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It’s been a month since we welcomed Nadine and Kay to The Ken’s growing Southeast Asia team, and today, it’s my pleasure to announce another addition: Judith Balea.

Judith, known as Jum and based in Manila, Philippines, is a recognisable name for anyone who follows tech news in Southeast Asia. She was most recently an editor with Tech In Asia, where, for the last five years, she wrote about news and developments from the Philippines as well across the wider Southeast Asian region. Prior to Tech In Asia, Jum was business editor at Rappler. She started her journalism career at ABS-CBN, which is the Philippines’ largest media conglomerate. Outside of work, music is Jum’s big passion—she plays the drums.

Jum’s addition to the team gives us eyes into the Philippines, which tends to get less attention than countries like Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam, but has much that’s worthy of our attention. For one, it is a market where Chinese giants Alibaba and Tencent are going head-to-head on fintech—the only place in Southeast Asia where they compete directly—and regional giant Gojek is close to expanding into the market, where it will renew its rivalry with Grab.

The Philippines is a classic Southeast Asian market in many ways. That’s to say that it is dominated by large corporations which own many of the country’s most influential businesses and services. These giants are looking to digitise—most have created startup funds and digital business units, for example—which makes it a challenge for any startup there. But, with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) accounting for 99% of all registered businesses (nearly two-thirds of jobs and over one-third of national GDP), the Philippines is inherently a land of entrepreneurs.

You can expect Jum to dive into this fascinating mix for The Ken, and also continue her reporting of stories from across the region. You can find her on Twitter where she is @jumbalea; do send congratulations and pitches to jum at

We’re always on the lookout for talent, so if you’re a reporter who is passionate about telling deep stories about Southeast Asia, please get in touch with me–jon at We’re also actively hiring for a bunch of roles in India, details of which you can find on our careers page.

Headline image via Eugenio Pastoral/Unsplash


Jon Russell

Jon Russell is Southeast Asia editor for The Ken based in Bangkok. Originally from the UK, Jon moved to Thailand in 2008. He’s passionate about telling thoughtful business stories, and tracking the impact of the internet in his adopted home of Southeast Asia.

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