Cambodia Investment Review

RG & CIR Start-Up and Innovation Festival 2023: The Best Ways to Raise Startup Funding in Cambodia

RG & CIR Start-Up and Innovation Festival 2023: The Best Ways to Raise Startup Funding in Cambodia

Cambodia Investment Review

Rising Giants (RG) and Cambodia Investment Review’s (CIR) much-anticipated inaugural Start-Up & Innovation Festival Cambodia 2023 recently took place at FACTORY Phnom Penh. The sold-out event, held on April 8, witnessed the assembly of key players from the Cambodian and Southeast Asian startup scene.

Read more: RG & CIR Start-Up and Innovation Festival 2023: Cambodia’s Expanding Creator Economy

The panel discussion on “The Best Ways to Raise Startup Funding in Cambodia” featured Rising Giants Co-Founder Dom Kalousek as the moderator. Among the panelists were Vireak Chea from PillTech, Buntongyi Nit from MeetDoctor, Jolyda Sou from Prestige Consulting, and Chankiriroth Sim from BhanJi.

Juggling raising capital and running the startup

Dom Kalousek initiated the discussion with a challenging question about juggling business operations and capital raising. “How can startups effectively focus on their businesses while also undergoing full-time capital raising?” he asked.

Vireak, CEO and co-founder of PillTech, Cambodia’s pioneering healthtech startup, highlighted the task’s complexity. He emphasized the importance of self-care, saying, “Focus on caring for your health can help your startup to go along way. In the early stages, you must do everything yourself. You need to find the work-life balance and dig deep to solve real pain points of your customers.”

Drawing from personal experience, Buntongyi, who founded MeetDoctor, an online platform connecting patients and doctors, suggested a time management strategy. “Morning and afternoon times are best for working while evenings can be best for investors networking at events. This is how I have approached this,” he shared.

RG & CIR Start-Up and Innovation Festival 2023: The Best Ways to Raise Startup Funding in Cambodia.

The conversation then turned towards the qualities that make startup founders good investment prospects. Jolyda, a seasoned business management consultant in Phnom Penh, detailed the crucial factors.

She outlined, “Firstly, the team – you need a good team to execute your plan. Secondly, the business model – it should sustain itself and deliver returns. Thirdly, profitability & scalability – whether the business can grow bigger in the market. Fourthly, synergy – a two-way benefit for us as investors, and fifthly, risk & opportunity – for example, cryptocurrency, we are very bullish on, but the regulatory framework is too grey. Lastly, valuation – sometimes all these boxes are ticked, but the deal is far overvalued.”

Building your startup team is crucial

Chankiriroth, the founder behind BhanJi, a financial management platform for MSMEs, expressed the challenges of building a strong and diverse team. “In a market like Cambodia, with financial institutions constantly poaching staff, it is important to hire people who can learn fast and admit that they don’t know the subject matter. However, retention is an issue,” he noted.

Buntongyi added that young staff were advantageous due to their eagerness to learn and adapt to new fields. Vireak concurred, emphasizing the significance of diversity and clear communication within the team. Jolyda reiterated the investor’s perspective, stating that a team’s first impression, commitment, field expertise, and coachability are critical evaluation points.

RG & CIR Start-Up and Innovation Festival 2023: The Best Ways to Raise Startup Funding in Cambodia.

On the question of when to start fundraising, Buntongyi suggested a timeframe of about 18 months. Jolyda proposed a three-phase approach: understanding market funds, setting a sustainable burn rate, and managing equity dilution.

Vireak advised startups to stay focused on their core goals, while Chankiriroth, who gave away over 50% of his company shares to secure funding, noted that “owning 10% of something is better than 100% of nothing in business.”

In response to the question about what they would do differently if they could start over, Buntongyi said he wouldn’t change anything as the experience was akin to a “real-life MBA.” Vireak, on the other hand, underscored the importance of maintaining good health amidst the stressful startup environment, and Chankiriroth advised against offering free software, stating, “Free is not a business model.”

Social media and coachability of startups

One audience member brought up the importance of a robust online presence on social media for raising funds. Vireak shared that while his LinkedIn was highly used, he didn’t feel that social media played a critical role in his fundraising efforts. Chankiriroth, on the other hand, suggested that investing too much time into an online persona could potentially be detrimental to the perception of investors.

Jolyda from the investor’s perspective stated, “It’s pretty important because we often discover many companies through the press. But it’s about more than just having an online presence. In-person networking is also vital.” Buntongyi added that his new TikTok channel had generated significant traction and emphasized the value of organic growth and self-promotion for small startups.

Finally, the discussion turned to the question of maintaining the coachability of startup founders post-funding. Jolyda mentioned that they have encountered some issues with startups they invested in and now protect themselves by not paying all funds upfront and linking payments to the achievement of KPIs. Vireak added that first impressions and due diligence were crucial to uncover founders who may not be as open to guidance as they initially seem.

RG & CIR Start-Up and Innovation Festival 2023: The Best Ways to Raise Startup Funding in Cambodia.

In conclusion, the inaugural Start-Up & Innovation Festival Cambodia 2023, organized by Rising Giants and Cambodia Investment Review, offered valuable insights and practical advice on raising startup funding in Cambodia.

The panelists shared their experiences and learnings, highlighting the importance of a focused approach, the need for a good team, and the crucial balance of operational responsibilities with fundraising efforts. Despite the challenges, the conversation ended on a note of optimism, painting a promising picture of Cambodia’s burgeoning startup scene.

Listen to the full panel discussion here at Rising Giants

Related Articles