Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Fund to fuel digital startups

Fund to fuel digital startups

A panel of speakers at the Smart Digital Innovation Fund press conference yesterday in Phnom Penh.
A panel of speakers at the Smart Digital Innovation Fund press conference yesterday in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Fund to fuel digital startups

Cambodian mobile operator Smart Axiata launched a $5 million venture capital fund yesterday that will seek to identify, fund and nurture local digital services companies and startups.

The Smart Axiata Digital Innovation Fund will seek “to invest in ideas and businesses in the digital ecosystem to spark the development of a robust digital economy that will help grow Cambodia as a whole”.

“A new chapter in Cambodia’s digital journey is about to start as we anticipate that the fund will kickstart the next wave of digital growth,” said Thomas Hundt, CEO of Smart Axiata.

According to Hundt, the fund will target technology startups and companies in the fields of digital financial services, or fintech, e-commerce, online entertainment, social media platforms, advertising, education and health care solutions.

“These disruptive models will not only complement our first-class networks, but will make Cambodian lives easier and more connected,” he said.

Smart, a subsidiary of Malaysian telecommunications giant Axiata Group, will provide the principle investment for the fund, while local investment firm Mekong Strategic Partners (MSP) will manage how the capital is allocated. The fund’s investment committee is governed by representatives of Smart, MSP and an unnamed third party.

Kem Bora, investment manager for MSP, said the fund has a lifespan of three to five years and aims to invest in five startups annually.Individual investments from the fund will vary from $25,000 to $500,000 according to the developmental stage of a business, the particular industry and vetted funding requirements.

In addition to direct financing, the fund will provide incubator support by monitoring investment progress and providing knowledge sharing for business development.

Potential recipients of the fund will also gain insight into marketing, branding and other critical business processes that leverage Smart’s network “to create and realise value that has so far remained untapped”, according to a press release.

Stephen Higgins, managing partner at MSP, said the fund is seeking to invest in early-stage and growth-stage companies.

“We are also looking for high-performing tech firms with big aspirations that have successfully launched their tech products or services and are looking to scale up,” he said.

Thul Sela, a young local entrepreneur who attended yesterday’s event, said he intended to apply for funding for his conceptual business model.

His startup would sell new computers with his own preinstalled Khmer language software that would promote digital literacy in rural areas where access to computers remains limited. According to Sela’s cost scenario, the computers could be sold for as little as $300 per unit.

“In the past, when we have a new business idea, we do not have enough money to start a venture, so initiatives die,” he said.

“Now, if we qualify, we might find the capital support to survive.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Would you like fries with that? US burger chain makes Phnom Penh debut

    California-based The Habit Burger Grill restaurant chain is all set to serve up a delicious array of charbroiled burgers and sides at its newest international location in the centre of Phnom Penh. The Habit is “renowned for its award-winning Charburgers grilled over an open flame,

  • Banteay Meanchey flood victims receive aid

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday provided aid to more than 10,000 families affected by flooding in Banteay Meanchey province’s Mongkol Borei district and offered his condolences to the 18 victims who drowned in the province over the past week. He said flooding had occured in

  • Angkor provides ‘valuable’ water storage

    The Apsara National Authority (ANA) has stored millions of cubic metres of water at reservoirs in the Angkor area after Cambodia experienced a series of rainstorms over the last few days. The storing of the water, besides serving temple conservation, will also be used to

  • PM urges caution as Polish man tests positive for Covid

    The Ministry of Health on Wednesday reported that a 47-year-old Polish man tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving in Cambodia on Monday. There are a total of six Covid-19 patients currently in the country, all of whom are being treated at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital

  • Banteay Meanchey floods kill one more as death toll reaches 15

    As floodwaters start to recede in Pursat, Battambang and Pailin provinces and Phnom Penh, Banteay Meanchey continues to bear the brunt as one more person was killed on Monday, bringing the total number of flood-related deaths to 15 in the province this month. Banteay Meanchey provincial

  • Serving coffee with a side of robots

    The eye-catching glass building surrounded by greenery at the intersection of Streets 371 and 2002 in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district is more than just another coffee shop where you can while away a few hours. UrHobby House cafe is filled with robots and characters from