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Smart’s fund invests in local tech startups

May Kunmakara / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
The Okra Solar team working with villagers. Supplied

Smart Axiata Digital Innovation Fund (SADIF) expanded its investment into two more promising local digital businesses, a move that will contribute to the development of the Kingdom’s digital economy.

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SADIF is Cambodia’s first digital venture capital fund. It is managed by Mekong Strategic Partners with investments from Smart Axiata and Forte Insurance.

Okra, an IT firm that focuses on solar energy technology, and Sousdey, which provides chatbot solutions for Facebook messenger, will benefit from the resources and experience of the fund.

Okra, founded in 2016, is an Internet-of-Things (IoT) company that helps rural communities access affordable solar technology using its advanced distributed energy technology. Its software enables solar panels and batteries to be connected into smart microgrids, providing remote households with access to electricity.

While customers pay a subscription fee, power distributors can control and monitor the systems remotely as well as receive real-time notifications on network customer behavior.

Okra has provided electricity to more than 500 people and 100 households in Cambodia as of now.

“We are very excited to receive support from SADIF. It was a natural choice to partner with Smart as we already use network connectivity to remotely manage and control our Internet of Things microgrids.

“Connectivity is crucial to collect sensor data and send the controls we need to make sure communities have access to energy,” said Afnan Hannan, Okra co-founder, in a press release.

Thomas Hundt, CEO of Smart Axiata, said electricity is an essential necessity for human livelihood but more than 1.2 billion people around the world are still living without consistent power.

“Okra’s differentiated technology and business model has the capacity to deliver and positively respond to those living off-grid in Cambodia and beyond”,” he said.

In this round of capital injection, SADIF is co-investing alongside Schneider Energy Access Fund. Prior to SADIF funding, Okra received support from prominent organisations including UKAid and SNV Netherlands Development Organisation.

The other investee, Sousdey, started operations in 2017 and soon became the first mover in the local market for its Facebook Messenger chatbot services.

The company was one of the first to develop Khmer Natural Language Processing on an AI-based platform. Today, Sousdey serves 800 corporate and SME clients and has facilitated more than 2 million conversations through its platform.

Djibril Cisse, founder and CEO, said funding from SADIF will support his platform’s development while reinforcing his sales and marketing efforts to expand the product.

“Sousdey looks forward to collaborating with Smart, Forte, and MSP to help access enterprise clients and build a world-class enterprise product,” he said.

Bora Kem, partner of Mekong Strategic Partners, the investment firm managing SADIF, said, “Our investment into Okra underlines the importance of innovation to address issues relevant to the most underserved population while still delivering attractive economics and impacts on a global scale.

“Sousdey Cambodia highlights the speed and scale of AI-based software to solve engagement issues in a customer-facing business.”

SADIF is committed to investing in Cambodia-focused technology companies. Its investees include Agribuddy, Nham24, Morakot Technology, and Joonaak.

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