Winners of the SmartStart Young Innovator Program were announced yesterday with five teams awarded funding and support to bring their technology-related business ideas to market.
The three-month competition organised by local telecom Smart Axiata began with 30 teams in February. Fifteen finalists pitched their ideas yesterday to a panel of judges, with the five best projects set to receive $4,000 in funding and six months of incubation services.
The winning teams addressed needs and business opportunities in a variety of industries, including Gosoccer, a platform for booking futsal fields in Phnom Penh; Spare, a service connecting renters with tenants; and Prestige Gift, a company providing gift consultation and delivery. The other two winning teams were Be-First, an app for learning Khmer, and Sopheakmongkol, a one-stop wedding-planner platform.
Speaking after the event, Smart Axiata CEO Thomas Hundt said he was very impressed by the outcome of the competition and the level of development reached by the finalist teams, especially considering that all the participants have yet to complete their university degree. He added that for the five ventures selected for the incubation program, the most difficult part lies ahead as they must now work to produce market-ready products.
“We are talking about university students, we are not talking about people that have left university five years ago and have already accumulated professional experience or career experience,” he said.
“But what is needed from there is the same continuous amount of passion going forward because the hard work is actually starting now.”
Kan Channmeta, secretary of state at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, said Cambodian youth were making impressive strides in both ICT literacy and entrepreneurship. He said the challenge now would be to increase participation at an earlier age.
“We need innovation capacity at the high school level, we don’t want to have it just at the university level,” he said.
“We also need more mobilisation in terms of university participation as a first step and then extend it more. The more participation, the more innovation.”