Smart Axiata’s social venture paves the way for a startup landscape

Poovenraj Kanagaraj

Smart Axiata’s commitment towards to the startup scene in Cambodia has benefited the sector in a huge way.

Smart Axiata’s commitment towards to the startup scene in Cambodia has benefited the sector in a huge way.

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Its incubator and accelerator programmes such as SmartStart and  and SmartScale have strengthened the Kingdom’s tech and digital ecosystem.

Returning again with another social venture to help startups in the country, SmartSpark is a new entrepreneurship programme that is aimed to nurture forward-thinking youths in the country to address and tackle the so-called Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the government.

Having spanned three years and with a total of nine cohorts, the programme’s mission was to incubate a total of 54 impact ventures, each one focusing on a different set of SDGs.


Meaningful social ventures


In early August this year, Smart Axiata collaborated with Impact Hub Phnom Peng to launch the entrepreneurship programme in its third year; it was once again dedicated to build meaningful social ventures that can contribute to global SDGs.

This year the SmartSpark programme explored issues and solutions in relation to cities, jobs and industries that aligned with the SDGs. In this instance, they comprised SDG 8 : Decent Work and economic growth; SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities.

The programme is a three-month social business model validation programme to introduce the key concepts of social entrepreneurship to young people with drive to transform their innovative ideas into a more viable business models with the right aid.

Representatives from Smart Axiata aided the participants in identifying a problem, spotting the root causes and consequences and then going on to find a solution for it and later coming up with a valued proposition, pricing, marketing and more.

Thomas Hundt, chief executive officer of Smart Axiata, had stated that beyond the company’s core business, Smart and its staff had committed themselves towards a diverse range of sustainability initiatives in order to contribute back to society.


Positive changes


He had also expressed optimism on the opportunities and business ideas that will emerge from the programme and go on to ultimately positively affect the growth of the Kingdom that will be aligned with the SDG goals as well as making positive changes in  society.

Smart Axiata’s chief digital services officer, Anthony Perkins, who is one of the judges in the final pitch round of SmartSpark, said that there it was important to spend time committed towards pushing forward-thinking minds all the way through.

“It was a tough choice having to choose the winner among five teams because everyone had managed to come up with an innovative business idea,” Perkins says.

Tinky Bike, founded by two young Cambodians, Khemara Kimhak and Chanratika, took home the grand prize of $3,000 after competing against four other teams who had all made presented on the same day. The five teams that made it to the finals were picked out of 35 teams.


Green ‘e-bike’


Both Khemara Kimhak and and Chanratika both presented an alternative green “ebike” that addresses the problems of carbon emission and the high cost of motorcycles in Cambodia along with a three-year plan to turn the idea into a business model that could produce enough bikes and build charging stations in schools.

The other four teams that were selected in the top five were Unseentra, a startup focusing on eco-tourism, SEPAK which focuses on providing a handicraft e-commerce platform, INTRI Innovation, a digital marketing solution agency and JumNeanh which is a skill development platform.

Melanie Mossard, venture support director of Impact Hub Phnom Penh, says Smart’s initiatives to focus on sustainability in the country would lead to creating more jobs and the youths who applied for the programme are now equipped with market research skills as well as ways to validate their businesses with customer feedback and more.


Access to mentoring


The programmes run by Smart Axiata have also given birth to an entrepreneur club which hosts more than 600 alumni of past and present programmes which allows them access to mentoring and coaching as well.

SEPAK, an innovative online platform aiming to bridge customers with Cambodian handicraft producers says the programme aided them to not just expand their ideas but at the same train producers of handicrafts from other provinces, especially women, to become better leaders in the field.

Smart’s initiative in upgrading the startup scene does not just benefit the youth in Cambodia. It also creates a domino effect that affects the lives of those who had no initiatives in the past to experience a more positive change to their livelihoods.

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