Cambodia riding the Valley wave?

The rise of startup competitions in the Kingdom...

The history of modern pitching-style competitions hales back to the growth of tech venture capital in Silicon Valley, with household names like Y-Combinator and Seedcamp founded in the early 2000’s after the dotcom crash. These competition formats exist for a multitude of reasons. From giving entrepreneurs an opportunity to develop their model (or themselves!), to allowing investors to see a large number of targets, all happening in a very short space of time.

Cambodia has seen a increase in entrepreneurial and tech competitions over the past decade. They come in various forms, from one-day pitches, two-day hackathons, to several rounds over several months. They also target different demographics from as early as secondary school students, through more mature business professionals.

While venture capital is still in its infancy in Cambodia (at least by the Silicon Valley definition), competitions are a positive sign of things to come. Here's an overview of some of the startup competitions in Cambodia that Raintree has been excited to engage with this year.


Smartstart by Smart Axiata

Smartstart is part of telecom SmartAxiata’s innovation program and reflects their corporate priority to accelerate digitisation in Cambodia. In its inaugural year, it attracted more than 120 undergraduate students from four major public universities in Phnom Penh. The competition spans 5 months, with three rounds including a workshop, hackathon, bootcamp and final pitch. Winners receive $4,000 in seed funding and the opportunity of longer-term incubation. Raintree was proud to judge the students at multiple stages as well as being a venue partner, and we look forward to seeing the teams’ development beyond the program.

Technovation by Development Innovations

Technovation is an international program that targets one of the youngest demographics, with 10 to 18 year-old participants from public schools all over Phnom Penh. And the best part… they’re all girls. With a mission to equip girls with skills to become tech entrepreneurs, the program comes at a time when gender imbalance in engineering fields is a hot topic globally. The program takes teams through four stages to launch a mobile app startup, with an opportunity for the winning team to qualify to compete in the US world pitch, to even further dreams of becoming a leader in tech.

Cambodia ICT Awards (CICTA) by NIPTICT

Aiming to recognise Cambodia’s leaders in tech, the Cambodia ICT Awards engage both mature and early stage enterprises. Raintree was honoured to support the judging of this year’s Digital Content finalists, and we were impressed at the diversity of this year’s competitors - from augmented reality to gaming to digital publishing. The awards require participants to present their business in three rounds, covering their business model and technology product, culminating in the final presentation where both the category and overall winners are announced.


Cellcard Lab by Cellcard

Cellard Lab was a 2017 program by telecom Cellcard, another private-sector led start-up initiative. Teams comprised of undergraduate students competed in three independent editions, with the opportunity to win up to $5,000 cash in seed funding, and a three-day entrepreneur exposure trip to Malaysia. Students spent 2 months working with program mentors to refine their business plans, and we were happy to host students at the Canopy @ Raintree to create an informal but productive environment for the teams to present their final pitches.


EPIC! - by Impact Hub

EPIC (Entrepreneurship Program ICT for Change) is a one-year incubation program led by Impact Hub, dedicated to social innovation. Raintree was excited to host their first Demo Day at the Canopy, welcoming 10 teams after the first stage of development. The program aims to support aspiring entrepreneurs and startups to launch and grow their businesses over the entire year. Partnering with Development Innovations, the program invests $20,000 for prototyping budgets, consulting, workspace and stipends, in five outstanding social startups.

Business Model Competition (BMC) by National University of Management

BMC (Business Model Competition) is one of the earliest competitions founded in the Kingdom by the National University of Management. The competition was created to spark interest in pursuing entrepreneurial careers. Undergraduate and alumni teams compete by pitching their idea using the business model canvas - an academic tool often used in business curricula around the world. In conjunction with the Mekong Business Challenge, the winning team competes in the regional finals against respective teams from Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Yunnan, and Bhutan. Although Raintree has judged some fantastic editions in past years, what we’re excited about is how this competition will continue evolving as the ecosystem develops.

Cambodian Young Entrepreneur Awards by JCI Cambodia and YEAC

Last but by no means least, the Cambodian Young Entrepreneur Awards recognises top national entrepreneurs over five categories - social, startup, tech, female and outstanding. Raintree attended its third awards, and was thrilled to judge this year’s edition. Organised by business associations JCI Cambodia and YEAC, the awards comprises a rigorous application process from initial written submission, promotional video, social media campaign, to live final presentations to the judging panel. The 2017 applicants represented some of the most exciting Cambodian entrepreneurs today, and we’re already looking forward to next year’s edition!



These are just a selection of the ever-growing list of entrepreneurial competitions in the Cambodian capital. While competitions are certainly not the only indicator of development in the startup ecosystem, they are a representation of entrepreneurial energy shaping the economy today. We're excited to be a part of this entrepreneurial wave, and we can't wait to see what 2018 and coming years will have in store.