A young Cambodian’s business idea to use technology to help couples plan for their big day led to the creation of a new smartphone app that taps into the Kingdom’s booming wedding industry.
In June 2014 Pheng Sopeak Neary was reading an article in the business section of The Post about Cambodia’s thriving wedding business when an idea struck her.
“The article said that in 2013 alone, there were about 12,000 weddings in Phnom Penh,” she recalls. “It also mentioned that more than 20 percent of Cambodian population was aged between 15 to 24 years old. So I thought, surely any business that has anything to do with weddings must have a huge market.”
Neary, then an 18-year-old intern at a local web and mobile development company, began thinking of ways to tap into that market.
The company she worked at, Codingate, held meetings every Saturday in which it encouraged its employees and interns to identify specific problems in society and address them using ICT (information and communications technology). The following Saturday, Neary presented her idea: create a smartphone app that helps soon-to-be-married couples plan their wedding.
“In Cambodia, planning a wedding is complicated and exhausting,” she explained. “I’ve noticed so many people having problems managing the budget for their wedding ceremonies or finding suitable and affordable services.”
The idea garnered interest, but it was not until after her internship ended that Neary found the time to pursue it. Working with Chan Vanneth, a young computer technician she met at Codingate, the two developed Weddingate, an online platform to help engaged couples link up with wedding-related service providers, plan budgets and arrange guest lists.
While Weddingate was not the first digital platform in the Kingdom to do this, it was the first to be developed into a smartphone application, and to integrate social media functionality.
By 2017, Neary and Vanneth had created an alpha version and advertising-based revenue plan. The two developers entered Weddingate into Cellcard Lab, a six-month business project competition led by local co-working space Impact Hub and financed by Cambodian telecom operator Cellcard. Their project won third place.
The pair used their $2,000 award to buy equipment and pay the app’s hosting fee on Google Play and Apple Store.
Neary quit her job to focus on the venture, while Vanneth – who was still working at Codingate – felt unable to handle the extra workload and withdrew from the business, leaving Neary to take over the entire project.
However, Neary was not really alone as her former employer at Codingate offered support, providing office space as well as technical and financial assistance.
“It is our mission to promote young people’s business ideas through ICT,” said Sok Sopheakmonkol, CEO and co-founder of Codingate. “We are also delighted with the public good it could bring to the Cambodian people.”
Neary continued to develop Weddingate, ironing out bugs and expanding features. The current version of the website and app allows users to find and contact partner service and product providers, such as caterers, salons and florists. It also incorporates social media functions that engaged couples can use to notify and remind their friends that their big day is approaching, or invite them to the wedding via email and Facebook.
According to Neary, the Weddingate app has been downloaded more than 250 times to run on Android or iOS devices since its launch four months ago.
But development continues. Neary said she plans to include a “Wedding Gift” function where guests can send money to newlyweds using e-payment services such as Wing or PiPay. She also wants to add a “Love Diary” where married couples can jot down their memorable moments, and notifications to remind them of their anniversary and other events. The new functions aim at expanding the app’s utility, she said.
“I don’t want to create an app that people delete the day after their wedding,” she said. “I want Weddingate to be the app that people keep on their phone because it represents a real commitment in love.”