Smart Axiata, Cambodian telco provider, said its Smart Axiata Digital Innovation Fund (SADIF) would help Cambodia to create and develop the kingdom’s nascent digital ecosystem and drive vital growth in the country’s digitisation.
“When we announced SADIF back in March, it was still then somewhat of a paper tiger. But we are very proud to announce that is not the case anymore, it is a reality,” said Smart CEO Thomas Hundt, in front of invitees at Monday evening’s announcement at Phnom Penh’s boutique office development Raintree.
The investees selected as first recipients of the fund are Joonaak Delivery, an e-commerce delivery and logistics company, Morakot Technology, a core banking software company, and Aniwaa, a 3D printer and 3D scanner comparison website.
“We spent a six-month period doing all the due diligence and market screening to find three investees which we believe are of super exciting potential,” said Mr Hundt.
Joonaak CEO Jay Kong, who launched his service in 2014, stated: “We are thrilled to start working with Smart, MSP and Forte to help develop our business in a way that we might not be able to do on our own.”
This view was echoed by former Google employee, and now CEO of Aniwaa, Martin Lansard who said: “With this equity partnership we will be in a stronger position to build a world-class content team and will strengthen our sites and rich database capabilities.”
Morakot Technology CEO, Sophorth Khuon said he was excited at the potential brought by the SADIF fund as his company seeks to solve the many unique problems faced by Cambodia’s financial sector.
“Working on this next step is very exciting for us and we can’t wait to get started.”
Mr Hundt also announced it had brought on board a co-investor – Forte Insurance – and hoped investees would be able to benefit from its unique expertise.
“As one of the most successful and innovative insurance platforms in Cambodia, Forte will provide a unique and complimentary skill set to the SADIF team. Having this diversity will solidify the fund as a prime enabler in the digital ecosystem,” added Mr Hundt.
The $5 million fund, which will be managed by investment and advisory firm Mekong Strategic Partners (MSP), will dish out between $25,000 to $500,000 per investee, with 12 more beneficiaries set to be announced over a five-year period.
Kem Bora, investment manager at MSP, said investment from Smart would be crucial to taking the three companies to the next level and was keen to stress companies will not only benefit from a financial injection but also cutting-edge support through mentoring, knowledge-sharing and business development.
“We look for businesses where funding can have an immediate positive impact and where the markets are ripe for emerging technologies,” said Mr Bora.
“The three who made the cut in this round are well-positioned to go on to the next level. We are confident that investment as well as strategic input and business development from Smart, Forte and MSP will supercharge their next phase of growth.”