A group of Phnom Penh-based high-tech professionals are putting on the second annual Startup Weekend Cambodia from June 22 to 24 at Yellow Tower, across the Tonle Sap from the Riverside.
Darren Jensen of Yoolk, a software company that builds content, sales and HR management systems for Yellow Pages, invites anybody who wants to pitch a good idea for a start-up business, especially with high-tech components, to pony up the $15 to join the event.
“There are 15 organisers flying in from around Southeast Asia, a mixture of investors and entrepreneurs,” Jensen said. “This is a really great opportunity for Cambodians to meet these people for the first time. Some people may get invited into an incubator which helps their business grow and may even get funded.”
Last year 25 people came to the event and 100 are expected this year.
Last year’s winner was Australian Dave Wilkie, 26, whose idea became a successful mobile dating and networking service that works all on mobile phones and does not require an internet connection. It can be seen on the website chibitxt.me.
According to Jensen, Wilkie is launching the service in conjunction with Smart Mobile.
“They’re going to launch with other partners in Thailand, Vietnam and who knows where else,” Jensen said.
Jensen describes the weekend as an entrepreneurial education experience.
“Everyone gets to pitch their business to a panel of judges, and then they announce a winner. There is a prize: some tools, vouchers, some things to help a business get started.”
When everyone arrives on Friday, June 22, Jensen will ask the participants “who wants to pitch?” and people will line up along the wall with only a microphone to conduct a one-minute presentation.
“Then there is a voting period in which the audience, including those who pitched, decides which ideas seem like good ones. That’s when you build your team with people in the room,” Jensen said.
He said the weekend is a great deal because for $15, you get food and “an amazing experience to network with new people and make a pitch in front of investors”.
“Let’s say a hundred people pitch their idea. We will have to limit it to the top 10; we take the top 10 ideas, then the top 10 form teams. The idea is to stay and join in the entrepreneurial experience. Either way, you’re going to get a brilliant experience out of it. We encourage people to be open to having founding members of a start-up they meet at the event.”
Jensen advises people not to be worried about people stealing their ideas.
“You need to get your idea validated and get it started. You need to get it to a point where you can find money. You need to open up to do that. It doesn’t matter what you do, who you are, you will get copied if it’s a good idea.”
Jensen says the main challenge once the idea is validated is execution.
“If you have an idea and really want to run with it, Startup Weekend gives you that. What you’ve got to be prepared to do is continue to work on your start-up immediately following Startup Weekend. If somebody’s copied it, it’s no one’s fault but your own.
“People of the younger generation are getting more confident in a good way. Cambodian software developers open up and are not afraid to show they know more than the foreigners. A few guys I know have broken out of the mold and started software companies.”
The Startup Weekend Cambodia is offering sponsorship opportunities, with two gold sponsorships remaining at $600 each, that includes a logo on the T-shirt, a stand at the venue, a logo on the website, a leaflet in the bag, links in emails and a thank you during the opening and closing ceremonies. Silver ($350) sponsorships are also available.