Five teams of young Cambodian digital entrepreneurs selected for shot at top SmartStart prize of 10,000 USD

After months of bootcamps, hackathons and online learning, five teams have been selected to go through to the final phase of the SmartStart Young Innovator Program – now in its fourth edition – and will have the chance to win the top prize of 10,000 USD and a fully sponsored trip to a regional technology conference.

The SmartStart Young Innovator Program, initiated by Smart Axiata in collaboration with Impact Hub Phnom Penh, is Cambodia’s leading digital talent development program which identifies and nurtures the Kingdom’s future leaders in digital entrepreneurship. The program is part of Smart’s commitment to the Capacity Building Research and Development Fund, initiated by the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications and Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.

The five business ideas selected to go through to the Grand Final Pitch are:

Adero – a smart-moving advertisement system that allows marketers to customize their ads’ zone, duration and time of day.

FlexFloc – an IoT solution that sends fish farmers phone updates and alerts on their water quantity and quality through the use of sensors and a biofloc system.

iCompost – a smart waste-recycling machine that transforms daily food waste into nutrient-rich compost to feed indoor and outdoor plants.

KELA – a platform that allows users to search for sports venues, teammates and opponents close to their current location.

Your Space – a platform that provides a peer-to-peer parking network in a mobile application where users can register their empty spots and turn them into parking places, helping to reduce unorganized on-street parking.

“I’ve experienced a lot of different things and met many different people in the past three months. However, hearing the announcement that our team has made it to the next round is the greatest by far. My team and I can’t wait to turn our business goals and mission into a reality,” said Khen Pheakdey, team member of FlexFloc.

“These five teams going through to the final round have all shown drive, passion and determination to get their ideas off the drawing board and into good shape as investable business plans. It will be an exciting final phase ahead of the Grand Final Pitch towards the end of the year, and we wish them all the best of luck,” said Smart Axiata Chief Digital Services Officer Anthony Perkins.

This year’s SmartStart Young Innovator Program Cycle 4 started back in May with the “Hatch”, where 120 participants delivered a short elevator pitch of their digital business idea to a panel of expert judges.

From these 120 participants, the judges selected 25 of the best ideas to go through to the “Digithon”, an intensive learning phase where the young digital entrepreneurs delved deep into the up-and-coming Internet of Things (IoT) technology and the potential it has to revolutionize daily life and entrepreneurship.

The 25 teams then sought out a real-life challenge to which they presented possible solutions that could be solved by IoT technology. This phase saw the 25 teams whittled down to 15.

Having gone through the Digithon, the 15 teams entered the “Technopreneurship Challenge”. During six days of intensive work over three weekends, they built on their ideas and created a pitch for a panel of judges who selected five teams to progress this past weekend.
The judges were Anthony Perkins, Chief Digital Services Officer of Smart Axiata; Nipoan Chheng-Chavigny, Managing Director of Impact Hub Phnom Penh; Natalja Rodoinova, Managing Director of IT Academy STEP Cambodia; David Shelters, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Mekong Strategic Partners; and Buntha Ly, Chief Technology Officer of Morakot Technology.

“Another year, another set of success stories as SmartStart continues to grow and demonstrate how Cambodia is full of young, dynamic minds. The six-month incubation program is not a challenge but an opportunity for each of the five teams to grow and develop their promising capabilities. With a future full of innovative digital technologies, the most promising team will get the chance to go to Singapore and be inspired by the best tech companies in the world,” said Nipoan Chheng-Chavigny, managing director of Impact Hub Phnom Penh.

All five teams will receive a three-month paid internship at a leading technology company in Cambodia, as well as mentorship and coaching from digital experts at Smart Axiata and Impact Hub Phnom Penh.

The winning team, which will be selected at the Grand Final Pitch in December, will receive the 10,000 USD cash prize and be invited to a regional tech conference next year.

Established in 2017, the SmartStart Young Innovator Program enables Cambodian university students to launch digital startups by offering unique learning experiences through mentorships and financial support. SmartStart has expanded to provide entrepreneurial education to more young Cambodians and has impacted about a thousand students.