Last year, we got the opportunity to interview three of the SmartStart’s Top 5, comprising of very inspiring winners such as Prestige Gift, Spare and Go Soccer and we got to hear their very own SmartStart journeys. For this instalment, we at Geeks at Cambodia got the chance to chat with Ligo and hear them share about how their unique journey has been thus far.
The Ligo Educational Application is a mixed platform mobile app where users, who are not native to Cambodia, can basically learn how to speak Khmer and other languages fluently through repeating phonics and sounds. The three main features encapsulated in the mobile app include learning, discovering, as well as the Dos and Don’ts.
During this interview, the Ligo team shared more with us about their journey as a team, the challenges they’ve faced during their journey to success, how they feel about being amongst the top 5 winners of the SmartStart Young Innovator Programme and more about their recent BETA application launch.
The following interview has been edited for clarity, length and flow.
What inspired your team to come up with such an idea?
Ligo (L): There are two reasons as to why we were inspired to start with this idea. The first one was when we went onto the (Google Play and Apple App) stores, we realised that the existing applications that teach foreigners how to speak Khmer are not of quality to help them learn (effectively). The other thing is we worked with foreigners when we went for workshops and they’ve asked me about learning Khmer. We did not have anything to recommend them, so that’s why we decided to do it ourselves!
What makes your innovation stand out from what is currently found in the market?
L: We can say that the unique feature in our application is implementing learning through conversation. We teach foreigners by repeating sounds as a conversation. Also, we provide the Dos and Don’ts, which is all about the Khmer culture.
The competition started with 30 teams and now you’re part of the top 5, how has the experience been like so far?
L: It was a bit tough in the beginning and our team did not expect to be chosen to be part of the top 5, but we did not gave up and we always tried our best to achieve it. At that time, we did not see much results, but we always remembered to try our best and we eventually got it!
How is the incubator phase different from the first few phases?
L: To be honest, it was much more difficult because at first, we just had to come up with an idea and do the prototype, prepare presentation slides; but in this incubation phase, everything becomes a real business. So, now if we have any problems like team building or any provided tasks, everyone has to do either a market research or a survey; (because everything has to be based on facts to work).
Just recently on the 22nd of December, you released the Beta Version of your application! Can you please elaborate more about the process behind it?
L: The BETA version is made for testing the app with real users, so we can gain constructive feedback from our potential customers. So far, people have told us that they really like the app and it is unique from other apps in the market, making us feel so happy! We just feel so excited to show our app’s functions to (those in living in Cambodia).
Regarding the challenges, creating the content catered to foreigners was one of them. We are just students, so we didn’t really know how to set-up the right content specifically for them to help them learn.
Secondly, developing the app to be more useful and professional was a challenge. We had to learn more professional skills when it came to coding, creating design interfaces and designing user experience to allow our users to use our app more easily. When it came to certain technical aspects, we did not know how to go about them as we have not done it before. Hence, this made us move slowly at times, slowing us from achieving our goal.
Throughout the process, we faced people constantly telling us that it won’t work or it does not seem professional or it might even fail in the market. We definitely felt very hopeless sometimes and our mentors made us make changes again and again. However, now we are testing our app with the real users and hearing their good comments, it is (very worth it).
I understand that your team is also comprised of University students and it may get difficult to cope sometimes, so what other challenges did you face along the your journey?
L: It can be quite difficult because we need to prioritise the time we spend on both (our studies and the startup) and we do our best to create a fixed schedule to accommodate to both. Furthermore, we are all from different universities; so it can be a bit hard to find a common time to meet up. But either way, we have to make sure to at least meet up once a month for the business.
The most difficult time for us was the first time we learn about the startup processes. When our mentor provided us the capital and more information, we were completely lost as we never did this before and we did not know anything. So, we had to set aside time to learn more about it.
What is the biggest takeaway or lesson from this SmartStart Programme as of now?
L: Learning how to control a team and how to go about the startup process was definitely one of the biggest takeaways. We now have a better understanding of the first steps and next steps to take. Finances wise, we learnt how to do things such as cash flow as well; which is very useful.
We also learnt more about the entrepreneur journey because being an entrepreneur is not easy and building up a startup business is not any easier. There are many challenges that we cannot inevitably avoid, so we learn how to overcome them.
Moving forward, in these 6 months, are there any ways you are further planning to improve your innovation?
L: Yes! Our plans include implementing the feedback from the users of the app as quickly as possible and after that, we hope to include more features to attract more users and make them enjoy using our app. We hope to create even more professional content as well.
What you are doing now is definitely something very inspiring to other young innovators, what are some words of encouragement you can give to them?
L: Don’t give up! During our startup journey, it was definitely not easy as we planned. Before starting, we did not expect it to be so hard; but when we actually got to doing it, we faced many problems sometimes, but really don’t give up and keep doing what you are doing!
Be confident with your business too! Many people have said that our business will fail because it is not professional enough or cool enough, so there are times where we just want to drop the idea completely. However, we just keep in mind that we have to keep on going on and not back down. Just keep on going on!
Also, have a big dream, then start to make it a reality by joining competitions, like SmartStart, because from there, you get to know what are your strengths and weaknesses, as well as learn more about all aspects of starting a business. Get out of your comfort zone and learn more!
From the interview itself, we could see how the Ligo Team was definitely oozing with drive and enthusiasm and they clearly took pride in their work! We at Geeks In Cambodia wish them all the best in their BETA stage and hope that they gain all the relevant insights needed for their quest to impart knowledge in the Khmer Language. For more information on Ligo, you can visit their Facebook page here or website here. If you want to try your hand at the app yourself, you can download it as well here.
If you want to keep up with Ligo and the rest of the SmartStart teams throughout their incubation journey too, follow Impact Hub’s Facebook page to get more updates or check out the Smart for Cambodia Facebook Page. Also, don’t forget to stay tuned on Geeks in Cambodia because we will be ending off our SmartStart Interviews with one very last exciting instalment!