By Nayantara Bhat
November 27 – 30, 2019
FACTORY Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Seedstars World, a global pitch competition for startups in emerging markets, held its last Asia competition of the year in Cambodia, bringing together early-stage companies, investors, and mentors from over 15 countries.
The three-day program kicked off with a startup bootcamp on Day 1, followed by the Investor Forum on Day 2. This gave startups time with Seedstars’ carefully selected mentors, who coached them before the afternoon session, where they were asked to pitch to an audience of investors.
Event organizers also used the investor pitching sessions as an opportunity to share updates and statistics about Seedstars’ work. Charlie Graham Brown, Chief Information Officer (CIO) of Seedstars, presented a deck with some key numbers. Out of the startups present at the Asia Summit, 41% had been accelerated. Brown marked this as a “strong sign that there is upcoming support” in these startups’ countries of origin.
The final day of the program was open to the public, and began with workshops and networking before the main events in the afternoon. Post-lunch, the audience was treated to a packed lineup of keynotes, elevator pitches, and a panel on Asia’s investment landscape.
First to the stage after opening speeches was Techladies Founder Elisha Tan, who spoke on gender diversity in the workplace. Her keynote was followed by EcoEnergyFinance CEO and Co-founder Shazia Khan, who shared her insights on tackling competitors in the market.
The keynotes were followed by a lightning round of startup pitches, with founders taking the stage one after another to share their business ideas.
An illuminating panel discussion on tech investing dominated the second half of the afternoon. Featuring Cocoon Capital Managing Partner Michael Blakey, 500 TukTuks Investment Manager Pun Jaruthassanakul, and Bora Kem, Partner at Mekong Strategic Partners, the three investors discussed multiple aspects of the investment landscape in Asia and offered advice to founders in the audience.
“Sometimes you have great founders who are starting companies that have huge regulatory hurdles to jump,” said Kem, adding that startups should be aware that funding may not be enough to get them through.
Blakey added that just as venture capitalists do due diligence on companies, founders must also do the same for any VCs they are approaching.
After a day full of informative keynotes and pitches, the time came at last to announce the startups that made it through to the global Seedstars Summit to be held in 2020. The following early-stage companies made it through:
Recyglo – subscription-based waste management for businesses
Cropital – crowdfunding platform connecting smallholder farmers to lenders
Niunet – subscription-based digital learning for rural communities in papua new guinea
TraSeable Solutions – blockchain-based tracking for the seafood industry
Resync – smart energy management for optimized and reliable power
Duithape – e-payments for distributing payments to unbanked people in Indonesia
An vui – digitizing passenger transport systems to increase efficiency
SmartPei – secure payments without the need for a credit card
SALA – paperless academic management platform for admissions and student data
iLoan – Blockchain-powered loan aggregator for SMEs in Sri Lanka
iFarmer – Risk-reduction for farmers through data and financing
Web2Ship – Logistics platform matching online sellers with cross-border shipping services
Offering Happiness – Surprise-planning platform specializing in gifts and experiences
WonderTree – Physiotherapy and Special Education using gamification and AR
Seedstars’ talent at discovering and honing startups in Asia became clear through their action-packed and relevant program. Selected startups will pitch in Lausanne, Switzerland at the global Summit in April 2020, standing the chance to win up to US$500,000 in equity. –NB