Asking DoyDoy: interview with founder, Em Chanrithykol

Geeks in Cambodia had the opportunity to talk with the Founder of DoyDoy, Em Chanrithykol. He shared with us all about DoyDoy’s plans, as well as the company’s journey so far in the Cambodian startup ecosystem.

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

Hi Chanrithykol, nice to meet you, let’s start off with an easy question. What is DoyDoy?

Chanrithykol (C): DoyDoy is a Cambodian-based startup that has developed construction toys for entertainment and educational purposes. Our startup’s flagship product consists of colourful interlocking 3D printed connectors and straws. DoyDoy pieces can be connected in many ways to construct objects such as buildings, helicopters and any other geometry shapes. Our product can be seen as an engaging educational toy that focuses on promoting engineering through fun play to support STEM learning.

Why did you start DoyDoy?

C: In 2015, I took  a one year break from my studies to volunteer as a teacher in schools in the provinces. I noticed there was an important lack of educational materials given to the children in comparison to kids schooled in the capital. I believe that this insufficiency of equipment hinders student success and tends to widen the existing gap between the countryside and Phnom Penh when it comes to education. In September 2016, I started DoyDoy on this observation, with the ambition to create a fun and affordable Cambodian-made learning game where kids would improve their creativity, develop problem solving and mathematical thinking.

How has DoyDoy evolved since the beginning?

C: We tried our best to make DoyDoy more eco-friendly and safe for the kids. We are now using Polyactic Acid (PLA) plastic for our 3D-printed connectors, which is derived from renewable resource like corn starch and sugar cane and is better known as “bioplastics.” Additionally, our plastic straws are now made in silicon, a 100% natural and non-toxic material. We have also tripled the size of our pieces to make sure they cannot be ingested by young children. In other words, DoyDoy is now better quality, has more flexibility and durability.

How big is your team? 

C: I started with someone who could help me design the pieces before committing to manufacture. Today there are two more people in the team, specifically dedicated to our communication strategy.

How do you promote DoyDoy and reach out to future customers?

C: We try to invite families to join us during our testing events where mums and dads can experiment our products while having fun with their children, and most importantly give us some valuable feedback on the product itself. We also rely on partnerships with schools that are interested in introducing DoyDoy into their classrooms; we are proud to say that DoyDoy can be found in five schools at the moment with more to come in the upcoming months. Finally, we also got fantastic brand recognition in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem by being selected as Award-winning toy at YoungStartup Award 2017. This has been a huge milestone for us as it helped us strengthen our brand in the local market and reinforce trust in our products from the families.

When you started the company, what were some of the obstacles?

C: Starting a company is not an easy task and I had to crush several barriers at the beginning. Firstly, I needed to figure out how to accommodate my student life while starting-up my company. The second challenge was obviously my young age [Chanrithykol is 22 years old at the time of this interview] that turned out to be sometimes an impediment to seeking partnership or meeting with customers. Finally, starting a company on its own is challenging especially when you don’t have a solid background in business. For this specific reason, I decided to join the Cellcard Lab, a programme that used to be incorporated at Impact Hub which offered us a three-day exposure trip to visit the biggest startup accelerator in SEA and 6 months of co-working space, bringing at last the opportunity to work alongside mentors.

What are your plans for DoyDoy in the future?

C: We want to focus our efforts on the development of the product itself in order to improve kid’s experiences while playing with DoyDoy, and there are many ways of doing it! For example, we would like to fill the spaces in the constructions by creating specific pieces that kids would clip in between the straws and connectors then draw on it. We are also planning to integrate a bit of technology for more advanced constructions. Our long-term vision aims at allowing kids to further customise their creations, greater express their creativity and further push the limits of their imagination, while DoyDoy continues to focus on supporting STEM learning.

Do you have any comments about the start-up scene in the future? 

C: As mentioned earlier, I believe we should give priority to the provinces that still lag behind Phnom Penh in terms of education. Providing more learning content in the Khmer language and strengthening the cooperation with schools and universities are key elements to create a more friendly system for future local startups.

With that, we wish DoyDoy all the best as they today consider to further venture into expanding their market across our national borders, we are sure that we will be seeing even greater things to come! For more information on DoyDoy, head on over to their Facebook page here.

(Edited by Peter Ford)