Smart Axiata’s $5 Million Investment Fund Supports Startups

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Dignitaries speak to the media at the launch of the Smart Axiata Digital Innovation Fund to help tech firms with cash and expertise. KHMER TIMES / CHOR SOKUNTHEA

Smart Axiata, one of Cambodia’s leading telecommunications company, yesterday launched a $5 million venture capital fund for digital service companies and start-ups in the country. The Smart Axiata Digital Innovation Fund aims to meet demands for cash and expertise as the number of Cambodian digital entrepreneurs increases rapidly.

“While the number of Cambodian digital entrepreneurs has mushroomed in recent years, there has not been a dedicated fund available to invest in these businesses – both in terms of cash and expertise,” said Thomas Hundt, CEO of Smart. “Individual investments from the fund will vary from $25,000 to $500,000 according to the stage, industry and funding requirements of each business.”

The fund, devised by Smart Axiata in partnership with investment and advice from Mekong Strategic Partners (MSP), will be available for up to five years from the launch of the business.

Hundt said the fund is part of Smart’s efforts to be a key development partner in Cambodia’s information and communication technology sector. He added that the fund will also help tech firms with expertise to develop their ideas.

“The fund is a new chapter in Cambodia’s digital journey as we anticipate that it will kickstart the next digital wave,” added Hundt. “We are looking for companies or entrepreneurs in the technology space, related to sectors such as financial technology, digital commerce, entertainment, social media, advertising, education and healthcare.”

The fund will be managed by MSP, from the initial identification of potential investment opportunities right through to post-investment growth. “We believe there are significant opportunities for businesses in the tech sector, and we are excited to be launching this tech fund together with Smart,” said Stephen Higgins, managing partner at MSP.

“We will invest in early-stage and growth-stage companies. We are also looking for high performing tech firms with big aspirations, that have successfully launched their tech product or service and are looking to scale up,” he added.

Tram Iv Teck, Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, said the fund is in line with the Telecommunications Ministry’s ICT development policy 2020, which will generate more national digital talent and contribute towards spurring Cambodia’s digital innovation and the economy.

“The Royal Government of Cambodia immensely welcomes the launch of the Smart Axiata Digital Innovation Fund,” said Iv Teck. “Smart is one of our key development partners in Cambodia’s digital journey and we appreciate their support through initiatives like the Digital Innovation Fund and SmartStart which provides significant practical and financial backing for our digital pioneers,” he added.

Sreang Boromey, co-founder and managing director of WEDU, an online platform for students to share information on education, scholarships, and internships which has run just for 10 months, said the fund will help to increase the number of digital startups because finance is one of the main obstacles for upgrading startups. “If we have enough funds we can speed up our startups,” he said.

This article was originally published in the Khmer Times.