Khmer Times’ Sok Chan speaks with Hong Monyreach, the co-founder of local startup TosJis, a platform that promotes smart public transportation. TosJis was one of three winners in the latest round of the Toyota Impact Challenge, gaining access to a six-month incubation programme and the chance to win $10,000 in the final round of the programme.
KT: How did you come up with the inspiration to create TosJis?
Mr Monyreach: It started from necessity. The other members of the team and I struggle with the bus system in the city. It is very complicated to know where to catch the bus and what bus you need to board next to arrive to your destination. We realised that there might be other people facing the same problems. We conducted a survey among 100 people to find out, and the results show that the problem was quite widespread. We then decided to tackle this social problem by creating our own app.
KT: Tell us more about your team.
Mr Monyreach: We have different backgrounds – technology, business, design, etc. – but we are in the same university.
KT: How will TosJis improve the lives of Cambodians?
Mr Monyreach: The mission of our platform is to efficiently guide passengers to their destination by showing them the best combination of buses that they can take. The app also shows arrival times, and connects users to ride- hailing services for the last part of the journey home.
It is simple. Users type in the address they want to go, and the app tells them where they need to go to catch the bus. While they are riding the bus, they can use in-built features in the app, such as the possibility of ordering a taxi from Grab – or other ride-hailing app – for the final leg of their journey home.
We are focusing on city buses, our goal being to reduce traffic and accidents as much as possible. We believe that most accidents are caused by individuals who are driving their own vehicles. If we can change their mindset and get them to ride public transport, we think it will alleviate a lot of the problems in Phnom Penh associated with traffic.
KT: How popular do you think your app is at the moment?
Mr Monyreach: We haven’t launched yet. Right now, we have a prototype, and we are hoping to release the market version sometime before June. Fortunately, we know that a lot of people are excited about our application because they struggle with traffic like we do and want solutions to this very important issue.
KT: What’s the next step in your journey to launch the app?
Mr Monyreach: We have already completed the prototype and are now working to secure partnerships with riding hailing apps like Grab and PassApp. One key area that we need to address is the inclusion of a cashless payment feature, and for this we want to talk to money transfer companies like Wing to explore the possibility of entering into a partnership. We also need to reach out to City Hall, but we need to be closer to the final product before doing that.
KT: You have recently succeeded in the semi-finals of the Toyota Impact Challenge, and will soon compete for the championship in January. What has your experience at this startup contest taught you?
Mr Monyreach: Entering the competition has taught a lot about giving form to a business idea, creating prototypes, putting a strong team together, and marketing ourselves. We have learnt all this due to the support of a great team of mentors at Impact Hub. We have benefitted greatly from our interactions with leading professionals in the tech field.
KT: Similar competitions have, in the past, yielded winners whose business ideas never really materialised or entered the market. Why do you think TosJis will be different?
Mr Monyreach: Despite having a variety of backgrounds, everyone in TosJis is in the same class. We have a close relationship, and great trust in each other. I think this will be key in helping us turn our business idea into a profitable business.
KT: What will your next move be if you do not succeed in the competition’s final and fail to raise the capital you need?
Mr Monyreach: Even if we fail, we will continue down this road. We will simply find alternative sources of finance, such as investors. Our idea has a social function so I believe we could also ran a fundraising to raise money.
KT: Based on the research that went into TosJis, can you tell us a bit about current trends in city bus usage?
Mr Monyreach: Not many people in the city are using the public transport system at the moment. We are hoping to collaborate with the government, who could benefit from data we collect on passenger habits, age, etc. This information could be used to improve the bus network by creating additional routes and better infrastructure.