Yangon’s incubation lab Phandeeyar —a company on the frontlines of Myanmar’s fledging startup ecosystem — has kicked off the country’s first ever accelerator programme this week.
Startup ecosystems do not just appear, and despite the fact that ‘entrepreneur’ is now a cool job title across Asia, it requires a foundation on which to build.
The Phandayeer accelerator is a significant first step towards laying those bricks one of Southeast Asia’s frontier markets.
For more information about the details of the accelerator, e27 covered it back in June so readers can check out that article for financial details, perks and the founding team’s goals.
Let’s zoom in a bit and focus on the six companies participating in the six-month programme.
Phandayeer received 80 applicants for the accelerator, a response Founder and CEO David Madden was expecting, but pleased with nonetheless. He said the applications number was on-pace with the first batch of other regional accelerators like Thailand’s dtac accelerate.
“I think what we see is the Myanmar ecosystem has a similar trajectory as [other regional countries], obviously it is a little behind but to get 80 applicants is really encouraging,” he told e27.
Of the 80 applicants, 21 startups were chosen to pitch in front of a startup panel, and 11 of those were invited to an intensive face-to-face interview. Of those eleven, Phandayeer chose 6 companies to participate in the accelerator.
The companies had to be based in Myanmar with their primary focus being the domestic market.
One detail pointed out by Jes Kaliebe Petersen, Director at Phandayeer Accelerator, is the companies are running business models that are not unique to Southeast Asia — which he said was perfectly fine.
“Generally, we have startups attacking known problems where other companies in the region have been able to build good solutions to these problems,” he said.
So, let’s meet the companies.
Kargo is Uberising the logistics industry via light trucks and pickups in Yangon — a city full of lorry-type vehicles roaming around.
The pain-point is created by the fact that scooters and motorised bikes are prohibited in Yangon. So, even if the company is delivering a relatively small package, if it cannot be delivered by bicycle it requires a truck.
Drivers can sign up to the platform and fulfill the last-mile logistics for small retail and wholesale businesses on an ad hoc basis.
Kargo is expecting to launch its MVP soon.
As the economy in Myanmar begins to grow, young Burmese professionals are starting to buck the trend of living with their family until they get married. But the problem is, finding a place to stay is not easy — an average flat usually requires going through an agent, and the online options cater to expats and the wealthy class.
Rarhub aims to help Burmese professionals find shared apartments, single rooms for rent, hostels and dorms, the type of living arrangements perfect for a person just starting their career.
Technoholic has built a product called ‘Platform’, which connects businesses with freelancers.
One of the Founders has worked as a freelancer for years, helping them understand the problem because they have lived it. For reference, Petersen made the comparison to Thailand’s Fastwork.co.
Comic books are quite popular in Myanmar, and have a long history in the country. But, outside of Yangon, they can be difficult to find for fans.
White Merak is an app that lets people read comic books on their phones. Once a month they publish in-house comics while also licencing the platform to other comic book publishers. Comics on White Merak will cost a bit of money, and a percentage of the revenue will go to the startup.
Additionally, the reading experience is semi-animated. For example, if a superhero is flying across the city, there will be some movement in the panel.
This startup is tackling the microloan industry by offering a tech-based solution to lower overhead and help reputable lenders enter this market.
The problem in much of the developing world is the overhead for issuing a loan of US$20 or US$25 is not worth the ROI. But, farmers may need this extra bit of cash to buy seeds or equipment — and significantly improve their crop yield. So, predatory lenders have filled this market gap.
Zigway hopes a tech-based solution can lower the overhead so quality lending companies can cut costs and only worry about the underwriting. Ideally, this allows them to tap a new market and give regular Burmese people a more reputable alternative.
A travel app for Burmese people travelling within the country, GoP hopes to become the go-to travel company for locals — a market underserved in a country that caters to foreign tourists.
It works like a typical travel agency — tying in with tour operators, hotels, food options and transportation. But GoP targets the Burmese family who wants to go on a beach vacation for a weekend or travel around the large country.
All six companies have moved into the Phandayeer building and are getting into the programme.
The education session has begun, mentors are coming in soon and the programme will culminate in a Demo Day in late February or early March 2017.