The first of 10 planned workshops designed to improve Cambodia’s entrepreneurial support organizations (ESO) network was held last week as development partners aim to better connect the local start-up ecosystem.
Cambodia’s ESO ecosystem, broadly defined as groups that support, train, and fund entrepreneurs is still in the nascent stage with many new organizations launched to help nature and develop the sector.
The ‘Give a Day’ initiative was launched after a successful pilot program implemented with EuroCham in 2021 and is supported by Khmer Enterprise, USAID’s WE Act project through Pact, and Swissscontact.
Challenges and opportunities for the sector
During the workshop ESOs outlined sector challenges that included: identifying investment-ready clients, knowing what specific services entrepreneurs required, complicated and cumbersome legal requirements, and lack of long-term financial planning.
Some of the solutions for the sector included: limiting the award of ‘prize money, developing pathways for talented entrepreneurs, better mentorship arrangements, and more collaboration between investors and entrepreneurs.
The exclusion of any entrepreneurs in attendance was also voiced as a criticism of the workshop to Cambodia Investment Review – with some commenting this separation was a fundamental problem facing the sector.
After the workshop, there was a series of questionnaires designed to better understand how best the network should communicate with each other.
Developing Cambodia’s ESO community
William Prothais, who attended the event and works with the early stage impact fund UBERIS, told Cambodia Investment Review the Give a Day event is always a great opportunity to connect with like-minded actors from the ecosystem.
“At UBERIS, we believe that the best way to support local entrepreneurship is to join forces with actors of this ecosystem,” Prothais said.
Developing the local start-up community is considered key for Cambodia to achieve its aims to reach upper-middle-income status (GNI per capita between $4,036 and $12,475) by 2030.
Cambodia Investment Review has previously reported on the venture capital firm OBOR and start-up incubator Khmer Enterprise aim to lower SMEs lending and investment risk for financial institutions under its recently launched SME Investment Readiness Program (SME IR Program).
Pact Cambodia Country Director and WE Act Chief of Party Sabine Joukes told Cambodia Investment Review the workshop was aiming to create an enabling environment for entrepreneurs who will get the support, access to services, and information they need to thrive in their businesses.
“By bringing together the Entrepreneurship Ecosystem actors to share our learning we will be better able to address specific needs and give tailored solutions to address issues,” Joukes said.
“I acknowledge the wonderful collaboration with Khmer Enterprise and Swiss Contact that make this event happen, we have a joint vision of creating a strong and supportive ecosystem to strengthen entrepreneurs, their businesses, and in turn the Cambodian economy,” she added.