Startups to power Cambodia’s Pentagonal Strategy

Startups to power Cambodia’s Pentagonal Strategy

Cambodia’s future lies in startups was the broad message at the Startup Ecosystem Forum: Connect 2024 at Raintree Cambodia held in Phnom Penh on Friday. The event was organised with an objective of providing opportunities for reflection, open dialogue, knowledge sharing and collaboration for the year ahead.

Among the presentations made by various investors, startups and mentors was a panel discussion on Collective Actions to Nurture Startups Towards Success, moderated by Sok Nam, Startup Program Coordinator, Techo Startup Center. Chhim Bunchhun, Mentor of Big Data, NICC, Oum Vantharith, Senior Startup Development Specialist, TSC and Uk Remi, General Manager, Obor Capital expressed their opinions. Over 100 participants turned up for the event.

One of the main challenges facing startups in Cambodia today is lack of funds with limited access to capital, said Vantharith to Khmer Times on the sidelines of the event. Funding can be tough to secure, especially for tech startups. The relatively small market size makes it challenging for investors to achieve significant returns on their investments.

The limited skillset and experience of the team members can pose another hurdle for startups. It is an uphill struggle for them to deal with inadequate networks and a shortage of qualified mentors. Navigating tax regulations can prove another impediment for startups as they have to ensure compliance while focusing on business growth which can prove significantly challenging.

Cambodia is an emerging market with a growing economy. The country has a young population, which presents a significant consumer base. Even though the startup ecosystem is quite small, there is a lot of collaboration with local startups and continuous support, including grants, from entrepreneur-supporting organisations such as universities, incubators and accelerators.

The Royal Government of Cambodia has introduced policies to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation such as tax incentives, streamlined business registration processes, and support for technology adoption. The startup ecosystem can help the government achieve the pentagon strategy by contributing to various aspects like supporting traditional MSMEs to go digital and grow in the digital era.

In human resource development, the startup ecosystem can create job opportunities, especially for young professionals and graduates. By fostering a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, the ecosystem encourages skill development and lifelong learning.

Startups contribute to economic diversification beyond traditional sectors like the private sector development. A vibrant startup ecosystem attracts foreign investment and promotes collaboration with established companies.

Startups are hubs of innovation, developing cutting-edge solutions, thereby powering digital innovation and technology advancement in the Kingdom. They drive technological advancements in areas like fintech, agritech, health tech, and e-commerce.

Asked to foresee the scenario ten years down the line, Vantharith said the startup ecosystem is expected to experience significant growth and transformation. It is growing and becoming mature.

Changing the narrative and status quo, it is leapfrogging and catching up with more developed ASEAN-6 member states.

As awareness of Cambodia’s startup potential grows, more local and international investors will participate. Venture capital firms, angel investors, and corporate funds will inject capital into promising startups leading to increased investment and funding.

The existing startups will mature, gain experience, and expand their operations. Successful exits, such as acquisitions or IPOs, or the achievement of Unicorn Startup status, will encourage the next generation of startup founders and entrepreneurs.

Startups will lead the way in digital adoption across industries. E-commerce, digital payments, and data analytics will become mainstream. Traditional businesses will seek tech solutions to stay competitive.

As Cambodia powers on into the future, the government is pinning its hopes on startups to achieve its Pentagonal Strategy. Digitalisation may be the key to progress but startups could well be the secret to success for the economy. khmertimeskh

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