SPAREasia or simply SPARE, a local team of young entrepreneurs discovered through the SmartStart Young Innovation Program, are on a mission. The student team has developed a digital platform aimed at solving short-term space rental demands.
Their innovative idea and product was also recently recognised at last weekend’s Business Model Competition (BMC) Start-up Accelerator at the Cambodia-Japan Cooperation Center. There they beat 14 other business model ideas to claim the Gold medal, 5,000 USD and a trip to Bhutan where they – alongside Eco-Plastic – will pitch their ideas in front of a regional audience.
Stephen Paterson, Coordinator of BMC and Co-Founder of Mekong Challenge, was full of praise for the fledgling start-up ideas: “I expect both teams, SPARE and Eco-Plastic, to do well in the upcoming regional Mekong Challenge Finals in Bhutan. SPARE is like Airbnb, but for event space and the idea has a lot of potential not only in Cambodia but in the Mekong region.”
Success did not come overnight for the young trio. After more than 9 months refining their platform, the student team has impressed with its simple yet effective digital solution. SPARE was also picked as one of the top five of SmartStart in May 2017 after the first two phases of the program and then underwent a fully-funded incubator program with Impact Hub Phnom Penh.
The brainchild of founder Soeun Sotharith and his fellow university friends Virakbuth Sen and Srong Narun Deth, SPARE is an attempt to match space owners with individuals and organisations looking for meeting spaces.
“We are a diverse team of students from different majors at Zaman University. Through our online platform (soon on mobile), users can search, book, review and host short-term venues including meeting rooms, event spaces, indoor and outdoor spaces or any other kind of spaces in an economical and efficient way,” explained Sotharith.
SPARE is the first platform of its kind in Cambodia and encourages a sharing economy.
“SPARE will assist space seekers to search for options in a convenient way and utilize the variety of choices available on our platform. At the same time, space owners will be able to monetize their unused space by listing it on our website and earn good passive income,” added Sotharith.
For SPARE, the SmartStart experience allowed the young start-up to learn from industry leaders along with leveraging support through various forms of mentorship as they shaped their idea.
“SmartStart came at a very good time as it allowed us to build on our idea and bring it to the next level. Thanks to Smart and the program partners for playing an instrumental role in making our start-up journey happen. By going through all the stages: from “Inspire” to “Enable” and finally to “Grow”, we were able to adjust, validate, and test our business model and product.”
Aimed at helping university students nurture their own tech ideas, SmartStart has helped young developers such as SPARE reap benefits though the leading mobile operator’s funding, support and mentorship for young entrepreneurs.
“We were awarded 4,000 USD and given six months’ worth of incubation support at Impact Hub. It was there were we continuously developed through their coaching, mentoring and networking. Through all the sessions, we not only strengthened our business idea, but also reinforced our team dynamics,” explained Sotharith.
When asked about their launch plan, Sotharith said: “We are at the final stages of launching our platform. Space seekers and space owners can already register at www.SPAREasia.com, whereby till June 2018, we will not apply any commission charges on space owners.”
Smart Axiata CEO Thomas Hundt was excited about the future for SPARE and reiterated his company’s commitment to nurturing the Kingdom’s promising tech industry.
“A tech start-up idea like SPARE will certainly take off in Cambodia. I am delighted that the team has remained very committed throughout SmartStart and their recent win at BMC is a testament of the program as well as their dedication towards their digital idea. We will continue to be alongside them and we look forward to their official launch.”
When asked about their takeaways from the SmartStart program, one of the team members said, “Our overall experience with Smart and Impact Hub has been a very fruitful and positive one. One of our key learnings is to not spend too much time drafting and finding a perfect outcome. Instead, we should constantly carry out reiterations and improvements quickly to perfect our product.”
“As part our future plans, we will enable more features on our platform to improve user experience in managing and using the space. We also need to expand our dynamic team and hire more resource with similar vision and values so that we can increase in scale and become the go-to platform for short-term renting of spaces in the country,” shared Sotharith.
For more information on SmartStart, follow the “Smart for Cambodia” Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/smartforcambodia or visit www.smartstart.com.kh.