Hubert Burda Media

At the Frontier: The Srivorakul Brothers

The Srivorakul brothers built e-commerce and internet companies from the ground up, and are now investing in others – but they are anything but the traditional business family. Here’s how they did it.

The Srivorakul brothers - Photography by Kaan Suchanin

This profile was printed in Prestige Thailand’s November 2015 issue. Here are our favourite excerpts.

An impressive portfolio…

Between the three of them, and often while working together, Tom, Paul and John have founded and headed (and exited) Impaq Interactive, an exclusive partner for MSN in Thailand, Admax Network Thailand, a leading ad network in Southeast Asia, and Newmedia, a digital ad agency. Together, their most well-known achievement is Ensogo, which they established as the largest social e-commerce site in Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia. (It was acquired as well, in 2011.)

 

Brothers in business

Like a well-oiled machine, Tom takes care of operations as aCommerce CEO of Thailand, and Paul is the creative force and marketer as the company’s Regional CEO. John was the CTO at aCommerce at one point, but has taken a step back and is working on a new project – Home Services – which will allow customers to hire plumbers, electricians and other home repair experts online. He’s already working on an app [as of November 2015].

 

Not a family business…

The Srivorakuls solidly reject the term, “family business”.

“We look at the company as an organism. It starts scaling and going really fast, it’s a great business model and it’s got a good product market fit, then you go, ‘I can’t keep up! We need to get stronger people.’ You can do it yourself, but you also need to know when you are holding things back. There were a couple of times where we have actually stepped out and brought a new CEO in,” says Paul. “We try not to use majority of our businesses - and that’s very important.”

“We don’t want to be a family business,” says Tom.

“Nobody wants to work for a family business. There’s a glass ceiling,” nods Paul.

 

Growing up as TCKs…

They grew up mainly as Third-Culture Kids, living and moving from country to country. Through their lives, the brothers moved from the Philippines, to Thailand, to Singapore and back to Phuket (to a 70-foot schooner off of the island), and then the US. Their step-father is well-known prolific travel writer Harold Stephens – who once drove a Toyota Land Cruiser nearly 70,000 kilometres around the world – and the brothers seem to have inherited his pioneering spirit.

 

Starting at zero…

John and Paul came back to Thailand with US$4,000 to their names and a credit card. They took advantage of their step-father’s network in Thailand, and started having dinners to figure out how the business environment worked. They began working with a media company in exchange for desk space, building websites and doing advertising – at first, starting up Impaq Interactive.

“The sales people that were sitting next to us were saying, ‘Hey, can I sell what you guys are building?’ What was really interesting was they started selling and then we started getting bigger and bigger. Within one year we went to about 20 staff and then our big break came when Microsoft, or MSN, gave us an exclusive contract,” Paul says. Tom, the eldest, joined in 2004 when the stability he needed as a family man appeared as John and Paul began to experience success.

Bringing forward the best ideas... 

John says, “There’s the two-out-of-three rule. Two people will gang up on that one person if they think he is screwing up. We are very hard on each other – scary hard. We don’t hold anything in, so what happens is that there’s no grudges, and we have to heal.”