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Angel investors return to help start-ups take flight

Angel investors return to help start-ups take flight

Investors from the Mekong Angel Investor Network (MAIN) will arrive in Cambodia today for the group’s third official visit to the Kingdom, with its members scheduled to meet entrepreneurs in Siem Reap before heading to Phnom Penh to hear startup pitches – and possibly sink funds into the projects.

This will be the first time for the angel investor group to visit Siem Reap, according to Khemara Ros, Cambodia country manager of the Mekong Business Initiative (MBI), which is coordinating the visits.

“So far, the international investors are quite happy with what they see in Cambodia as there is a lot of energy as well as a lot of spirit of entrepreneurship and creative ideas,” he said.

“It takes time to build the culture and it needs the support of the government, donors and the private sector to create more chances of success for those creative ideas,” he added.

MAIN first visited Cambodia in June and again in September, during which the angel investors agreed to fund and mentor local start-up Bookmebus, an online platform for bus ticket purchases.

The investors are in ongoing negotiations with several other local start-ups, or conducting due diligence on their projects, according to Khemara.

“It seems to me the community is ready to accept the start-up culture and we are trying to keep the momentum going and create a sustainable angel investor movement,” he said. “We want to build this culture in Cambodia and the Mekong region and develop the startup-up ecosystem, though we don’t have that many start-ups that are investable yet.”

MBI, a program launched by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), plans to continue scheduling angel investor visits every two months or so until at least November 2017, he added.

Start-ups in the country sometimes have trouble working to the standards expected of businesses in more developed economies, making greater investment difficult, according to Steve Landman, managing partner at Vietnam-based Lotus Fund and one of the main angel investors involved with the MAIN program.

Some start-ups are not responsive enough to angels, which slows the investment process, he said.

“Because entrepreneurs are so new to this, they don’t always understand the process and the documentation,” he explained. “The issue is that we are interested in some projects, but the response rate is too slow.”

Over the course of the two previous trips, Landman noted that many investors were very excited about the investment opportunities offered by some of Cambodia’s start-ups.

“I think Phnom Penh is really improving and starting to develop its ecosystem and community building,” he said. “The quality of investor presentations has improved a lot and they still need training and mentoring, but as we go along the training goes up in level.”

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