Startup Report Sneak Preview Unveiled At Tech Summit


A sneak preview of the upcoming Cambodia Startup Report by Raintree and Mekong Strategic Partners indicates that a larger number of local high-net-worth individuals are making startup investments.

Thomas Hundt, CEO of Smart Axiata. KT/Jean-Francois Perigois

“More local venture capital sources have been established, mostly for early-stage digital startups such as the Smart Axiata Digital Innovation Fund (Sadif).

“There is also more networking events, programmes and direct investments noted while corporates are also providing more learning opportunities for founders,” said the sneak preview.

The findings corroborate earlier reports that conclude that local high-net-worth individuals and wealthy families were interested in the startup world.

Last month, Nikkei Asian Review wrote of Sear Rithy who, after living in a refugee camp, built a logistics empire that has branched into over 28 businesses. Mr Rithy has also launched a venture capital (VC) firm in Cambodia.

The country is also seeing a growth in international VC interest in the local market.

This form of financing positions investors as mentors and strategic partners to startups and ensures investors bring significant value in the strategy and business development stages, the preview said.

The preview breaks down recent developments and progress in the startup world into various segments, and it also analyses the challenges and corresponding benefits for startups, investors and the corporate world altogether.

It lists the stakeholders as follows: entrepreneurs and startup teams, universities and training providers, individual and institutional investors, corporate and industry, support programmes and capacity building, and the government.

The sneak preview was unveiled at the First Cambodia Tech Summit held at the Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra on Sunday, which drew a crowd of tech enthusiasts.

The event was organised by Smart Axiata and the National Institute of Posts, Telecoms and ICT (NIPTICT), with the backing of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPTC) and the Capacity Building and R&D Fund (CBRDF). It is hailed as the first of its kind in Cambodia.

“Smart Axiata has been a driving force behind the tech sector development here in Cambodia. The energy and passion we saw during a load of events this weekend, the BarCamp, the Tech Summit as such, the Seedstars competition… was just amazing and highly encouraging,” said Thomas Hundt, CEO of Smart Axiata.

“It proves that the road we are travelling on is very much right. We at Smart will set forth on that journey by putting all our weight behind further grooming, developing and boosting the local startup and tech ecosystem,” Mr Hundt added.

International keynote speakers from Google, Facebook, Leaderonomics, Huawei, Transcosmos and Digital Ventures captivated the crowd on Sunday morning.

In the afternoon, a power-packed panel session, featuring the US Ambassador to Cambodia, as well as representatives of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, the Ministry of Economy and Finance, Google, Seedstars and Smart Axiata discussed topics centred around ‘Harnessing the Power of Digital Innovation for Cambodia’.

10 Cambodian startups took the stage as part of the Seedstars competition, a 3-day event in which the teams pitch their business ideas to a jury made up of local and international heavyweights. The members of the jury were Feiruz Ikhwan Abdul Malek, CFO of Smart Axiata; Pahrada Sapprasert, director of 500 TukTuks; Bora Kem, partner of Mekong Strategic Partners; Gabriela Fernandez, associate for Asia at Seedstars; Zoe Ng, co-founder & managing director of Raintree; and Dr Seng Sopheap, president of NIPTICT.

Joonaak Delivery, a last-mile delivery service platform, won the Seedstars’ Cambodia Best Startup award. As champion, the company will be invited to participate at the Seedstars Asia Summit 2018 in Bangkok.

The local startups will also be at Seedstars Global Summit in Switzerland, where they will have the chance to win up to $1 million in equity investments and other prizes.

Seedstars World is a Switzerland-based startup competition that takes place in emerging markets. It runs more than 65 local competitions around the world where judges identify the best seed-stage startups, give them pitch training and award the winners with an opportunity to compete in the Seedstars Summit, with one of startup eventually crowned Seedstars World Global Winner.

Leakhena Long, co-founder and chief operations officer at Joonaak, told Khmer Times that the programme will teach her team how to expand the business, and that it is a great opportunity to find more investment.

She added that, as part of the programme, she can build her network and form partnerships with startups from other countries in the Seedstars World family.

“We don’t have high expectations regarding how far we will make it in the programme. But we will work hard to be able to compete with other tech startups around the globe.

“To prepare for the next rounds, we plan to polish our presentations, as well as our business and revenue generation models,” she added.

Dr Seng Sopheap, President of NIPTICT, said, “We have seen many startup and technology events in Cambodia over the last few years but this Tech Summit is a new milestone for all of us as we develop further towards realising a digital Cambodia. I could not be prouder of everyone who has worked hard together to pull this off.

“I am very confident that even though Cambodia’s tech sector is not as developed as other markets, the talent, passion and capability is there for all to see!” he added.

Kan Channmeta, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, told Khmer Times that the government is prioritizing the grooming of tech talent to put Cambodian on the map when it comes to technology and innovation.

He said Cambodian tech startups have received significant recognition within Southeast Asia, and that the government now aims for the local tech sector to be recognised also in Asia Pacific and in the global stage.

“The quality of our tech startups is increasing. We are committed to bringing our startups to the global stage thorough programmes like Seedstars World,” Mr Channmeta said.

“We have great potential because we have a great number of creative and innovative young people,” he added.

At the event on Sunday, Smart Axiata also launched its Application Program Interface (API) platform, called ‘Ideamart powered by Smart’, which is intended to allow faster engagement and partnerships in the digital space.

This platform will enable the fast-growing network of developers and content providers to monetise their work via shared APIs with Smart.

This article was originally published in the Khmer Times.