Interview with The Square Bracket: Runner up for Technovation Cambodia 2017’s Senior Division.

Geeks in Cambodia had the wonderful opportunity to meet with yet another Technovation Cambodia team, The Square Bracket!

Comprising of three passionate girls of different grades, and even nationalities, their app called TeachersNearMe is as its name implies. Dedicated to connecting youths to classes related to soft skills like languages and music, they have humorously dubbed it as an educational version of Tinder.

This team of girls went through 12 weeks of mentorship for Technovation Cambodia, which included using their weekends to learn new tech and business skills. Their hard work paid off in the National Pitch, where they came out as the runner ups for Technovation Cambodia 2017’s Senior Division.

Find out more about the girls Mia Randrianasoavina (M), Kelly Tam (K), Socheneath Kong (S) from CIA First International School in our interview with them below:

The following interview has been edited for clarity, length and flow.

Can you please tell us more about your app?

K: Basically, we want to connect people with our app. Users can use our app to find classes, teachers and tutors so that they can learn something new.

M: As mentioned on our Technovation website, it’s like Tinder but for education! It basically connects students and teachers with each other so that they can find time to learn something new.

S: It is a more efficient way to find outside tutoring classes, especially if you have other interests that the school doesn’t offer. For example, extra art classes or music classes.

What was the experience like participating in workshops, being under mentorship, and finally pitching at the national pitch event?

K: It was a fun experience because I, for one, have never done it before.

M: For me too. Although, it was weird to go to school on a Saturday compared to on a normal school day.

K: But we really did get closer with other people and our mentors, because they are mentoring us outside of normal classes. It was really fun!

How about pitching? How was it like for you?

K: Nervous… Very nervous. But our mentors really helped us a lot. At first, we were a mess, but one of our mentors gave us really good pointers which were what helped us improve our app.

M: They also helped with our pitching. We actually got to the point where we didn’t have to look at our slides anymore. We could rehearse without it because we remembered it.

What do you think made your innovation stand out from the rest?

K: Our idea is not super original, but it is something that has been proven to work and is useful. Also, we think a lot of people can relate to it because in Cambodia, it is hard for people to find classes outside of school. So we think that our app is relevant to many.

M: That is also why we think it is interesting to people! And even to a couple of our judges, if I remember correctly.

What was your biggest takeaway from the event?

M: As the business planner, I got to know more about the basic things business people actually do for a living. I know what revenue is now, for example. (Laughs) As well as stocks, marketing, and more. It was a really good experience! I think I’ll remember them when I grow up.

K: For me, it was not giving up. Through the project, we went through a lot of hardship and there were so many times that I wanted to give up. But I was the one who got the team together, so I feel that since I started it and I wanted to finish it. I didn’t want to give up.

S: For me, it was hard as well because I was not used to the extra things to do. For example, coding. I’m not used to block coding, which was what we used to make the app, so that was a takeaway for me. I didn’t exactly like it (laughs). But it was okay in the end!

Do you have any future plans for your innovation?

M: Our mum asks us that… (Laughs)

K: Yeah she wants us to continue! But we are mentally exhausted and we also have other things to do in high school.

M: Maybe after graduation.

How about advancing your app? Aside from just soft skills, do you have plans to provide classes on hard skills or any other ideas for your app?

M: Aside from languages and music, we did think about expanding.

S: Actually, our ideas were really big but we had to make it smaller. So maybe in the future when we get all the smaller stuff down, we can expand again. What our mentors told us was that our ideas were too broad for a beginning stage.

What were some of these bigger ideas that you guys had to take away?

M: Cooking, life skills, and coding. Also, arts such as dancing and painting. Mainly stuff you like to do outside of school.

What are some words of advice or encouragement that you would like to share with aspiring young female entrepreneurs like yourselves?

K: There was something that one of the judges told us that really stuck to me. He said to find more geeks and nerds, and to continue doing something until you can’t do it anymore. Until it reaches a point where it is really good to the point where there is nothing else you can do for it anymore. He also told us to not be afraid to drop stuff.

What was the most memorable part of this journey for you guys?

S: For me, it was getting together and discussing the app. Because I’m interested in designing, so I really like that part. When we created how our app will look like, it made it feel more real. It makes you want to envision what it will be like. So I really liked that.

K: For me, it was definitely the pitch. We were so nervous but after we went up, it was better than expected and we felt really good afterwards. Our mentors were there to support us, which was nice!

M: For me it would be the pitch, but also the 12 weeks. The pitch especially, because we actually got to stand in front of a lot of people and they looked at us perform our pitch. The judges were actually listening to us, which was really interesting. That was the most memorable part for me.

What made you guys want to participate in this in the first place?

M: I was curious. Because he (their mentor) convinced us! He had a thing where he told us what it was about and he convinced us to go. At first, we only wanted to check it out, but it seemed really interesting and then when we met our teammates, we felt that we should just go for it!

That concludes our fun interview with The Square Bracket that was not short of laughter and zeal. In that half hour we had, their bubbly personalities really shone and made us realize that events such as Technovation have the ability to dramatically impact the lives of various other girls like them in Cambodia.

It was certainly a memorable interview for us, and their experience in Technovation must have been just as memorable for them as well.

For more information on the ‘EdTech Tinder App’ TeachersNearMe, check out their pitching video here: