After months of thorough research and examination, the $5 million venture capital fund for Cambodian-based digital service companies and start-ups is set to announce its first recipients in the coming weeks.
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The Smart Axiata Digital Innovation Fund (SADIF) seeks to invest in ideas and businesses in the digital ecosystem to support the development of Cambodia’s nascent digital economy. It promises to empower aspiring entrepreneurs and provide vital funds to a rapidly-growing ICT industry.
Thomas Hundt, CEO of Smart Axiata, said his company had noted the shortage of funding opportunities for start-ups and thus set into motion the creation of SADIF.
“This fund was launched to plug the critical gap between the bright ideas that are out there in the market for Cambodia-based digital services and the funding needed to unleash the true potential of those tech businesses. We believe there are significant opportunities for businesses in the ICT sector that will not only complement our first-class networks, but will make Cambodian lives easier and more connected,” said Thomas.
Investment and advisory firm Mekong Strategic Partners has been tasked with identifying potential investment opportunities and fund manager Kem Bora is key in scouting prospective recipients.
“Our role is to identify attractive opportunities in the digital market and to find the right team that will take advantage of those trends. Each investment is a different situation,” explained Bora.
“We look for strong capable teams in a market that is growing rapidly, a business that can grow and generate profits, validation that customers will use and pay for the product, and hopefully, risks that are manageable. We also look for companies where we can help bring more value to the team. An early stage company will look to our fund for establishing their credibility, finding new customers and partners and strengthening technical capabilities, marketing and operations strategies. We will continue to play a role in the on-going advisory and management of the company until exit.”
“This first digital venture capital fund in the country is unique in its dedication to the success of the start-ups as it is our joint focus with Smart to invest in technology companies in Cambodia,” he said.
Investments from the fund will range from $25,000 to $500,000 and will be bolstered by cutting edge support through mentoring, knowledge sharing and business development which will form a critical component of the process. Synergizing with Smart is also part of the concept.
“The areas we are interested in are financial technologies (fintech), e-commerce, digital advertising, digital marketplace, digital health, education technology, Internet-of-Things and other disruptor models,” added Bora.
While the number of Cambodian digital entrepreneurs has swelled in recent years, there has not been a dedicated fund available to invest in these businesses yet. Thomas looks forward to following the progress of the funds’ first beneficiaries.
“We have invested a significant amount of time and money in creating a fund that will truly support Cambodia’s digital economy. I can’t wait to see that investment taking shape as new companies and new business models grow with the backing from the fund. This would set the foundation right for Smart being a prime enabler in the digital ecosystem as part of our vision to be Cambodia’s Digital Champion,” said Thomas.
“We look forward to announcing the first investments in the coming weeks together with Mekong Strategic Partners,” he added.
More details on SADIF can be found at www.sadif.com.kh. For more information and updates on Smart’s sustainability and corporate responsibility initiatives, follow Smart’s “Smart for Cambodia” Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/smartforcambodia or visit www.smart.com.kh.