Cambodia Investment Review
The inaugural Pitch Perfect event, hosted by Rising Giants and Choice Accelerator has provided a platform for emerging Cambodian startups to showcase their ideas. The event was also designed to provide feedback and highlight recurring challenges and pitfalls that startups face when pitching for seed investment, highlighting areas for improvement in a fast-evolving ecosystem.
Four diverse startups took the center stage during the event:
- Solo Landscapes founded by Sokchanlida Horn (Tourism)
- Atelier founded by Ryo Nakano (B2B E-Commerce)
- Centric Kernel founded by Dara Tay (POS systems)
- Tech for Kids Academy founded by Pidor Lydet (EdTech)
These ventures were scrutinized by an experienced panel that included Vichet In, Angel Investor and CEO and Co-Founder of Little Fashion, khmerload.com, and Groupin; Jennifer Lin, CEO of Choice Accelerator; and Max Thornton, Co-Founder of Rising Giants.
Prioritizing Upfront Feedback and Concise Communication
Speaking to Cambodia Investment Review after the event Max Thornton highlighted the unique selling point of the event as being more than just a pitch session. “Our first Pitch Perfect event was a showcase for how to bring the style of Shark Tank to Cambodia, prioritizing upfront feedback and concise communication so startups can clearly understand what commercial investors are looking for when seriously evaluating deals,” Thornton remarked.
Despite the diversity in the types of startups, the panelists noted several common pitfalls. Among the frequent mistakes they observed were overcomplicating business models and not adequately addressing competition. “Not telling the human story of why they are here risking everything on this vision diminishes the emotional resonance of the pitch,” said Thornton, emphasizing that a compelling narrative can make a substantial difference in winning investors.
Jennifer Lin added to the feedback by focusing on a specific recurring issue: “The common mistake founders made the most is pretending they are the only one in the market.” She elaborated that this often leads to a lack of strategic foresight, highlighting that “admitting that some other players might fight in your market in the future is a good practice to examine if you are on your way to build a defensive base.”
Jennifer further asserted that understanding and acknowledging competition is a critical aspect of a well-rounded business strategy. “Investors want to hear from a founder who knows exactly his/her weaknesses and strengths,” she said, adding, “we don’t want to know the founder doesn’t know what risks they might face in the future, because no recognition of risk, no strategies to face the risk.”
The Spirit of Resilience Among Cambodian Entrepreneurs
Vichet In, expressed his contentment with the quality of pitches but also sounded a note of caution. “Although startups are currently experiencing a funding crunch, some founders still find a way to grow their business,” said Vichet. His comments underline the spirit of resilience among Cambodian entrepreneurs, despite the current market challenges.
Another critical point was the collaborative aspect of Cambodia’s startup ecosystem. Jennifer appreciated the collective efforts, saying, “Choice couldn’t do this by ourselves, and it’s been something we constantly feel in the startup community in Cambodia, that players in the ecosystem help each other to make the whole environment better for startups.”
As the Cambodian startup ecosystem continues to develop and mature, events like Pitch Perfect offer both a stage and a learning platform. With plans to host the event every quarter, it aims to act as an essential forum for dialogue and development, helping startups to navigate the common pitfalls that could impede their growth and opportunities for investment.