Cambodia Startup Summary
Cambodia's "Startup Environment" is different than many and just beginning. In Developed nations, entrepreneurialism is an idea that needs to be promoted, fostered, taught, and developed. But in Cambodia, everyone is an entrepreneur. If they aren't growing or buying and selling something, they can't eat. Everyone is hustling, selling, doing services like moto-taxi, soothsaying, you name it, nearly nothing is free. Entrepreneurship is the Cambodian way of life. There is no investment community, no real Angel market, no VC's, with only one Angel investment deal brokered to date, of merely $15,000.
With interest rates high and GDP and property roaring, finding investment for new business especially concept (startup), is nearly unthinkable. 12-36% interest is the rate for loans, and that's only available IF you have 140% collateral coverage in real estate. No one can afford to borrow but to buy and sell goods at 100% margin etc, and fast money is how it's done. The startup hubs "have no clue about investment", the stock market empty and inexperienced with only 4 stocks and no marketing nor sales team, and "Startup and Angels" events have Post-startups instead of Startups, and no Angels. A big deal in Cambodia would be $20,000, and someone investing in something not late stage is nearly unthinkable in the market.
The community of startups and infotech and virtual economy is growing rapidly, but the real demand is in REAL economy not in infotech. Hard goods, infrastructure, energy, processing, food processing, light industry and small manufacturing, production of goods, localizing imports instead of importing, services that will improve delivery of Cambodia's existing produced goods and services, light construction, Hard Business services, and finance for development.
The high infotech OECD market business models will find a couple million regular internet users on FB who earn $153-400 a month and are weakly monetizable. There is HUGE opportunity in RealTech, but infotech markets are just beginning to develop. The REAL story begins in the REAL Internet, and that is not infotech, it is The Electricity net. It's no surprise that G-10 Nations people's in Cambodia are unable to see this when they come from nations that have 50x the electricity supplies and choices in the market, they have the ability to move into the downtown hotels and fly around, and don't experience the low to no electricity life of Cambodians, but the reality for Cambodia people and businesses is they need the lights on before they can surf the internet, and they need jobs and manufacturing before they can spend on it. Many infotech failures will occur but it's hard to see how properly planned RealTech's can fail in a fast growth cash only market.
It is truely interesting and somewhat mindboggling watching the foreign taught "Incubation spaces" talking about entrepreneurialism to a nation of people who are far more entrepreneurial than their home nations have been for perhaps 60-100 years. With do or die hustle as a way of life, the local stars in business seem like they could run circles around the average foreigner teaching in these incubators in sales, drive, determination, mental ability, ability to live and operate on the cheap, bargaining and negotiating, making prices and margins work, and most have failed hard and fast many times as a way of life. Without the jobs and social-net fallbacks, or even electricity, that the "Global Startup culture" could not even imagine living without, Cambodians are prime business people set for explosive drive should they have investment and finance support. Nearly all businesses are profitable or are closed quickly for something else, and there is no option of burn rate due to no capital access possible.
The Organizers of "Startup events" are focusing on infotech as usual, which the nation does need a little more of, but Cambodia needs something else truely and it's not games, not time sinks, not dating apps, not access to more imported goods to try to sell to $153 a month workers and sap their nation's finances, not music and movies, they need jobs, industry, REAL HARD ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY.
(the startup industry answer? "Real economy what? What's the "Real Economy?" They just don't get it, sterilized to real economics in their nations of consumer product cult startup centers.)
Hats off to the organizers, who ARE doing a wonderful service, FREE events for the poor startups not the $6,000 a head Insanity tickets you see globally, and even free tickets to the foreign crowd. We can not thank them enough, and we will offer up some small shares in AOE listing as future support.
Cambodia needs Investment Everywhere, and done the right way in the right financial structures and accountability, into the right businesses, with the right Underdogs, and that is going to yield massive IPO's in short time IF it's done this right way. Many businesses are already in the qualification stage and can list Immediately, but there are no investors and no one with the knowledge to do it yet, in fact most people don't even know there is a stock market, and most have no idea what a stock market even is. Most of the incubator managers had no idea there even was a stock market in the country. They haven't been there, and know nothing about it. It seems there are no teams yet who know much of anything about the investment side of business, expansion, and finance, but for Alpha Omega Energy.
We begin to think of making a VC fund, boy is it needed. In a nation state the size of a large USA State, like Florida or New York, Washington, or Texas, Bigger than New Zealand or the North Europe or periphery nations, the opportunities are just Massive. We count 142 Startups Prime for explosion and stock listing with merely $150-300k invested in a short passive look. But the startup community in Cambodia has no experience in monetization, nor selling investments, few if any deeply experienced Investment people whatsoever and no real idea about any kind of marketing but for G-10 nation's online style. (should be asking locals) I can't wait to see events where the locals are teaching these "incubators" how it's done in Cambodia, how to hustle, how to reach people, who can and can't buy, and what products actually can sell in their market. (not from the kids)
(infotech is selling stuff that no one needs....as usual.)
30 Million, 100-200 Startups, all with set structure and leadership, 150-300k each, and all hand walked to the market IPO. It may be one of the most successful VC funds in history in pound for pound return. This from a silicon valley and investment industry "old dog" who has some days felt like seen it all.
Forget finding local or even international investors in Cambodia, the recent "Startup and Angels" event "didn't even warrant" a show-up by the MAIN Mekong Angel Investors Network apparently, and didn't feature any new startups, but only existing late stage, proven, profitable, large, known, years in business companies that are already far beyond self-sufficient. It didn't look like a Startups Event to me, it looked like a "Well past Finished Ups" Event. I think the next sign should have a ? mark added after the word Angels on it, or you could even just delete the word Angels completely to reflect the reality of the event.
The organizers don't seem to be advertising or marketing to investors, and seemingly no one from the extended region is coming in. It's as usual not any kind of focus whatsoever in the Startup community (though at the best incubators around the world they usually have a 50% mandate for spending and activity focused on bringing in investors, and of course that's what makes them the best incubators. Everyone wants to go where the funding is. Contact info for the organizers post-event was incredibly difficult to find.
Without investors you will not have true Startup capacity, nor growth and scaling, nor meaningful large scale let alone fast Impact. You will instead have a great social club to build small, organic skills akin to an after school program to learn business development. Over a few years a business may become a success, but without the true startup scene which is "Concept Startup - > Invested - > Structured - > Scaled rapidly with subsequent rounds of investment- > IPO - > Commercial finance scaling" Cambodia's startup scene will continue to be a dream for many, but sadly a mere learning and social activity for most.
The danger of not having the investment becomes one of national issue, as Cambodia is an open market to other nations with Vietnam pumping 250 Million into 'on the table' Startup deals and much more below it, and Thai ramping into hundreds of millions with Malaysia and Singapore Far ahead also. Taiwan incubator shark bosses are circling in the incubators and looking to take over the market and their attitudes behind the face are anything but friendly to the locals. They aim to take over not to assist. If Cambodia doesn't get serious about real hard investment into early stage startups and soon, the market will be overwealmed by the big boys next door and the dream of the Cambodian small people underdogs will become a nightmare of foreign market domination and a vaccum of economic opportunity into other nations and away from those who need it most. The fight is on for the future of these people. Join in the campaign to to help them.