After coming out on top in a grueling two-day hackathon event that ended Saturday, five teams composed of young entrepreneurs will join the final phase of SmartStart’s Young Innovator Programme.

SmartStart is organised by mobile telecommunications company Smart Axiata, with the collaboration of Raintree Cambodia, a boutique office building in the capital, and co-working space Impact Hub Phnom Penh, among others.

After impressing judges with their business models, product ideas and teamwork during the programme’s second phase, the winning teams will each receive a $4,000 cash prize and access to a six-month incubator programme to transform their business ideas into reality.

The winning ideas included a platform that connects travellers with local artists and a mobile application to help people find parking space.

Sokunthaneth Chhoy, team leader for SomJot, the team that pitched the idea for the parking application, said reaching this stage was already something to be very proud of.

“I am delighted that our digital business concept impressed the judges today. It has been a great privilege to join such an impressive tech innovation programme.

“I would like to thank Smart and Impact Hub for creating learning opportunities for Cambodian university students like us. I look forward to continue our SmartStart journey.”

The five winning teams will now move on to the final phase of the programme, turning their ideas into actual businesses or products. Besides ongoing mentoring from Impact Hub as well as Smart Axiata, the teams will gain access to an ecosystem of resources, inspiration and collaboration opportunities.

“All the judges today were really impressed with the quality of all the presentations and the desire of these students to transform their initial concepts into a prototype. I urge all the participants to continue pursuing their concepts and contribute towards the booming technovation ecosystem in Cambodia,” said Zoe Ng, managing director of Raintree Cambodia.

Smart Axiata’s CEO Thomas Hundt was delighted with the immense talent showcased during the event’s final pitch.

“SmartStart is an annual programme that I am always looking forward to as it has unlocked many brilliant ideas and young talents in Cambodia. All 15 teams are the pride of Cambodia. Congratulations to each one of them for their efforts and dedication throughout the first two phases of SmartStart!

“Smart believes in these young innovators and is proud to kick-start their digital journey. Together with Impact Hub Phnom Penh and other partners, we will be together with them over the next months in making their start-up ideas a reality,” added Mr Hundt.

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