Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: We all take our mobile phones with us when we travel to far away destinations like Phuket, be it for business or relaxation.

The costs of international roaming can become truly exorbitant; however, the explosion in phone apps, either free or with nominal download charges, could provide the solution.

Most will require an internet connection, though "free WiFi" is commonplace, and many offer offline features which can be prepped before departure.

Here is a small sample of apps that can provide even the most seasoned among us with hints, tips, cost savings and gems that might otherwise be missed.

Obviously, there are the ubiquitous free-call providers such as Viber and Skype, and specialized SMS/MMS tools like WhatsApp, but what else is out there in the mobile ether?

Stay.com
is a travel guide to over 120 cities worldwide, including Bangkok, and whilst relatively new to Android and iPhone it is already receiving rave reviews.

It offers all the expected information, such as hotel and, restaurant reviews, together with must see attractions in your destination of choice.

In addition, it provides a full download option for offline use, with an incredibly small file size, bearing in mind the detail given for each city, which includes maps and directions, emergency information and a fast search facility for almost anything else you may need.

This app will automatically sync with friends travelling together to ensure all have the same guide. Of course, you can add your own places of interest or notes, such as a friend’s apartment or meeting points, with linking to Facebook to share the experience.

HearPlanet
, available either in a lite or premuim version (US$4.99) is an audio guide to places of interest with over 300,000 locations, including some notable sites in Phuket.

HearPlanet’s
content is drawn from Wikipedia, though there are more detailed bespoke descriptions for many places. The maps are not the best and as a consequence the "lite" version is preferred by the 10,000+ downloaders.

For security,another useful app for Android users is Plan B, which allows you to find your lost or stolen phone, even if it’s on silent.

It’s best to install Plan B before you lose your phone but a ‘remote install’ can be performed. You remotely install the application on your phone using an email address, and when it is turned on and has an internet signal, the app sends to your email address a Google map with your phone’s GPS location.

Tips for tech start-ups

Here are some tips to help reduce the chance of failure for someone who decides to start up a tech company in Thailand.

1) Think more about the market, not just the product

Two common startup mistakes make (A) picking a product market that is too crowded, therefore very competitive; and (B) choosing a product that has too little, or no, market at all.

A lot of startups focus too much on building products and too little on figuring out who is going to sell it, and how.

Spend a substantial amount of time finding out about the market.

Study your competitors and potential customers to avoid making these obvious mistakes.

2) Design products that are tough to copy
Hopefully, one day Thailand will have a better environment for people who create intellectual property. But until that day comes, it might be wiser to pick products that are inherently difficult for pirates and competitors to copy.

If you are into smartphone apps, try having the features distributed between the app itself and the back end. In fact, locate most core features in the back end if you can.

3) Target regional markets from day one
Thailand is a good place to live, eat and play. But it is too small a market for tech startups.

Think of a regional market from day one. Be ambitious.

Create a network of partners who can help you expand to other countries. Be international.

Have an online presence that attracts potential customers from other countries. That means an English website at the very least.

4) Think big, start small

As a tech startup, you should think big in terms of the end goals of what your company will become.

That’s what attracts customers, partners and investors to your camp. On the other hand, the life of a tech start-up is rife with uncertainty. It is imperative to validate your vision with realities in an iterative fashion.

Develop an increment of your product, get feedback from outside, adjust your direction, and repeat. This ensures you’re on track.

5) Don’t wait for investors; get money from customers if you can

It is a mistake to put all your hope for funding on investors.

If there is a way for you to generate revenues from customers, do it. Startups with revenue streams look much better in the eyes of investors, and can get better deals.

Better yet, you might not even need an investor at all. The goal of tech startups should be to build a profitable long-lasting enterprise, not to get rich quick with someone else’s money.

The CEO and founder of Venture Catalyst (the VC group), Jay Jootar (drjaysayhi.com) is a tech entrepreneur and investor, an MIT graduate, and a former telecom executive.
– Jay Jootar / Phuket Gazette

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