Geeks in Cambodia has always been a huge supporter of Technovation Cambodia and its inspiring mission of encouraging young girls to start their tech entrepreneurial journeys through education.
To show our support for their cause, we have been crafting articles annually about this programme that presents mentorship and a technology entrepreneurship competition to participating girls. But for the first time, we were given the great opportunity to hear firsthand of a team’s experience.
That’s right – Geeks in Cambodia has secured an exclusive interview with Technovation Cambodia 2017’s 1st place winner of the senior division: Girls for 2Morrow!
Made up of five students from Preah Sisowath High School-NGS (Public), this team of girls of different grades were grouped together and developed an app that aims to provide affordable online resources to assist student’s education. Their app, dubbed V-Ed Kh, was created as a solution to Cambodia’s scarce educational resources online.
With a belief that education makes a better tomorrow, find out more about their app and Technovation experiences in our interview with Chin Viriya (V), Mom Sokanyta (S), Sar Keokanitha (K) and Meung ChanSomanita (C), the budding entrepreneurs behind V-Ed Kh
The following interview has been edited for clarity, length and flow.
Could you please tell us more about your app?
V: Our app is a kind of e-learning platform where teachers can upload videos and images to share their knowledge with students. Students can also go into our app to learn. We charge money from the students and give it to the teachers, which is the flow of business. It helps ease the financial burden of students paying the bills of extra classes. Usually, we spend a lot of money, maybe $10, for extra classes every month. But with our app, we only charge one-third of that price.
What were your experiences like, participating in the workshops, being under mentorship, and then finally pitching at the Technovation event?
C: After joining Technovation, I feel that it is a bittersweet event. We went through both bitter events and sweet events. We are all simple high school students and have never been involved in technology before. So the competition was very new to us. But after joining the competition, my team and I learnt how to work with others of different backgrounds. Moreover, I think our team also put in a lot of our time and effort into it because every Sunday, we spend 3 to 5 hours studying coding and planning our business plans. And those things are not easy at all. We are simply high school students after all, and it was very hard for us.
What do you think made your innovation stand out from the rest, allowing your team to come out as the winner?
V: Our uniqueness is, first of all, our team spirit. We learn and try very hard, doubly hard even, to make this project work. As she (C) mentioned, we don’t have any experience in coding or crafting business plans since we are only high school students. It was really challenging for us but we worked extremely hard. We chose the theme education because we think that education is an important factor that can change the world and our country so it is a really interesting theme. There were also other teams that chose education but I think what made us stand out from others is that we try to release our core features as coding, which is not what everyone can do. We worked extremely hard to learn and implement it; we searched Google, YouTube and other resources to learn how to code. We also have a special element where we reduce the money that students spend. Also, we were very committed to do it, so that was our uniqueness.
Did you think that the hardest part of this competition was coding?
V: Yes, but the business plan was also difficult. To be honest, we redid our business plan over 20 times because we needed to correct it and make it more similar to professional business plans. This occurred because we’ve never written a business plan. We had many questions: “How can we have ideas and predictions? How do we target?” But we learnt step by step, and although we made a lot of mistakes, we had training from our mentor, which allowed us to improve it one step at a time.
What was the biggest takeaway for you winning this event?
S: Well, our biggest takeaway from this event was winning the first place in the Technovation event. Aside from that, my team members and I didn’t know each other beforehand. We had to work with each other despite not knowing each other and not knowing how to craft a business plan. We were just high school students and didn’t know what to do, but after joining Technovation, they taught us a lot. We acquired a lot of experience. And as she (V) said, coding was the hardest, but it was something we had to do. However, after creating this app, I’m sure that we can develop our country’s education and we can show that girls can create an app by themselves too.
What are some future plans for your innovation?
K: For our future plans, we plan to propose partnerships with the Ministry of Education, EZECOM or Smart because with their support we are able to ensure the sustainability of our innovation in terms of business and quality. Additionally, our app is an e-learning platform where students and teachers can post and learn things on our app. But in the future, we plan to include more materials related to soft skills because we see them as an essentials needed in every job field. Our ultimate goal is to make our app the biggest, global e-learning platform where students and teachers across every country can learn and share their knowledge, similar to overseas exchange studies, no matter where they are.
That sounds like a great goal to have!
K: Yes, but it is hard to achieve that as we have to think about the financing and hiring professional staff. We are still facing many problems that we have yet to solve and we couldn’t have solved it without our sponsor. It is important that we carry on to seek partnerships.
How far in are you in the development of your app to reach this goal?
K: For now, the app is mostly catered for the Cambodian national students. It has yet to spread out to other countries. That is why we plan to expand it worldwide, but in order to do so, we have to plan our finances first.
What are some advice or words of encouragement that you would like to share with aspiring female entrepreneurs in Cambodia?
V: I really like that question and it is something I have thought about since I was a kid. We know that everyone has their own dreams and they are chasing their own dreams. Like pig chasing food! (Laughs) So you have to be confident on your way there no matter how hard or long it will take you. Without confidence, we would not be able to go to the stage and speak. To be honest, we were so fearful of the stage and before the presentation we were really, really scared. But because of confidence and our belief in ourselves that we can do it, we were able to do it. Fear is the biggest obstacle for everyone, especially in public speaking, so you have to believe in yourself. Then, everyone will believe in you.
Also, what the judges said that day is something I will always remember. They said we have to market higher, target higher, and aim higher. Like a quote once said, “If you aim for the moon, even if you don’t reach it, you’ll land in the stars.” It is about how you think. If you think big, dream big, then go for it!
That concludes our energetic interview with these passionate girls. Simply sitting down with them during the interview, I could feel their energy and zeal towards their app and innovation. It is certainly heartwarming to see young girls chasing their dreams, and are given the opportunity to do so through programmes like Technovation that nurtures them from the very beginning, equipping them with essential foundational skills.
This interview was also a reminder to myself that everyone, no matter age or gender, has the potential and ability to innovate and make a difference to their community. Hopefully, it was just as inspiring for you too.
Stay locked to Geeks in Cambodia for more exclusive content! And here’s a little secret for sticking through this entire article – this isn’t the end of interviews from Technovation that we have lined up, so look forward to more coming your way.
For more information on the V-Ed Kh app, watch their pitching video here: