Phnom Penh, 9th June 2019: The annual SmartStart Young Innovator Program has chosen the next batch of winners from a plethora of ideas at the Cycle 3 Final Pitch. Five teams were each granted 5,000 USD and an opportunity to join a 6-month incubator program with Impact Hub Phnom Penh after impressing judges with their business models, digital solutions and teamwork at the Cambodia-Korea Cooperation Center.

This year’s Final Pitch again showcased ideas from the top 15 teams who underwent an intensive 5-day Technopreneurship Challenge at Kampong Cham last month. These teams were selected in April from a pool of 30 teams, consisting of more than 120 participants from 10 universities across Cambodia, following a 2-day Hackathon in Phnom Penh.

During the closing ceremony, both H.E. Dr. Hang Chuon Naron, Minister of Education, Youth and Sport, and H.E. Dr. Kan Channmeta, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications shared their delight at how SmartStart has grown since its launch in 2017. They encouraged Smart, Impact Hub Phnom Penh and all the ecosystem players to continue its efforts of nurturing young Cambodian ICT talents. Since 2018, SmartStart has been strongly backed by Smart’s contribution to the Capacity Building and R&D Fund.

Thomas Hundt, CEO of Smart Axiata, was once more super impressed with the commitment of the teams and the enthusiasm they put into the program: “From one year to another, we have seen better applicants, better business ideas and better pitches during the final event. That’s why this year, we decided to increase the prize money to 5,000 USD! Congratulations to all the teams for their efforts and dedication!”.

“SmartStart is a unique program that I am very fond of as it has discovered many brilliant minds and opened new doors for numerous young talents in Cambodia. Together with Impact Hub and other partners, we will be alongside these young innovators throughout their digital journey,” added Thomas.

The five winning teams are:
1 – RENTECH helps users to rent accommodation, especially targeting students from provinces who come to major cities for their tertiary study.
2 – Sers Chborng offers mentor support for high school students, especially those seeking to apply for scholarships and exchange programs as well as take part in competitions.
3 – STYLE provides users with various opportunities to rent suits, dresses or traditional clothes for special occasions.
4 – PhumCAKE allows anyone to design cakes with unique shapes, colors and flavors, for special events.
5 – SpeakOut helps people struggling with depression by providing anonymous communication channels, awareness information and linking them with professional psychiatrists.
So Samphors, a member of one of the winning teams said, “It has been wonderful 3 months for my team and I as we have learned so much. SmartStart is certainly the country’s top tech competition for university students. I am very thankful to all the parties for developing such a comprehensive program. We are looking forward to realize our idea in the next 6 months.”

H.E. Chea Serey, Director General of the National Bank of Cambodia, was very encouraged by the teams’ pitches. Together with Thomas Hundt, she was part of the distinguished panel of judges alongside Kem Bora, Partner of Mekong Strategic Partners; Zoë Ng, Managing Director of Raintree Development; and Adriana Collini, Senior Investment Associate of Seedstars World.

“It is great to see the immense potential of our youth through their creative ideas on how to solve problems they see in the market. Cambodia is growing and developing, and these young innovators will play an important role in contributing to a sustainable future that is full of digital possibilities,” said H.E. Chea Serey.

The five winning teams will now move on to the final phase of the program to turn their ideas into actual businesses or products. Besides the ongoing support from Impact Hub and Smart, the teams will gain access to an ecosystem of resources, mentorship and collaboration opportunities.

Mélanie Mossard, Venture Support Director of Impact Hub Phnom Penh was excited to be part of another cycle of the program: “SmartStart has proven to be a great success again! The next 6 months will be filled with hands-on experience for all the five teams as we look forward to tap their promising capabilities and provide relevant mentorship for their future digital businesses. At the end of the 6-month incubator program, the team with the most progress will receive a tech-trip to visit the likes of Google, Microsoft, Facebook and LinkedIn in Singapore.”

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