Business Model Competition Showcases Cambodian Students’ Innovation

The 13th Business Model Competition saw more than 100 applicants whittled down to five winners, who impressed judges with their innovative ideas
Education Minister, Hang Chuon Naron (left) handovers the trophy to Neak Sokkim, Yek Lynter and Heang Menghorng. Kiripost/Meas Molika
Education Minister, Hang Chuon Naron (left) handovers the trophy to Neak Sokkim, Yek Lynter and Heang Menghorng. Kiripost/Meas Molika

High school and university students gathered for the finals of the Business Model Competition 2023, which saw 12 teams pitch their innovative ideas to win the top place.

On Saturday, the National University of Management International College (NUMIC) held the final round of the competition after selecting the top 12 innovative business ideas from students.

Its purpose is to serve as a platform for talent development among youth in Cambodia while creating an entrepreneurial mindset among students, which will in the future lead to the creation of more successful startup businesses and social ventures.

The winning place went to Cam-Science, a science, technology, and engineering company offering products such as a smart irrigation system. They also offer internship opportunities to help farmers water their crops.

The 13th annual Business Model Competition Cambodia (BMC) was conducted with 12 university and high school teams competing in the nation’s lean startup business model competition.

Cam-Science, Tux Global Institute, Paragon University and NUM International College win gold, a prize, a trophy and a trip to Japan. Kiripost/Meas Molika
Cam-Science, Tux Global Institute, Paragon University and NUM International College win gold, a prize, a trophy and a trip to Japan. Kiripost/Meas Molika

The teams pitched both business and social venture ideas related to Education (Ed-Tech), Agriculture (Ag-Tech), AI and the Environment, to a panel of eight judges comprising startup entrepreneurs and senior executives from corporate sponsors, according to a BMC press release.

After pitching for the final round, the top five business ideas were selected for the awards. These are Smart-Ed, Claystation, Flexfloc, Kakvei and Cam-Science.

Cam-Science, from the Royal University of Phnom Penh, Tux Global Institute, Paragon University and NUM International College won the Gold Medal and a $5,000 prize, as well as the Champion’s Trophy and a trip to Japan.

The Silver Medal and $3,000 prize went to Kakvei from the American University of Phnom Penh and CamEd Business School. The Bronze Medal and $2,000 went to Flexfloc from Paragon University and NUM International College. The Innovation Award of $2,000 went to Claystation from CamEd Business School, while the Social Business Award with a $1,000 prize went to Smart-Ed from ICS and Peam Chikang High School.

Neak Sokkim and her two male team members, founder and co-founders of Cam-Science, scooped the Gold Medal and Champion’s Trophy for this year's BMC.

Since their team hails from an agricultural background, they are aware that farmers are having problems with irrigation systems. Traditional irrigation leads to inconsistent productions. Farmers have to spend a lot of time, money, and energy irrigating their crops and that is the reason why it encouraged them to find innovative ways by using technology to help farmers in irrigation.

She told Kiripost on Saturday that she is delighted that her team achieved another gold medal in BMC 2023 and she plans to use it to implement her business project.

“After we get this prize, $5,000, we can use it to implement our project and help the farmers by testing our products with them. Moreover, we can use the money to purchase more products,” she said.

As Cam-Science has won three gold medals in previous competitions, she said the funding has helped her team to implement the idea to transform it into a real business.

This 19-years-old said business competitions have played a key role to support her team's business idea to become a prototype and then implement the physical product, which has already been in operation for one year.

She added, “Those competitions have contributed a lot to the improvement of Cam-Science because the competition provided us with funding, support, guidance, and mentoring. Additionally, those competitions helped develop our products into prototyping and get the MVP products and also put the pilot project in Phnom Penh and Kandal province.”

Hang Chuon Naron, Minister of Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS), believes that the BMC is an ecosystem that is important to link high school and university students with the real world because the program encourages people to think creatively, explore, learn and compete.

“I have been involved for the last 10 years and I have learned a lot from the competition. I have seen the improvement in the quality of the contestants and I believe that the future of Cambodia is rising because of the students working hard and also showing that they are yielding for knowledge and applying the knowledge to solve the social economic problems of Cambodia,” Chnon Naron said.

He added that nowadays business does not only need people who have knowledge, but soft skills are crucial, especially for the 21st century with skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, ability to work in a team, collaboration, and the ability to communicate their ideas plus IT skills.

“Entrepreneurship is very important for high school students but also for university students as the young people must learn real things and also create more jobs and companies,” the Minister said.

He also motivated students to get involved in business competition programs which allow students to solve problems that Cambodia is facing by using their own critical, creative and innovative ideas.

Hor Peng, Rector, National University of Management, said this year’s BMC marked its 13th-year anniversary in Cambodia.

In January, BMC 2023 received 100 recorded video team applications from more than 25 public and private universities and schools across Cambodia, he added.

Chhieng Vanmunin, CEO of Khmer Enterprise (KE), said KE, initially began to partner with NUM in 2020 during the Covid-19 crisis in order to support other start-ups.

“This competition is important to Khmer Enterprise because it supports the cause of the promotion component of what we are trying to do as that delivers what the government wants us to do,” he added.

The competition is organized each year by both NUM and Japanese NGO, CIESF, with Waseda University Japan and the University of California Berkeley serving as the main knowledge partners.

The program started out in 2010 as a National SME Business Plan Competition and has now transitioned from a business plan to a business model competition that encourages students to design new and innovative business models and then test and validate their business model assumptions using lean startup techniques.

This year’s BMC 2023 received financial support from KE and also Platinum corporate sponsors GL Finance, TotalEnergies and the ISI Group.