The Bright Ideas Of Cambodia’s First Startup Weekend Fintech

Here at Geeks in Cambodia, we are all about the unearthed opportunities of entrepreneurship and startups, the limitless potential of Cambodia’s tech scene and exploring the bridge between fascinating innovations and realistic production.

Now, imagine how delighted we were when we caught news about an entire weekend dedicated to startups solving real world problems through technology – from the ideation process to prototyping, developing and pitching to a board of experienced members in the field.

Sounds like something that is too good to be true? Absolutely not, because that’s exactly what Startup Weekend (SW) FinTech 2017, entirely led by volunteer community leaders, brought to the Kingdom from the 3rd to 5th February.

A first Startup Weekend to focus on fintech in Cambodia, this event had a great turn out of 45 brilliant participants from both financial and non-financial backgrounds. The inclusion of individuals without financial or banking background was stressed upon when SW FinTech opened for sign-ups to provide an equal opportunity for all to try their hand (or minds in this matter) in this niche, and it is one of the many details that we greatly appreciated.

The intense weekend started with 60-second pitches on Friday night and finalists chosen were split into the six teams based on the best and most viable concepts. Teams then spent Saturday and Sunday validating their ideas by conversing with users, designing prototypes and business plans under the mentorship of 11 experts ranging from fintech startups, banking, design, technology and more. The myriad of experts included Chankiriroth Sim, the founder of free online accounting software for SMEs, Banhji, and Celia Boyd, the founder of 369 Café and SHE Investments.

Participants underwent the fierce process of completing prototypes, business plans and validating ideas in just 2 days. 

The best part about the event’s innovative concept was the coming together of passionate minds brainstorming about the makings of a product to solve real, financial problems. Many were first-timers and a few others were jumpers from various startups or simply had the curiousity and drive to learn what fintech startup is all about.

The challenging 54 hours ended with a pitch to the panel of four expert judges, of which included Swapnil Deshmukh, the head of Virtual Banking and Payments in Maybank Cambodia and Mike Gartner, COO at Sabay Digital Corporation.

These were the 6 ideas pitched by the team:

  1. SnapCash – A loaning service mobile app that offers fast loan processing services
  2. Mochay – A retail payment mobile app that utilises QR codes for order proceessing
  3. Angkor Biz Pool – A fast and convenient taxation platform to help businesses comply to Cambodia’s tax regulation.
  4. Fi-Cleanergy – Offers financial solutions which provide clean energy for businesses
  5. Pikgy – A Khmer financial literacy app that provides a gamified saving scheme
  6. DCS / Debt Clearing System – An online platform for individuals or businesses to pay off their debts to banks or its customers through the use of their expertise and services.

The toughest hurdle these teams had to cross was the validation of ideas to make them ready for the market with consumers’ needs in mind and they felt that 54 hours were simply not enough, especially since a majority of the public could not be reached during the weekends.

Even to the judges, the 3 minutes allocated for question and answer after pitching was too short of a time for them to clarify their doubts about crucial information such as the business model and prototype details.

However, despite the shortcomings (pun intended), it is undeniable that the overall experience has been positive and served as an educational experience for the participants, with friends made and fintech community growing.

Ultimately, Angkor Biz Pool came through as the winner, but we do not doubt that the judges had a hard time in making their choice amongst the 6, which were all fantastic ideas that provided a viable solution to real financial problems.

Melissa Garcier, the organiser of this event, hopes that such fintech-centred startup events would encourage young entrepreneurs to grow the fintech scene in Cambodia. She also hopes to see big banks transitioning to online banking and providing quick and consumer-friendly loaning services, and is excited to see digital “tong-tin” make saving fun and hassle-free for everyone.

Geeks in Cambodia agrees wholeheartedly, and would definitely like to see such challenging but fruitful events become frequent not just in fintech, but in all areas of the budding tech scene here.