SmartStart Hackathon 2018: 120 students in 30 tech startup teams take on the challenge!

Written by Abi Perriman (Program & Impact Manager)

At 8:30am on Saturday 28th April, excited and apprehensive students started arriving at The Factory in Phnom Penh and eagerly found their teammates. It’s the start of the SmartStart 2018 Hackathon, and they have an intensive weekend ahead of them!

With no time to waste, teams had chosen the most suitable technology for their ideas, as well as learned how to understand their customer through prototyping, all within the first morning.

After a well earned and delicious lunch, Sovan Srun from education & tech startup, Edemy, spoke to the students about the importance of understanding their users for any successful startup.


During the afternoon, teams learned about the importance of mapping out competitors, defining customers and knowing your unique value proposition. They also learned more about design and how to communicate their tech idea clearly to the judges with Hemkiry Song and Lay Keanghok, our Design and Tech Mentors.

The rest of the day was spent putting this into practice! Under the time constraints of a two day Hackathon, teams created a mock-up, defined their customer profile, and spent time understanding their competitors.

“The Hackathon has shown me a lot of lessons which I cannot easily get from school. It also helped my team to sharpen our business idea with different strategies from our mentors… I have had a lot of fun and made a lot of friends who I have never known before!” Vireak Kunthy, SmartStart participant and co-founder of Haystome (the homestay app for artists).

Saturday evening, it was time to go home and get some rest! Although we hear many teams were busy getting feedback on their mockups – the fun never stops for our tech startups!

Sunday morning was all about user testing, and incorporating this feedback into the final mockup and pitches with the help of their dedicated mentors. But at 9:45am, just as teams were getting into their tasks, the lights and fans went off across The Factory! There was a moments silence, followed by chatter, as people realized this was probably a power cut. The electricity in the whole neighborhood had gone down!

IMG_6766But what startup journey is without its challenges? Teams demonstrated their resilience and flexibility by heading out to nearby cafes or conducting their user feedback outside. And The Factory, Smart, and Impact Hub teams worked together to come up with a new plan so that the Hackathon could be completed.

By 3:30 pm the power was back, teams were preparing for their 4-minute pitches, and judges started to arrive for the final pitching that would determine which 15 teams would go on to the five days TechnopreneurCamp in Battambang.

“It was great to see them failing forward, learning fast, and persevering instead of giving up, pivoting towards new business ideas.” Melanie Mossard, Community Director, Impact Hub Phnom PenhSmartStart 2


Our amazing and flexible judges stayed late to hear all 15 teams deliver their 4-minute pitch. On panel one we were joined by Kamaroudin Sos (Vice Dean of ICT at Puthisastra), Sopheakmonkol Sok (Co-founder of Codingate), Leakhena Long (Founder of Jooneak), and Alex Davis (Environment, Science, Technology & Health Officer, US Embassy). On our second panel, our judges were Penhleak Chan (Freeland tech consultant), Kaylan Achyutuni (Chief Information Officer, Smart), Chanda Pen (Founder of Bongloy) and Chea Sila (CEO of Sabay).

The judges were blown away by the standard of ideas and pitches, but after some time deliberating, they’d made their final decision, and we were ready to announce the results to the participants!

“I’m really impressed by this new generation, well done to everyone!” Leakhena Long (Founder of Joonaak)

Kanishka Wickrama (CFO, Smart Axiata) announced the results of the 15 teams that made it through to the next round to a nervous and excited crowd! We are so pleased to announce that the teams going to Battambang (in no particular order) are: EFood, Brogrammer, SmartBin, Homex, Fixsman, Tos Rean, Der Lng, Walk With Me, Haystome, Somjot, FastFix, Startlance, APPEAR, Kexka and Malis.




Congratulations everyone! We look forward to seeing the 15 teams for five days in Battambang!

“It’s amazing how SmartStart Hackathon has motivated more young innovators in Cambodia to collaborate and work on their dream startup ideas, and to build a network of future young entrepreneurs!” Chey Socheata, SmartStart participant and Co-Founder of Startlance (a platform to connect freelancers to project owners).

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