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The teams spent an intense 48 hours developing their business ideas.
The teams spent an intense 48 hours developing their business ideas. Luis Barretoa

Inaugural bootcamp a shoe-in for big ideas

Affordable housing, youth development leadership centres and IT training were all ideas to come out of Siem Reap’s first YS-HUB Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, held at 1961 Coworking and Art Space.

Run by The Hub Singapore in conjunction with Young Startups and Social Enterprise Cambodia, the boot camp welcomed 33 individuals from Cambodia and abroad to help them develop and pitch social business plans.

Participants, the majority of them Khmer, came from all walks of life, from hotel managers to tour guides to NGO workers.

The budding entrepreneurs were split into eight teams to develop ideas with the help of mentors, and then pitched their ideas to the judges.

“How do you pitch to investors – that was the final task,” said Grace Sai, co-founder of The Hub Singapore and a facilitator. “The judges were people who were ready to put money into good ideas and to support local entrepreneurs.”

Raya Papp, co-head of Asia Pacific at LGT Venture Philanthropy, also a camp facilitator, said that at least two judges thought all eight ideas had merit, and would be willing to support them to fruition.

“They said they would essentially be mentors and help the ideas go forward if the people wanted them to, which was incredible,” said Papp. “Even in Singapore we’ve never had that.”

One of the most innovative ideas was for affordable eco-friendly housing involving interlocking bricks, like Lego bricks that don’t need cement or scaffolding and save about 40 per cent of the cost. The winning team’s idea was a scheme for youth development centres across Cambodia to teach leadership and communication.

The teams also had to create their own adverts, something the organisers agree was a highlight.

“We had a song, a radio message, everyone was so creative – it was so much fun,” said Papp. “Some people wore full costumes to act out their adverts, and they only had a night to prepare.”

Both Sai and Papp were impressed by the passion and enthusiasm of participants, who they feel will now go away with the confidence, knowledge and contacts to develop their ideas further.

“I lived in Cambodia for almost a year in 2012, and I haven’t seen anything like this so I think it’s pretty ground-breaking,” Papp said. “I think it’s fantastic to start entrepreneurialism with Cambodians.”

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