Written by: Abigail Perriman

SmartStart Technopreneur Camp 2018: 15 teams take their tech startups to the next level

What a week! We’ve just come to the end of the SmartStart Technopreneur Camp and we couldn’t be more proud of the 60 SmartStart participants who gave it their all to incubate their tech startup ideas, ready for pitching on Saturday 9th June. If you’re interested in what went down, read on to find out…!

But first, what is SmartStart and what exactly is a Technopreneur Camp?!

SmartStart is a program run designed by Impact Hub Phnom Penh and funded by Smart Axiata. The goal is to find the next generation of tech entrepreneurs and startup leaders, through the selection of 120 students to join a Hackathon, followed by 60 at the 5 day technopreneur camp. After pitching, judges will select just 5 teams to receive $4,000 towards developing their startup, and 6 months of incubation with Impact Hub Phnom Penh. One team will then be selected for an exposure trip to Singapore to meet tech giants, build their networks and get inspired.

The Technopreneur Camp teaches 60 students from 15 tech startup teams about the fundamentals of starting a tech business, all while they apply this knowledge and theory to their own startup ideas.

“The SmartStart Technopreneur Camp is really one of the best weeks of my year! It is always such an intensive experience for students and this year was the same. We were so proud of the progress they made in developing their tech ideas and taking important steps towards making it a reality.” Melanie Mossard, Community Director, Impact Hub Phnom Penh

So, what did students learn and achieve over the five days?

IMG_1494Day 0

Blurry-eyed, 60 students and 15 mentors managed to make it to Smart HQ for 7am on Friday morning, to settle into a 7 hour bus journey to Battambang. The journey went very smoothly, and we were only slowed down by the infinite toilet breaks required for such a large group!

The evening was about settling in and getting to know each, as Bong Chhunny led an evening session to help us get to know each other.

Day 1

There was no messing about, on day 1 Melanie introduced teams to the 4th Industrial Revolution to set the global tech scenes, and open young entrepreneurs to the global tech trends they should keep an eye on.IMG_1664

Following this, teams were stuck in learning about how to run successful market research to understand their potential customers and partners, essential when designing the best solution to your problem!

We were also honored to welcome Reaksmey Kevin, founder of H2E Tech and local entrepreneur. Reaksmey shared his experience digitalizing the water distribution system of the city, he is also passionate about developing his home city Battambang and believes that startup and SMEs will be able to drive this

In the evening, students and mentors completed a personality test to find out if they were Green, Gold, Orange or Blue personalities! The purpose of this was to help individuals and teams understand themselves and each other. If we can understand the personality behind the way people behave, we can be much more compassionate and effective leaders and teammates. Throughout the week everyone was able to use their personality type to help communicate their joys and frustrations with each other.

IMG_1808Day 2

On day 2, teams were introduced to Customer Journeys. They dug deeper into their competitors and used these insights to design their own customer journey and user experience. The afternoon involved a whistle stop tour of the Business Model Canvas, a useful tool for startups to describe, design, challenge and pivot a business.

Sokhema Nara shared her tips on “how to get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself”, just in time for the following day’s challenge!

Chhunny spent the evening working with participants and supporting them to build high performance teams, helping them to connect with each other and support each other’s development.

Day 3IMG_1870

In the morning, students applied their work from day 1 to go out into Battambang, or make telephone calls, and interview their potential customers and partners. Walking up to strangers is no easy task, but students came back having learnt so much from their conversations. Some were even able to pivot their idea to suit customer feedback.

Before kicking off the afternoon, we asked each team to share their experience of collecting
market research. Speaking to strangers on the street can produce some funny stories as well as quality insights! In the afternoon we learnt about Marketing & Partnership. Many teams are already having discussion with potential partners which are helping to shape their business model, as well as boost their confidence.

While we enjoy a packed agenda, we decided to give everyone the night off… which of course meant a pool party at the hotel for some!

“During the bootcamp I absorbed a lot of new knowledge I never knew before, and got to put this into practice by doing surveys and preparing my business. But it gave me more than knowledge of business and leadership, but also the knowledge of making new friends as well!” Vireak Kunthy, Haystome (tech startup creating opportunities for local artists by connecting them directly with tourists).

IMG_2754Day 4

The morning session looked at Finance and each team completed a first draft of their financial forecasts and find out when they could expect to break even. We want our teams to aim big and this exercise helped illustrate the numbers of customers required to make their model work. We also heard from Vannakpanha Mao, co-founder of Focuz Solutions, speaking about his experience of what it takes to make it as a tech startup in Cambodia.

After lunch Mike Kang shared his tips on presenting and pitching, Chhunny helped build confidence, and Melanie explained how teams can prepare a pitch that will impress the judges. Teams were challenged to pitch their businesses in under 1.5 minutes to their most critical audience, each other!

Focusing back on leadership and mindfulness, Chhunny spent time with teams exploring 21st Century leadership, and what it means to be a great leader for Cambodia.

IMG_2157Day 5

During the morning session we decided to test teams with a spaghetti and marshmallow challenge! Congratulations to team Walk With Me for building the tallest tower that didn’t collapse immediately, beating everyone, including two teams of competitive mentors. This game is a lot of fun, but to win it takes strong teamwork and communication skills, as well as a good strategy.

IMG_2528In the afternoon it was time to relax and reward ourselves, so we made a visit to the bamboo train and Phnom Banan, finished off with a trip to the bat caves or boat ride round the lake. There were plenty of opportunities for selfies, mountain-top meditation, and nearly capsizing small wooden kayaks with too many passengers!

The whole group participated in a sharing circle in the evening. We felt a lot of love for our amazing facilitators, Melanie and Monkol, our Leadership and Meditation coach, Chhunny, and our dedicated organisers from Smrt and Impact Hub, as well as all the inspiring and knowledgeable mentors! You all made this week possible, and so thank you for giving it your all!

“SmartStart bootcamp wasn’t only about entrepreneurship and technology as we expected, but it was also about the courage and motivation that we share together in our team and with our new friends, the learn from distinguished mentors and speakers, and to create a tech product that really helps solve a problem in our society.” Socheata Chey, Startlance (tech startup showcasing Cambodian talents in freelancing and finding the talents businesses need)


On thursday morning it was time to pack up and say goodbye to Battambang a fulfilling week full of personal growth, strengthening teams and developing tech startups.

Thank you to everyone involved, we can’t wait till next year!

Meet the teams at the SmartStart Pitching Day on Saturday 9th June! Stay tuned for more details on this…

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