Since the digital floodgates opened in the last decade, Cambodia startups have emerged in a tech ecosystem where government institutions, entrepreneurs, and consumers all strive to create a successful startup landscape that, at times, learns from the trajectories of other countries like China as a blueprint.
With a young population aged averagely around 26 years-old, 48% of its 16.7 million population owning a mobile phone, and internet penetration standing at 58%, Cambodia has a spirited market to enable a significant digital economy of tech-driven products and services.
With over 300 active startups conducted by the Responsible Finance Forum in 2018, Cambodia represents a soon-to-be vibrant startup hub amid a surging amount of pitching competitions, hackathons, incubator and accelerator programs, venture capital and angel investors such as Cambodia Investment Club, Corco Angels, the Smart Axiata Digital Innovation Fund (SADIF), Ooctane Fund, and 500 Startups.
Although Cambodia’s economy is set to flare with an average gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 7%, marking it as one of the fastest growing economies in the world, according to World Bank, the country has to overcome certain challenges to realize its full potential, including getting more high-skilled technical know-how, experienced founders, investor alignment, and clarity on policy and regulation, according to the 2018 report.
With 78% of the 16.7 million population unbanked, there are clear needs in financial services, which has resulted in the rise of fintech platforms such as Clik, Pi Pay, Morakot, and Banhji, while digital media and advertising, and e-commerce are the second and third most promising industry in Cambodia, according to the report conducted in 2018.
To learn more about the emerging Cambodia’s tech ecosystem, here are the top five Cambodia startups to watch out:
Founded in 2016 by Matthew Tippetts, Skye Cornell, and Darren Jensen, Clik is a Phnom Penh-based payment aggregator that enables offline merchants and their consumers to perform cashless payments using mobile wallets, as well as debit and credit cards. Tippets told KrASIA in an interview that he saw a massive gap in the demand and supply payment options after landing in the country 10 years ago, while the ease of doing and setting up businesses in the country also inspired him to start a fintech business.
The firm, which has recently secured USD 3.7 million seed funding from Openway and Poems Pte Ltd, plans to launch its platform at the end of 2020. Apart from being a payment aggregator, Clik aims to build up a more profound digital payment infrastructure by providing merchants with value-added products like consumer data to better analyze spending behaviour.
Although the country’s big fintech players like Wing and Pi Pay have paved the way for fintech entrants, Clik founder Matthew Tippetts told KrASIA that fundraising is one of the top challenges the firm had to encounter owing to the lack of a big angel investor community in the country.
According to a report conducted by Visa in 2019, a third of Cambodians expect that digital payments will continue to gain its momentum because of its convenience and security, while 54% of the respondents say that the economy will go cashless by 2026. Fintech businesses like Clik will continue to ride on a digital tailwind.
French-Cambodian logistics startup ShopRunBack, founded in 2014 by Cambodian entrepreneur Sophie Meas, offers an international logistics network that allows online-purchased products on third party stores to be returned in a smoother way with a plug-and-play software, given that least 30% of all products purchased online are returned, while only 8.89% in physical stores.
Returns are part of e-commerce businesses, while logistics are central to the returns process. ShopRunBack offers a reverse logistics service that helps monitor the life-cycle of the products even after the arrival to the customer. It also provides other services such as quality checking, product grading, consolidation, and intelligent rerouting, according to the company.
After raising USD 900,000 in a pre-Series A round led by Phnom Penh-based VC fund Obor Capital in September this year, the company has expanded its business to the Mekong region and China. Together with a strategic partnership signed with Alibaba-backed cross-border logistics firm 4PX Express, the firm will “enable more Cambodian goods to be exported to China and the world” and establish a network of shipping routes in the Mekong region, along with creating a platform for Chinese users.
CamboTicket, founded in early 2015 by Shivam Tripathi, who is also executive director of early-stage Cambodian venture capital OBOR Capital, is an online public transport booking platform that sells tickets for public transportation within Cambodia, and cross-border trips to and from the neighboring countries of Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos. It also offers booking software for transportation firms to manage their operations and arrange seat inventory.
Cambodia’s leading mobile money platform, Wing, announced the acquisition of a significant stake in CamboTicket in February this year, with the intention to improve the online ticket booking and holiday planning experience in Cambodia through Wing’s App and CamboTicket’s website.
Cambodia’s tourism industry amounted to USD 4.92 billion last year and has accounted for 25% of the country’s economy and 13.6% of all the jobs in the country, according to a research conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Category: Digital Media
Launched in 2012, Khmerload, found by Cambodian entrepreneur Vichet In, is a digital news portal that offers entertainment and tabloid news. The success of the company captured the growth of smartphone adoption in emerging markets such as Myanmar, Vietnam, and Laos. The site, dubbed as “the Buzzfeed of Cambodia”, became the very first startup in Cambodia to receive USD 200,000 funding from Silicon Valley-based VC firm in 2017.
Co-founded by In and his siblings, Groupin is the holding company of e-commerce startup Little Fashion and digital media startups Mediaload, which operates Khmerload in Cambodia and Myanmarload in Myanmar. The firm has secured USD 5 million in its Series A funding round from Belt Road Capital Management (BRCM), making it the largest funding round in Cambodia’s history raised by a local startup at the time.
Currently, Khmerload has almost 6 million followers on Facebook, while its sister site, Myanmarload, has 9.3 million followers. With a combined 53.7 million page view per month across Cambodia, Vietnam, and Myanmar, Khmerload has reaped the benefit of young internet users in the region.
Digicro, founded in 2018, is a data science startup that offers micro-loans ranging from USD 100 to USD 1,000 to the unbanked population through its mobile app “Spean Loan” in Cambodia.The firm leverages data obtained from its customers’ smartphones and enables customers to borrow money base based on its credit scoring system.
Cambodia has experienced a microfinance boom in recent years. In 2016, there were 160,000 branches of microfinance institutions around the country, according to its Central Bank. With 22% of its population having a microcredit loan outstanding, its national bank estimated that credit will grow by 40% year-over-year. Digicroaims to tap into the growing opportunity and become a leading lending firm in the country, also focusing on improving the accuracy of their credit screening technologies, according to the firm’s Japanese CEO Yuta Nagano.
The Future of Cambodia Startups
Cambodia’s recent technological evolution has transformed its economic landscape and leading the country towards a promising economic future. From fintech to digital media, the country has a spirited digital startup scene with space for both international or regional investors involved, as well as cultivate an even more open landscape for the sector to grow.