EPIC Showcase 2017: A Retrospective

EPIC had their first ever showcase last Friday, 18 September from 8.45am to 12pm at Raintree; featuring various engaging talks about EPIC, their shortlisted 5 teams and other topics related to social innovation!

The event kicked off with 2 keynote remarks by USAID Cambodia’s Deputy Mission Director, Ms. Veena Reddy, and His Excellency Mr. Chek Lim, Deputy General Director of Youth, Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports; who expressed their deep appreciation for the overwhelming support for the EPIC programme and promised their continued support for aspiring youth entrepreneurs.

Kate Heuisler from Development Innovations continued the programme by commending the 5 teams who have been extremely passionate and enthusiastic in defining their own path based on their dreams, despite it not being an easy route.

The EPIC Showcase served as an opportunity to take a look back on the past 9 months of the programme and see how they can further grow for the next edition of the programme too. As mentioned by Impact Hub’s Program and Innovation Director, Laura Smitheman, EPIC will be especially looking for startups revolving around Agriculture and Education the next round. This comes in line with their desire in joining the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to increase the value of the programme.

Maintaining the same format but re-imagined in a new and innovative way, the programme is planned to be compressed into half a year rather than 1 year, with participants expected to dedicate at least 12 hours per week and have a strong, clearly-defined idea with a basic, but validated prototype.

Future plans of expanding the EPIC programme are also in the talks. Currently, they have formed a regional programme that contains various materials such as a Playbook that acts as a toolkit to provide anyone with the information to start their own incubators, a support programme that features one-on-one coaching to support facilitation of incubator programme, a mentors pool where the region’s best minds can provide high level support, a website to promote the activities of all regional EPIC programmes and incubated ventures and finally, a platform which will act a central point of sharing amongst EPIC’s facilitating partners in terms of contacts, learning experiences and stories.

Besides that, it is expected that EPIC will be introduced in the Southeast Asian Region, especially in Malaysia, Myanmar and the Philippines by late 2018. This is their aim for their next 3 to 4 years as they plan for this to be a powerful way to make entrepreneurs focus on different SDGs.

Inspiration was also brewing for the aspiring entrepreneurs present at the event with Ganesh Muren, CEO & Founder of Saora Industries, and Pagna Ukthaun, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of WaterSHED Ventures, sharing about their own personal venture stories.

Ganesh Muren shared about  ‘Life as a Social Entrepreneur’, expressing how his childhood background pushed him to give back to rural areas using his water system technology. He went on to advise the participants to always stay grounded and relevant, to keep a positive mindset and to never be afraid of being rejected.

On the other hand, Pagna Ukthaun shared about ‘Marketing to the bottom of the pyramid’ where he talked about the challenges faced when selling products to society’s most underserved communities. He shared stories about how he had to steer away from traditional marketing methods and think innovatively so as to empower those in rural communities to make their own buying decisions and see the necessity of having such products.

The main highlight of the event, however, was definitely the Panel with the 5 selected teams; E House, Eco Fresh Box, Edemy, Rat Hunter and UniQFood, moderated by Pagna Ukthaun. During the panel, the teams were given the opportunity to share their experiences, from the lessons they learnt, challenges faced and advice they give to other aspiring social entrepreneurs.

Exciting Panel Discussion with the 5 EPIC Programme teams
Exciting Panel Discussion with the 5 EPIC Programme teams

Here’s a brief summary of what each of the teams shared:

Created based on one of their team member’s experiences living alone in apartment surrounded by gangs, E House is a platform where females can easily find reliable and accessible information about safe housing at any area in Cambodia. They advise entrepreneurs to also have a strong team because though it may be harder to manage, it ultimately helps to increase the efficiency of work.

The effective vegetable storage product is made from natural materials which is bamboo and burlap that helps poor farmers reduce vegetable wastage. Based on their own experiences balancing their own full time jobs and this project, they said it is important to maintain good relations with the team and shower each other with love to form a strong core. Furthermore,  they said that it is important that the business thinks about the users first and be open to change.

  • Edemy

Providing quality english education to Cambodian schools using a blended approach of combining offline technology with local teachers, this team shared about their fears and plans for future scaling. They mentioned about how these rural areas are very resource-restrained, both in terms of human resource and logistics, but they learnt to slowly think of ways to work around it. They ended off with advising participants to take their time when it comes to following your passion.

As an innovative solution to control pest control for farmers, one of the main challenges this team faced was not understanding the situation entirely, in terms of not knowing that there were actually many different species of rats around. Through collaboration with the farmers themselves, they advised aspiring entrepreneurs to also listen to the customers and accept new ideas that come their way as that is how they can get new inspiration for their products.

  • UniQ Food

Focused on developing food processing technologies that can be transferred to family-based and SME food suppliers, this team shared their experiences of rethinking their business model following the market’s needs, showing the need to be flexible and tailor their services to each customer as they all have different needs. They also encouraged the audience by telling them to never give up and to take action on their ideas.

You can watch the full video of the panel discussion with the amazing top 5 teams here.

The event ended off with an interesting talk titled ‘Financing Impact – The role of impact investing in scaling social ventures’ by Satoko Kono, President of ARUN. The talk helped to give more insight on how impact investment is providing more opportunities to harness entrepreneurship and capital markets to drive social improvement.

This EPIC Showcase was certainly a jam-packed morning of inspiration and knowledge and we at Geeks in Cambodia are looking forward to seeing how these projects further unfold! If you are interested in attending events like these and supporting the 5 EPIC teams on the last leg of their entrepreneurship journey to the epic finale, you can keep updated with EPIC’s Facebook page here. And if you are interested in participating in the next edition of the EPIC programme, do visit their website here to get more details on their upcoming activities.