Recap :: Startup Weekend Siem Reap

30 Jun , 2015  

It’s hard to believe it’s been a month since Startup Weekend, what a whirlwind! In case you missed it, or just want to re-live the experience, we’ve put together a rundown of the event plus our thoughts on how it went.

Startup Weekends have been sweeping the globe providing fast-paced workshops to develop entrepreneurial experience and build communities. After hosting a couple successful events in Phnom Penh, our local Startup Weekend team thought it was time to bring Siem Reap aboard.


“We feel it is very relevant for a place like Siem Reap where lots of young people will own or run their own business at some stage in their life – whether that’s a more traditional family business or tech startup doesn’t matter,” Philippe Ceulen, co-founder of The 1961 and member of the Startup Weekend team, explained.

Through Startup Weekend the team hoped to get a feel for the local entrepreneurship and startup ecosystem, build a strong community, put Siem Reap on the entrepreneurship map while strengthening connections with the Phnom Penh network, and of course, have fun.


Friday evening everyone gathered around to pitch a rough idea of what they wanted to create during the workshop. A handful brave participants tried to sell their problem, propose a solution, explain how they planned to reach that solution, and gave a brief intro about themselves, all in only 60 seconds! The initial 10 pitches revolved around education initiatives, community building ideas, and tech devices and apps. After some voting and deliberation, the 25 participants chose five ideas to develop over the weekend and split themselves into teams based on their skills: developer, communications/marketing, designer, business, etc.

Over the next day and a half the teams worked hard identifying and developing the best solution to their problem before their final pitch in front of the judges Sunday evening.


In the end, three teams emerged victorious:

First – Cleanbodia: an eco-conscious startup bringing bio-degradable plastics to Siem Reap in an effort to resolve the plastic (bag) pollution problem. Their aim: to build an attractive eco-brand and create the right partnerships so they can monetize their services and products.

Second – CoEnlight: an online education platform for Cambodian students, functionally similar to other Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) but adapted to the Cambodian context. The CoEnlight team will identify the needs or skill-gap in the private sector and develop courses accordingly.

Third – WhozAround: a social network discovery application. WhozAround ties into existing social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn to find people you are directly and indirectly connected with according to search criteria like interests, professional activities and geographical location. Basic functionality would be free but WhozAround will also offer a paid version for power users and professional use.

“I’ve never been involved in a Startup Weekend before and was really impressed with the ideas and final presentations,” explained Kyle Naidu, Community Manager at the 1961 and part of the event’s organizing team. “I didn’t expect the finished products to look so polished and professional after only 54 hours. It just shows how dedicated and talented the participants were.”

So what qualities make up a winning pitch?

“Very clear and detailed pitch that was tailored to the judges’ profiles. The project itself is manageable and realistic, the idea was well validated. The team had the necessary diversity and balance to be able to deliver. Limited investment required to turn this into reality” Ceulen explained.


Of course, the participants were the Startup Weekend stars, but the event wouldn’t have been a success without the venue and team at The 1961; support from great mentors and volunteers from the Phnom Penh community; CellCard, the event’s main sponsor; and the Techstars team from Kuala Lumpur (a global incubator that recently acquired UP Global).

Missed this Startup Weekend and feeling a bit blue? Don’t worry, Ceulen and the Startup Weekend team have plans for future events.

“Yes, we will continue to host Startup Weekends although organizing teams might change from event to event. We’re looking at 1 event in Phnom Penh and 1 in Siem Reap every year with the possibility to organize additional (smaller) workshops/presentations throughout the year. As both the startup scene grows and the Startup Weekend name earns its reputation, the events will become better and better! We will also be able to bring to Cambodia other Techstars events like Startup Week and Next.”

And for those of you who just can’t wait another year, Ceulen has some advice for developing your own startup.

“Start small and with a good team. Take your time, don’t try to do everything at once. Instead develop one product or service that will address a clearly defined need or want while getting to know your potential customers. Get acquainted with local laws and regulations, it’s easier to be compliant from the very beginning. If you’re inspired by another business, try to be as innovative as possible when moving forward, rather than mimicking something that’s been done before.”

Once again, a HUGE thank you to all of our sponsors, mentors, judges, and volunteers who made the first Startup Weekend a success!

(Psst… you can also view all of the photos from the weekend on our Facebook page!)

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