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Language acquisition team wins

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From left: Keo Vannarith, Ear ‘Louis’ Uy, Justin Pearce Neudorf and Michael Yockney whose idea provided the genesis for the team. Photograph: Stuart Alan Becker/Phnom Penh Post

The winning team at Startup Weekend Cambodia formed around an idea presented by English teacher and New Zealander Michael Yockney, one of 25 people who had one minute to present a startup business idea on Friday evening.

All but nine of the 25 ideas pitched were eliminated, but Yockney’s idea prevailed. Others who had pitched ideas and some who hadn’t pitched anything formed around Yockney to create a team.

Once the teams formed around the nine pitches that got the most votes from other participants on Friday night, people began to discuss the idea and divide the workload, aiming for a Sunday night win.

Before the end of Friday night, the team had a web domain in place: HUNDREDWORDS.CO

By nine o’clock on Saturday morning, one of Yockney’s group had already dropped out, but the remaining members showed enthusiasm. One was Cambodian game developer Ear Uy, also known as Louis, whose company Oja Studio already developed a Cambodia-famous iPad Santa Claus game. Another was Keo Vannarith, sales executive at Cambodia Pocket Guide, who specialises in designing company logos, along with Justin Pearce Neudorf, creative director of Campop Media, whose knowledge of how to get things done quickly on the world wide web proved essential for Yockney.

All day Saturday the team worked together coming up with ideas about how to present an easy-to-use rapid language acquisition system and also how to sell it to potential sponsors. One team member, who had to return to work on Sunday, also a former English teacher, contributed some of the phrases based on the 100 most commonly used words in English, for the winning pitch.

Finally when Sunday night came, Yockney’s hundred words team won the big prize which includes web hosting space on Amazon and other high-tech gifts.

“It is fantastic to get validation on the idea,” Yockney said. “This gives us something to go forward with. We’re lucky because one of our team members runs a game company here in Cambodia.

“We ended up with a kind of flash card system. We’ve got screenshots and whatnot.”

Local organiser of the Startup Weekend Cambodia Darren Jensen said he was glad that 80 people signed up this year and 25 pitches were given.

“We were really happy with the turnout. We loved the ideas presented and it was great to see more Cambodians joining in. We hope to see more next year.

Sponsors of the event included Smart Mobile, Sabay, Microsoft, Creative Entertainment, Instedd, JFDI Asia, Yoolk software, Aruna Technology and EZECOM.

Yoolk software company provided the space at Yellow Tower for the event.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart Alan Becker at stuart.becker@gmail.com

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