what are the main benefits and drawbacks of starting a technology business in Cambodia?

Cambodia has a young population, which is very interested in technology – anything related to that is interesting to them. So, the market is there. The other thing that could benefit startups in Cambodia is lower operational costs. The cost of rent and labour is still relatively low. It’s affordable for everyone on the tech side to try something new. And there are also now quite a few organisations that are trying to support startups by putting on events and providing office spaces and mentors and everything. It’s exciting and it’s a good time to start doing it.

For us, however, because what we are doing is a little different, it’s quite difficult to find people with the required skillsets. We found a few good individuals, but the rest we had to train up. But in other areas, such as mobile application development, I think there are now more skilled and talented people out there.

How did winning a Cambodian Young Entrepreneurs Award help your career and the studio?

It helped with PR. People got to know us more. It did that for all the participants of the competition. It also helped with networking – we got to know the people involved with the association.

What advice would you give to any young Cambodian entrepreneurs?

The advice would be: do what you love doing and try to do it yourself, don’t expect someone else to do it for you. Your vision is always different from someone else’s, so don’t depend on others, you need to do it yourself.

For us, we wanted to make sure we created a product that offered something new, that had new features that would benefit the user. Networking helps, especially for when you need to outsource work, but first and foremost, you need to have a good product. If you don’t have a good product, it doesn’t matter how many people you know, you won’t be successful.

The Cambodia Young Entrepreneurs Awards is taking place this Saturday (29 July) at Phnom Penh’s Sokha Hotel. For more details and to book your seat at the event, visit: fb.com/cyeaawards