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Aniwaa’s Phnom Penh-based team: (Left to right) Head of Marketing Alex Lodola, CEO Martin Lansard, and Head of Content Steve Noble

Phnom Penh-based media startup Aniwaa, which has been known as provider of content and comparison tool for 3D printers, today announced the launch of its new virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) headsets comparison tool.

The tool indexes a growing list of over 100 VR and AR headsets and includes a filter to help users narrow down their selection; it also enables users to compare up to three products at the same time.

To accompany the launch of the comparison tool, Aniwaa’s content team also released a series of special best-ofs and guides for their users.

In a press statement, Aniwaa co-founder and technical advisor Pierre-Antoine Arrighi dubbed the new feature launch as a “logical choice” for the company due to the overlaps between VR/AR and 3D printing.

“New hardware is being announced almost every week now, which is great, but it’s also creating a very fragmented space. The number of headsets more than doubled since we started discussing this project at the beginning of the year and this is where we can make a difference,” he said.

The company also introduced a new user interface, logo, and brand design together with the launch of the new feature.

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Aniwaa’s VR/AR headset comparison tool

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Starting up in Cambodia

Aniwaa was founded in 2013 by French entrepreneurs Martin Lansard and Arrighi.

Having been registered in Singapore in 2014, the startup is run by a core team of four in Phnom Penh, with remote team members working from France.

The two best friends decided to build the platform when they realised the difficulty for new users in finding all the necessary information for 3D printers in just one site, as the information tends to be spread across different e-commerce sites.

They began by writing articles about 3D printers before eventually launching the comparison tool, providing information for a wide range of products from affordable, entry level 3D printers to industrial-grade printers for factories.

Available in English and French, the Aniwaa platform attracted readers from North America, Europe, and some parts of Asia.

In an interview with e27, Lansard explained the reason behind the founding of the company in Cambodia, which is strongly related to his own personal life.

Having worked at Google in the US, Lansard moved to Cambodia when his then-fiancée (who is half-Cambodian, half-French) decided to move to the country to get in touch with her roots.

He then turned his passion-project with Arrighi into a full-time gig.

“We realised that it is also possible to run a successful, world-class startup from the Kingdom of Cambodia. It doesn’t really matter where we are, actually, as long as our content is very valuable, high quality, and is in English,” he stressed.

Lansard also explained the unique challenges of starting up in the country.

“In the past four years that I have been here, the [Cambodian startup] scene has been changing dramatically,” he began.

“From my perspective as entrepreneur, it’s extremely stimulating to be here … It’s becoming increasingly accessible for people to gather and bounce ideas. We are also seeing more investors looking for Cambodian startups,” he continued.

But startups are still struggling in connecting with fellow industry players and attend industry events.

“It’s a challenge for us to be far away from the hotbeds of innovation and events for our industries … It’s also quite a challenge to build a team, finding the right profiles for an English-speaking media like us,” Lansard said.

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“But it’s improving as the ecosystem gets more active; many things including the education are improving, and the scene is attracting foreign talents from both the region and the West,” he added.

In 2018, after being bootstrapped for four years, the startup finally raised an undisclosed seed funding round from a group of angel investors. Prior to the seed funding round, it had also received grants from mobile operator Smart Axiata.

The startup used the funding to grow its products team and launch its new products.

“We always have this idea in mind that if, at some point, we become strong enough that we can scale our model into whatever direction we want, then we will go to see if our project can be supported by external funding,” Lansard explained.

“We really don’t want to do it the other way around … We had never even been actively searching for investors. Being in Cambodia, we don’t have that many access to VCs like in Singapore,” he added.

In the next two years, Aniwaa is looking forward to introduce comparison tools for other forms of emerging technologies.

It is also considering to introduce a localised version of its site to markets such as Indonesia.

“We don’t want to become a comparison site for customer-facing tech like smartphone or TVs as they are already many of them. We want to focus on emerging technologies that no one else covers,” Lansard stressed.

Image Credit: Aniwaa