Cambodia Investment Review

Cambodia-Australia Startup Ecosystem Collaboration: Gold Coast as the Gateway

Cambodia-Australia Startup Ecosystem Collaboration: Gold Coast as the Gateway

Vijian Paramasivam

The startup communities in Australia and Cambodia are intensifying their efforts to connect and establish a robust digital trade network, creating more job opportunities and promoting cross-border investments. The Gold Coast Innovation Hub (GC Hub) is positioning itself as the gateway for Cambodian firms to enter Australia’s vibrant startup scene most recently hosting its inaugural event organized by the Cambodia Academy of Digital Technology.

Australia has been emerging as a tech-savvy nation, offering attractive incentives for foreign investors. New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia, and Northern Territory are leading the charge, providing ample opportunities in emerging technologies for startup companies. Some of the potential areas of growth include sports, health, clean energy, space tech, artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality, and virtual reality.

Connecting Cambodia-Australia Startup Ecosystem

Sharon Hunneybell, CEO of GC Hub, highlighted Australia’s progress as a tech nation, with overseas investors participating in one-quarter of all reported deals in 2021. The upcoming 2032 Olympics in Brisbane are driving a significant push for innovation and technological advancements to ensure a successful event. Hunneybell also noted the support available for businesses looking to enter the Australian market, particularly in the Gold Coast area, such as space, networking, and mentoring.

The Gold Coast is home to numerous successful startups and a growing number of venture capitalists and angel investors seeking new opportunities. Initiatives such as the City of Gold Coast Investment Attraction Programme, Regional Development Australia (Gold Coast), and the Gold Coast Innovation Hub promote the startup culture.

Roundtable discussion attended by over 30 Australian and Cambodian government representatives as well as Australian investors in Phnom Penh.

At a recent webinar titled “Connecting Cambodia-Australia Startup Ecosystem,” speakers from both countries emphasized the significance of fostering collaboration between their startup communities to promote economic growth and innovation in the digital era. The Global Startup Ecosystem Index’s 2022 report ranked Australia eighth in the global startup ranking, surpassing even China. Equity deployed into Australian startup investments tripled in 2021, reaching over $10 billion and breaking the 2020 record of $3.1 billion.

Critical role of startup ecosystems in driving economic growth

The Cambodia Academy of Digital Technology recently organized a significant webinar event aimed at fostering collaboration between Cambodian and Australian startup communities. H.E Dr. Sam Sethserey, Director General of the Institute of Digital Research and Innovation of CADT, emphasized the critical role of startup ecosystems in driving economic growth and innovation in both countries.

In 2022, the Cambodian Academy and Gold Coast Innovation HUB signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to support the startup ecosystems in Cambodia and Australia. The MoU focuses on key areas of collaboration, such as sharing resources and expertise, organizing joint events and activities, and promoting investment and partnership opportunities between the two nations.

Read more: Developing Cambodia’s digital economy and FinTech landscape

Dr. Sethserey expressed optimism about the initiative’s potential to positively impact both countries’ startup landscapes. He highlighted the importance of working together to build a stronger and more vibrant startup ecosystem, ultimately leading to increased opportunities for collaboration and investment across Cambodia and Australia.

Be Chantra, director of the Digital Innovation Centre, added some insights into the history and growth of the Cambodian startup ecosystem. “The concept of startup was initially introduced in Cambodia in 2006. Between 2014 and 2019, the number of startups grew significantly. There were about 200 startups at one point, but numbers declined during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, some embraced the opportunity during the pandemic,” he said.

Optimism about the current climate for Cambodian startups

Australia and Cambodia, long-standing trading partners, took early steps to deepen trade ties in the digital space by signing a memorandum of understanding in December. GC Hub signed a bilateral agreement with the Institute of Digital Research and Innovation (IDRI) and the Cambodia Academy of Digital Technology (CADT) to position the Gold Coast as the entry point to Australia for Cambodian tech companies.

The Australian organization aims to drive commercial success, foster innovation, and support digital business creation within the Gold Coast and other Australian territories. Cambodia has seen success in its tech startup space, with a growing number of young, digital-savvy entrepreneurs disrupting traditional business models. These startups have made an impact in fintech, food delivery, and digital content, capitalizing on the increasing e-commerce and consumer internet sectors.

Australian and Cambodian investors learning about opportunities for investment.

Dr. Chea Vireak, CEO and Co-founder of PillTech, a health tech startup focused on retail pharmacies, expressed optimism about the current climate for Cambodian startups, stating, “We are at the right place at the right time.” The Cambodian government has been pushing digital technology more than ever, providing funds and grants to support startup founders and SMEs.

While the Covid-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on some ventures, others have flourished, becoming household names in Cambodia. The resilience of the Cambodian startup ecosystem, as evidenced by those who embraced the opportunities during the pandemic, demonstrates the potential for further growth and collaboration with Australia.

Bolster the growth and development of startups in both nations

Earlier this year, the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) agreed in principle to establish the Cambodia-Australia Business Advisory Council to promote economic and commercial cooperation between the two countries. The council will meet regularly to set up strategic planning and execution for the promotion of bilateral business and investments, hosting events such as business seminars, trade missions, and other promotional activities.

The endorsement came after a request by Australian businessmen and an official letter from the Ministry of Commerce regarding the establishment of the council. Reach Ra, secretary of state at the commerce ministry, said the ministry had requested input from the CCC on the possibility of forming the Cambodia-Australia Business Advisory Council.

Read more: CADT ready to support Cambodia’s push toward a digital society

Ra mentioned that his ministry had received notice from the foreign affairs ministry regarding the establishment of the Cambodia-Australia Business Advisory Group (CABAG). CABAG, which will now be known as the Cambodia-Australia Business Advisory Council, will be a volunteer group that will spread information and bring Australian companies and entrepreneurs to Cambodia. The council aims to mobilize companies and entrepreneurs in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Queensland.

The council will organize workshops on business, their mission, trading, and other promotional activities, further strengthening the collaboration between the two countries’ startup ecosystems. This partnership will bolster the growth and development of startups in both nations.

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