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About

SmartStart
Young Innovator
Program

The SmartStart Young Innovator Program enables young Cambodian university students to launch their own tech startups with the support of Smart Axiata and Impact Hub.

The program will improve your capabilities, sharpen your business skills and kick-start your journey to developing your very own digital idea. You will also gain access to essential industry knowledge and seed funding to begin your own venture.

Apply Now

Why SmartStart?

Connect and Build Relationships

Gain Technical and Soft Skills

Get a Headstart in your Entrepreneurial Journey

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What is at Stake?

What is at Stake?

Our Objective

The SmartStart Young Innovator Program is aimed at enabling and empowering young Cambodian talents to develop their innovative tech and digital ideas with Smart. The goal is to help turn the best concepts into actual tech enterprises.

Program Structures

  1. Outreach - Participants will be exposed to digital entrepreneurial concepts and knowledge sharing from SmartStart alumni and experienced entrepreneurs.
  2. Hatch - 120 shortlisted students will join the Hatch to pitch their ideas and form their teams if they do not have one.
  3. Digithon - The selected teams from Hatch will learn about Internet of Things (IoT) technology and get hands-on experience in creating their first IoT prototype.
  4. Technopreneurship Challenge -60 selected students will work on realizing their startup ideas with business and technical mentorship support throughout the five-day Bootcamp.
  5. Final Pitch - Five teams will be granted 3-month paid internships with leading digital and tech startups to develop their business prototypes.
  6. The Grand Final Pitch - Top 5 teams will give their business pitch to stand a chance to win 10,000 USD and a visit to a tech startup event in the region.

The Process

The Process

Inspire

A total of 120 individuals will be selected from a pool of online . . .

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Enable

The five-day off-site Technopreneurship Challenge will be shaped around the...

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Grow

Participants will be exposed to real working experiences and environments...

Learn more

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What are we looking for?

What are we looking for?

All university students with a keen interest and curiosity in innovation, entrepreneurship, startups and digital technologies are encouraged to apply.

Digital education
Digital content and entertainment
Other disruptive industry models
Digital commerce and payments
Digital education
Digital content and entertainment
Other disruptive industry models
Digital commerce and payments

Who can apply?

At the minimum, candidates must have:

A high level of English proficiency

The drive and determination to succeed

Entrepreneurial skills

Frequently Asked Questions

The Program

1. What is the objective of this program?
The SmartStart Young Innovator Program is aimed at enabling and empowering young Cambodian talents to develop their innovative tech and digital ideas with Smart. The goal is to help turn the best concepts into actual tech enterprises.
2. What are the benefits of joining this program?

SmartStart offers a unique learning platform along with mentorship and financial support. Through this program, you will get:

Connected: You will be exposed to various elements of Cambodia’s digital startup ecosystem, such as experienced mentors, inspirational speakers, co-working spaces, investors and technical support.

Skills: The program consists of business modules taught by experts in their field who have trained and mentored successful startups in Cambodia. The Technopreneurship Challenge will take successful teams to a province outside Phnom Penh. (This is subject to change upon consideration of the organizing committee in light of the Covid-19 pandemic)

Funding: Five winning teams will be granted a 3-month paid internship with the leading digital and tech startups in Cambodia. The winning team of the Grand Final Pitch will receive 10,000 USD as well as an array of resources, mentorships and collaborative opportunities.

3. Do I have to bear any costs to participate in this program?
Smart will cover all program-related expenses, including meals, refreshments and program materials. Transportation and accommodation will also be provided for the Technopreneurship Challenge during the Enable Phase.
4. What is the selection process like?

Inspire Phase:

A total of 120 students will be selected from a pool of applicants to participate in a one-day event called Hatch, during which they will pitch their ideas and form their respective teams based on interests and skills.

Teams will be invited to a two-day Digithon, which will involve prototyping and performing a demonstration. After this event, up to 15 ideas/teams will proceed to the next phase for further development.

Enable Phase:

This phase will see a five-day off-site Technopreneurship Challenge take place. It will be shaped around the fundamentals of ideating and growing a digital startup; recognizing, evaluating and exploiting opportunities; understanding the importance of rapid prototyping; market validation; and experiencing all aspects of business creation. During this phase, there will be high-level digital training and exposure to the basics of back-end and front-end software tools.

Participants will hear from guest speakers – local and international – and network with mentors and fellow entrepreneurs, with a focus on “learning by doing”. The phase will conclude with a public pitching event in Phnom Penh after the five-day Bootcamp. At the event, five teams with the most outstanding and promising digital ideas will be granted three-month internships with the leading digital and tech startups in Cambodia to further develop their business ideas.

Growth Phase:

In this phase, teams will develop and realize their ideas in a three-month fully paid internship as well as receive tailored support in partnership with Impact Hub Phnom Penh. They will turn their startup ideas into actual businesses/products through an ecosystem of resources, mentorships, inspiration and collaboration with business and tech consultants.

Besides having regular check-ins to monitor progress and troubleshoot challenges, the teams will take part in demo days and meet with experts and mentors from various companies to receive valuable insights.

Teams will enjoy full membership at Impact Hub Phnom Penh, allowing them full-time use of facilities as well as free access to regular events, workshops and business clinics.

