The annual SmartStart Young Innovator Program by Smart Axiata has announced the five winners of the Cycle 3 Final Pitch, held at the Cambodia-Korea Cooperation Center. Five teams were each granted US$5,000 and an opportunity to join a six-month incubator programme with Impact Hub Phnom Penh.

The Final Pitch this year still followed the same approach as it was last year, where the top 15 teams, streamlined from 30 teams of 120 participants from 10 universities in the country, showcased their ideas. All 15 teams have joined a five-day Technopreneurship Challenge at Kampong Cham last month, following a two-day Hackathon in Phnom Penh.

SmartStart was first launched in 2017, and has been focussing on “nurturing young Cambodian ICT talents”. Since 2018, SmartStart has been backed by Smart’s contribution to the Capacity Building and R&D Fund.

“SmartStart is a programme that I am very fond of as it has discovered many brilliant minds and opened new doors for numerous young talents in Cambodia. We have seen better applicants, better business ideas and better pitches during the final event. That’s why this year, we decided to increase the prize money to US$5,000,” said Thomas Hundt, CEO of Smart Axiata.

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The five winning teams are:

  • RENTECH, provides helps in renting accommodation, especially targeting students from provinces who come to major cities for their tertiary study.
  • Sers Chborng, offers mentor support for high school students, especially those seeking to apply for scholarships and exchange programmes as well as to take part in competitions.
  • STYLE, provides users with various opportunities to rent suits, dresses or traditional clothes for special occasions.
  • PhumCAKE, allows anyone to design cakes with unique shapes, colors and flavors, for special events.
  • SpeakOut, helps people struggling with depression by providing anonymous communication channels, awareness information and linking them with professional psychiatrists.

The five winning teams will now move on to the final phase of the programme that will focus on turning their ideas into actual businesses or products. Besides the ongoing support from Impact Hub and Smart, the teams will have mentorship and collaboration opportunities.

“At the end of the six-month incubator program, the team with the most progress will receive a tech-trip to visit the likes of Google, Microsoft, Facebook and LinkedIn in Singapore,” said Mélanie Mossard, Venture Support Director of Impact Hub Phnom Penh.