Kokopon is a new startup founded by three of Cambodia’s leading female entrepreneurs Sokneang Neng, Treng KuyChheng, and Bunnary Bour.
The trio wanted to catalyze the revolution of Cambodian women entering the tech sector. As the country’s digital landscape continues to develop, Kokopon was envisioned not just to offer services to Cambodians, but also to demonstrate successful business startups to women in Cambodia.
At its heart, Kokopon helps businesses promote themselves by offering discounts to customers. As the company enters the initial stages of their pilot, Geeks In Cambodia sat down with the three founders to better understand how their business empowers women in tech, and the challenges and successes they have faced so far.
The following interview has been edited for clarity, length and flow.
1. As Kokopon is founded on the idea of women in tech, how do you integrate this into your business model?
Sokneang Neng (SN): We wanted to provide as much experience as possible, so we are providing internship opportunities to female students. Currently, there are two female students that are under our guidance. We are teaching them the basics of managing a business, and nurturing them to be industry ready. Secondly, for our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project, we want to provide scholarships to women outside of Phnom Penh to study STEM subject at university. Lastly, we encourage women to join programmes like those by Development Innovation (DI) to further improve their skills. We are dedicated to using our time and resources to develop women to be business ready.
2. How does the phrase “entrepreneurial spirit” shape and motivate your startup?
SN: For me it means sharing and learning. When we start a business, I’m sharing, KuyChheng is sharing, Bunnary is sharing and we all learn from one another. I share as much of what I know as I can. It also means setting your heart to getting something done. No matter how stressful or late it is, I make sure I get my work done. Lastly, entrepreneurial spirit also means transparency; I believe in that and I try to be as transparent as I can.
KuyChheng (KC): To me it is also about how we scale up our business. Lots of people are running a business, but almost 80% of people don’t know how to scale it up. It takes time to pilot the idea, frame the goal and then aim for success. It is not just a dream on the cloud.
Bunnary Bour (BB): Entrepreneurial spirit to me is sharing and helping one another to better face the challenge of uncertainty and fear for women in business. We are young and this is a startup. Along the way, there will undoubtedly be more challenges but we are willing to try and solve them together.
3. How do you deal with the uncertainty, doubts and fears?
SN: Through having countless of meetings, I could possibly say that we are startup that has the most meetings! Our meetings are held to build and solve problems. Whether you are a leader or team member, you need to talk straight, express yourself and your idea.
4. What is a great victory and challenge with Kokopon that you have faced?
KC: I think the greatest challenge would be communication. As we are a startup with many different projects, we need to take the time to learn how to communicate. Communicating has helped us visualise our goal and tie it to our business model with a lot of discussion along the way.
SN: The greatest victory would be having the perfect team, like having the right people at the right place. We have expertise in all the different aspects of building Kokopon and everyone is good at what they do. This has led us to our second biggest victory which is piloting Kokopon.
KC: Recently we have signed an MoU with Pipay. Even as a startup we have a partnership with Pi Pay and signing contracts even before entering the market!
5. What are the three most important lessons that you have learnt at Kokopon?
BB: I have only been at Kokopon for around a month, but there are a lot of things I have already learnt from the team, including the fact that with the right team and right people to go to when you have an issue, you can face anything.
KC: Planning. If you don’t plan ahead of anything, everything is going to be very messy. It doesn’t matter if it is a small or big project, planning is still very important, whether you are a startup or an established business.
SN: To never give up. No matter how much I want to give up or how much stress I have faced or how bad it might be, I never give up. This is because of the people around me to cheer me up and that is the most important.
6. What do you hope to see in the women entrepreneur scene say 5 years down the road?
KC: I would like to see more women using technology to scale their business.
BB: I want to see more women in business, especially in technology. Compared to men, women are not as involved in both technology and business.
SN: I have encountered so many women doing business but they are still more into family. They are not brave enough to register at the ministry or represent themself as a business or an entrepreneur yet. So I hope to see more entrepreneurship and showcase of ability by registering at the ministry. This will also bridge the gap of entrepreneurship in women and men, I would like to see more equality.
7. Lastly, what advice would you give aspiring women entrepreneurs?
KC: First thing would be to build their skill and income. You can build your skill through knowledge, education and experience. Once you have the skill, you will be able to build up your business and scale it up. There, you will know if whether your business idea would work. Have a steady income and do not start your business using your savings.
SN: For me I would say no matter how smart, brave or brilliant you are, have a mentor. I have learnt a lot of things from mine, and without her I would not have been able to achieve anything.
BB: Do something that reaches your goal. Two questions you should always ask yourself is “what am I doing now?” and “why am I doing it?”. Once you have a clear goal, you will have a powerful drive to move forward.
From everyone at Geeks In Cambodia, we would like to wish Kokopon the very best as they continue to be role models to women entrepreneurs in Cambodia. We are excited for Kokopon’s pilot programme, be sure to keep your eyes peeled! Read more about another Leading Women Entrepreneur of Cambodia, Lida Loem from SHE Investments here.