When navigating new technology and territory, building a strong business quickly can sometimes be a hurdle for start-ups, but one Phnom Penh based company has overcome challenges to become a market leader. And now, with help from the Smart Axiata Digital Innovation Fund (“SADIF”), it hopes to become even bigger and better. Aniwaa, an internationally renowned 3D printer comparison website, was recently selected as one of first three digital start-ups to receive coveted investment funding under the 5 million USD digital innovation fund.
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Co-founder and CEO Martin Lansard left a promising New York career at Google to pursue his project alongside Pierre-Antoine Arrighi – and their faith in public interest in 3D printing technology has paid off. Their website, dubbed “the IMDb of 3D printing”, has swiftly grown to become the most authoritative source for 3D printing machinery worldwide. “Since 2013, when I started the site with my friend and business partner, we have not only produced content and guides on how to use products but also general information for those new to the industry,” said Martin in his office at Confluences Incubateur in central Phnom Penh. For Martin, the company’s goal is to help global consumers and businesses find the correct 3D printing hardware based on their demands.
“We explain what exactly 3D printing is, what can be done with this technology and what are the business applications that become possible through it. We are very proud of our comparison database of hundreds of machines – we are the leading authority and the largest 3D printing hardware comparison engine in the world. It’s the most comprehensive of its type currently in existence. Thousands of people flock to our site to search and compare.” Aware of what biased coverage does to consumer trust in product reviews, Martin explained that it was important to maintain Aniwaa’s integrity.
“We do not take payment from manufacturers whose machines or products we review. This is because we want to be a reputable source. Generally, our process after a manufacturer asks us to conduct a review is having the item shipped here to Cambodia. We then run rigorous tests for about a month, after which, we send it back to the manufacturer.”
The Smart Axiata Digital Innovation Fund was launched in March to boost funding for Cambodian-based digital companies over the next five years. The Fund was devised by leading mobile telco Smart Axiata in partnership with investment and advisory firm Mekong Strategic Partners. Last month, Smart announced that Forte Insurance will join SADIF as co-investor. For Smart Axiata CEO Thomas Hundt, Aniwaa fits well into SADIF and Smart’s plans to be at the forefront of tech innovation in Cambodia.
“Smart is keen to support all aspects of Cambodia’s tech ecosystem. Aniwaa is a great example of this: 3D printing technology is new for most people, but its possibilities in shaping how products will be designed, manufactured and sold in the next few years are huge. We are proud to offer them support to strengthen its rich database capabilities and build a world-class content platform.”
“SADIF’s support will allow Aniwaa to take their industry-leading reviewing practices and apply it to other technologies. I look forward to see what they choose to start reviewing next and bring cutting edge tech hardware information to more technophiles,” Thomas added.
“Aniwaa demonstrates that tech businesses can be truly global; irrespective where the company is located, their markets being global. It is truly an amazing showcase and highly inspiring that a global leader in this field has its home base in Cambodia,” Thomas concluded. For Martin and his team, Smart’s backing will play a crucial role in helping take his website to the next stage.
“Right now we are just a team of four. But the partnership with SADIF is amazing for us because we have reached a point where we really want to expand and grow as a company. As leaders in 3D printing comparison, we feel ready to take on more challenges in our business. This means applying what we have learnt through our 3D printing comparison methodologies and adapting it to explore new product categories; things like drones, Virtual Reality and other emerging technologies which are becoming so popular nowadays.” “For us it’s a big step but with the help from SADIF, its partners as well as Smart’s expertise and resources, we can build on our world-class technology media here in Cambodia. We’ve established ourselves in this country and thankfully it is relatively easy for a company to operate here. Cambodia has a very fast-growing start-up ecosystem,” Martin added. Gordon Peters, a Partner at Mekong Strategic Partners, said venture financing from SADIF is crucial in taking Aniwaa and the other two investee companies to the next level. He was keen to stress that companies can take advantage not only of the financial investment but also personalized and experienced advice on strategy, governance and business development from the SADIF partners, including new access to their network and resources.
“Most companies, no matter how big or experienced, benefit from financial and professional support. SADIF aims to ensure that Cambodia’s brightest tech companies receive the best possible assistance in reaching their potential. Based on Aniwaa’s market leading position in reviewing 3D printing hardware, the company is poised for rapid growth in reviewing other emerging technology hardware. Aniwaa’s encouraging prospects and ability to scale make us believe that they have what it takes to elevate their business,” Gordon said.
For more information on and updates on SADIF, follow the “Smart for Cambodia” Facebook page at www.facebook.com/smartforcambodia or visit https://sadif.com.kh