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My SmartStart Journey an unforgettable experience

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Five teams of young entrepreneurs emerge victorious at the final pitch of SmartStart Young Innovator Program Cycle 3. Supplied

SmartStart Young Innovator Program Cycle 3, was a life-changing experience for So Samphors, a sophomore student at Paragon International University. So, whose team was one of the top five winners of the programme, said it encouraged her to become a real entrepreneur and bring her digital business idea to life.

So’s team, called STYLE, was awarded a prize of $5,000 and a six-month incubator programme with Impact Hub Phnom Penh and Smart Axiata, thanks to their idea of creating a platform that provides users with various opportunities to rent suits, dresses or traditional clothes for special occasions.

“What a life-changing experience. It’s about sweat and tears, sacrifices, sleeplessness, commitment, hard work and a strong team spirit that led us to achieve this success. My team and I are very grateful to Smart Axiata and Impact Hub Phnom Penh for creating this incredible programme for young entrepreneurs,” she said.

Describing her experience, So said the journey was a long one which started with the submission of their digital business idea. “After we were shortlisted, we proceeded to another stage called Hatch. It was a one-day meeting where all the young innovators got to meet each other for the first time and participate in the official opening of Cycle 3.

“We also learned about market research and were given clear instructions on what steps we needed to take before the Hackathon the following week. Hackathon was an intensive two-day learning experience that I can never forget,” she said. She added that Hackathon introduced participants to the fundamentals of starting a tech business where they were paired with a mentor to strengthen their business model. STYLE made it as one of the 15 chosen teams to go for a Technopreneurship Camp in Kampong Cham.

After an intensive five-day camp, So said she gained so much knowledge on marketing strategies, financial management, revenue streams, approaching business partners and others. They also learned various tech skills including how to make prototypes, how to build a landing page and how to design an application.

“We learned together, had fun together, cried together and that created a very strong bond between us throughout the whole boot camp.”

Their hard work finally paid off on June 9, when STYLE excelled at the final pitch and emerged as one of the top five winning teams after wowing a distinguished panel of judges comprising of H.E. Chea Serey, Director General of the National Bank of Cambodia; Thomas Hundt, CEO of Smart Axiata; Kem Bora, Partner of Mekong Strategic Partners; Zoë Ng, Managing Director of Raintree Development; and Adriana Collini, Acceleration Program Manager of Seedstars Word.  “The feeling was beyond amazing. I would strongly encourage all university students to grab the opportunities offered by Smart Axiata, so they can also undergo a learning experience like no other.”

The SmartStart Young Innovator Program is strongly endorsed by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.

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