500 Startups & Khmer Enterprise Partner To Build A Startup Ecosystem in Cambodia

During the initial two-year partnership, 500 Startups will hold multiple programs to accelerate the development of the Cambodia ecosystem.

San Francisco-based venture capital firm 500 Startups and Khmer Enterprise, a unit under the Ministry of Economy and Finance, are coming together to build a startup ecosystem in Cambodia, a press release said on Monday, November 23.

To support entrepreneurs in establishing startups and to prepare for regional expansion, the firm is launching Angkor 500 in Cambodia. During the initial two-year partnership, 500 Startups will hold multiple programs to accelerate the development of the Cambodia ecosystem, such as startup generation programs, globalization boot camps, and international showcases.

According to The World Bank, between 1998 and 2018, Cambodia’s economy has seen a sustained average growth of 8%, making it one of the fastest-growing economies worldwide. While it reached a lower-middle-income status in 2015, the government aspires to attain upper-middle-income status by 2030.

“This is one of the implementation plans of the Royal Government of Cambodia as articulated in Rectangular Strategy phase IV to accelerate a healthy environment for SMEs and innovative startups to become much more competitive when moving to the digital economy,” Vongsey Vissoth, Chairman of Entrepreneurship Development Fund, said in the release.

At a time when the nation was facing a partial suspension of preferential access to the EU market under the “Everything but Arms” initiative, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, significantly impacting Cambodia’s economy this year.

However, Vissoth stated that despite the operational challenges amid the pandemic, the program will infuse Cambodia’s vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem with a broader base of digital enterprises. Along with serving as a gateway for business founders to be equipped for the tech industry, the initiative is also aimed at enabling entrepreneurs to plug into regional startup ecosystems.

“With the support of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, Khmer Enterprise and 500 Startups will work together to build featuring programs from ideation to investment readiness. It’s expected that this program will successfully lift Cambodian startups’ profile for international investment. It is time to start local, scale to regional, and engage with global,” said Dr. Chhieng Vanmunin, CEO of Khmer Enterprise.

A unit of Entrepreneurship Development Fund (EDF) – a government-funded program articulated in the Royal Government of Cambodia’s Rectangular Strategy IV – Khmer Enterprise envisions being the national platform for promoting entrepreneurial activities through leveraging public-private-partnership.

The enterprise supports economic diversification, innovation, increasing productivity, and job creation in key prioritized sectors, including tech startups, agriculture for export, and manufacturing for import substitution. With the mission to build a vibrant ecosystem, Khmer Enterprise focuses on four main programs – capacity upgrading, entrepreneurship cultural promotion, networking, and seed funding.

One of the most active global early-stage venture capital firms, 500 Startups has invested in over 2,400 companies across 77 countries, since its inception in 2010. The firm’s notable investments include Credit Karma, Canva, Talkdesk, Intercom, GitLab, Grab, and Bukalapak. The company has other regional offices, including 500 TukTuks in Thailand and 500 Kimchi in South Korea.

While Cambodia’s startup ecosystem, especially the tech industry, has seen a major growth over the years, the kingdom is yet to “prove itself among the major players in the regional startup scene.” The primary challenges facing the nation include a lack of investors, insufficient upskilling or training of the youngsters entering the tech industry, lack of mentors, and the uncertainty over policies.

With their partnership, 500 Startups and Khmer Enterprise will bring together founders from across the country to form teams and technology companies, help improve the readiness of Cambodian startups for engagement with international markets and investors through globalization boot camps, and connect startups to key industry stakeholders and corporate partners to raise Cambodia ecosystem’s global profile.

“Amid profound challenges throughout the world, we are grateful to partner with Khmer Enterprise to advance our mission of uplifting people and economies around the world through entrepreneurship. Cambodia’s economy and talent are at an inflection point for rapid growth, and we are confident that this program will help local founders build strong companies that will push the boundaries of what is possible,” said Christine Tsai, CEO and Founding Partner of 500 Startups.

Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

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