It has been a long journey for the 15 SmartStart teams as they prepare to compete for Smart Axiata’s 2018 top prize. In the final push before the June 9 final pitch event, 60 participants learnt the fundamentals of a tech business at the SmartStart Technopreneur Camp in Battambang City.

The week-long boot camp kicked off with a talk on the Fourth Industrial Revolution – or the modern rise of digital technology – to help the teams better understand global tech trends that directly shapes the tech-world today. Reaksmey Kevin, founder of H2E Tech, gave insights into digitalising Battambang’s water distribution systems, and future plans of developing the city. Participants learnt the importance of market research and designing solutions that fit the needed of targeted consumers. The night ended with individual personality tests that established effective communication between teammates.

Day 2 started off bright and early with a session on the Customer Journey, after which participants better understood the importance of user experience and how the interface of a product or service can be greatly advantageous to a successful startup. Sokhema Nara from Teach for Cambodia, an NGO that expands educational opportunities for all kids by enlisting future leaders in the effort, gave a motivational talk about challenging oneself and stepping out of one’s comfort zone, before ending the day with Chhunny, a Meditation & Leadership Coach, on building a high performing team by supporting one another’s development.

Day 3 was much more hands-on. Participants took all the knowledge that they had learnt over the past 2 days onto the streets and interviewed potential consumers; a daunting and new experience for many, but also a fulfilling one! Teams came back with compelling feedback and pivoted their business ideas to the needs of consumers. The afternoon was filled with an insightful session on Marketing & Partnership where teams interacted with potential partners and shaped their business model accordingly.

Day 4 focused on the final aspect of business. Teams were introduced to Finance Forecasting, where they uncovered the number of customers needed for their business plan to function and their ideas to break even. Vannakpanha Mao, Co-founder of Focuz Solutions, a tech startup company that provides innovative solutions to accelerate businesses in a timely and affordable manner, shared his experience of nurturing a startup in Cambodia followed by an exploration of the 21st Century Leadership. The day ended with equipping teams with better presentational skills to help them curate their pitches in order to leave lasting impressions on the judges on June 9.

After the intense 4 days of learning and working, the final day was rather more relaxed, with the teams having the opportunity to tour local tourism spots including the bamboo train, bat caves, and Phnom Banan. The day ended with facilitators Melanie and Mokol, and Meditation and Leadership coach Chhunny, leading everyone in a debrief and final message.

“During the bootcamp I absorbed a lot of new knowledge I never knew before, and got to put this into practice by doing surveys and preparing my business. But it gave me more than knowledge of business and leadership, but also the knowledge of making new friends as well,” said Vireak Kunthy from Haystome, a tech startup team taking part in the SmartStart, which hopes to create opportunities for local artists by connecting them directly with tourists.

To meet the teams at SmartStart pitching day on Saturday, 9th June, put the date in your calendar and come listen to their pitches at the Sunway Hotel, in Phnom Penh.