5. What are the requirements for participation if I am selected?
If you are selected and continually progress, you will be required to fully participate in all events of this program, which is divided into three phases and includes the Hatch, Digithon , Technopreneurship Bootcamp and respective pitching events, as outlined above.

The Application

1. When is the application deadline?
2nd May, 2021.
2. Who can apply?

This program is open to all university students (with those in the third or fourth year of their studies especially encouraged to apply) with:

  • A keen interest in innovation, entrepreneurship, startups and digital technologies.
  • Any digital business idea in the following verticals: digital education, digital commerce and payments, digital entertainment and content, and other disruptive industry models (in the areas of healthcare, agriculture or transportation).
  • Digital or entrepreneurial skills that may contribute towards the development of one’s ideas. For example, coding, graphic/web design, marketing, writing or sales.
  • Good English proficiency.
  • A strong drive and determination to make their dreams come true.
  • A commitment to fully participate in all sessions of the program.
3. How do I apply to this program?
We only accept online applications. Click here if you’d like to get started on your application. The deadline for applications is 2nd May, 2021.
4. What supporting materials are required for the application?
You are required to submit a video introduction about yourself (please refer to the application form for details regarding video content). You must upload your video to YouTube and provide the link accordingly in the application form.
5. When and how will I be notified of my admission status?
You will be informed of your application’s status by the organizers via email. Successful applicants will be asked to confirm their participation upon receiving the notification. Failure to do so will imply that the applicant has rejected the opportunity to join the program, and the position will be offered to other applicants.
6. Can I apply as an individual or do I need to have a team?
You can apply to SmartStart as an individual, or as part of a team.If you apply as an individual, you can apply with or without an idea. If you apply as a team, you must apply with an idea. If you apply as a team, we will either accept your idea and your whole team, or we may reject your idea but consider each applicant individually.
7. Can I apply without an idea?
You can apply to SmartStart without an idea only if you are applying as an individual.
8. How do I find a good idea?
A great idea is something that solves a problem that someone is facing. You can think about a problem that you, your family members or friends used to face. A good business idea could also be an enterprise that exists online or in another country that you think should exist here. Another suggestion is to think about what you’re passionate about and how you can turn that passion into a business.
9. I’m stuck with my application -- help!

Here are some of our suggestions:

  • Make sure your problem is real, specific enough and has a real market with potential customers. Make sure you have spoken to people who experience the problem or experts who are working in that area for validation!
  • You should think outside of the box and come up with solutions that are innovative and creative. We recommend you to do some research on what has been done, and how you can make those solutions better.
  • Make sure to have some data, facts and figures on how big the problem is.
  • Lastly, make sure the problem is something you and your team are passionate about -- but also make sure your team has the right skills and experience to pull it off.
10. How do I know my team is the right fit for the program?

See this checklist. Your team has:

  • People with diverse and complementary skills and backgrounds (at least one person with creative, one with business and one with tech skills).
  • At least more than half of the team is very passionate about the topic.
  • You have the time to commit to this project and you are committed.
  • You have the same vision.
  • At least one of the team members has some industry insights.
11. How will the program be executed with the COVID-19 outbreak?
For the time being, the main means of communication will be through Zoom. However, the organizers will closely monitor the situation of the outbreak in Cambodia and will shift arrangements accordingly, following standard operating procedures issued by the Ministry of Health.
What are the important dates?

Hatch: May 22nd, 2021

Digithon: May 29th - 30th, 2021

Technopreneurship Challenge: June 15th - 20th, 2021

Final Pitch: July 3rd, 2021

Internship: August - October, 2021

Grand Final Pitch: November 13th, 2021

Organizers reserve the rights to change the dates.

Are You Ready To Innovate With Smart?

Apply Now

In Partnership With

Innovating With You, Investing In You!

Enable

The five-day off-site Technopreneurship Challenge will be shaped around the fundamentals of ideating and growing a digital startup. It will involve:

  1. Identifying, evaluating and capitalizing on opportunities.
  2. Understanding the importance of rapid prototyping.
  3. Market validation and business creation.
  4. Guest speakers and networking with mentors and fellow entrepreneurs, with a focus on “learning by doing”. ​​​​​​​This includes high-level digital training and exposure to the basics of back-end and front-end software tools.

A pitching event in Phnom Penh will shortlist five of the most outstanding teams, and they will proceed to the 3-month internship program, which they will be placed with leading digital and tech startups to develop their business prototype.

Inspire

A total of 120 individuals will be selected from a pool of online applicants to participate in a one-day event called Hatch. Selected participants with business ideas will pitch theirs in front a panel of judges. Once the ideas are selected by judges, they can recruit their new members for the teams that are vacant based on their interest and skills matching with their startup ideas. The teams with the most promising startup ideas will be invited to the two-day Digithon, where 15 teams will be selected by a panel of judges in the digital ecosystem to be part of the five-day stay-in Technopreneurship Challenge.

Grow

Participants will be exposed to real working experiences and environments at cutting-edge startups and businesses in Cambodia's thriving startup ecosystem. At the end of the internship, one start-up will stand a chance to win 10,000 USD to continue working on their business ideas.