Edtech Startup Secures $275,000 Investment

Cambodian edtech startup, Sala, has received a cash injection of $275,000 as part of a pre-seed investment to expand operations
Students celebrate after passing high school examinations in Phnom Penh, December 22, 2022. Kiripost/Siv Channa
Students celebrate after passing high school examinations in Phnom Penh, December 22, 2022. Kiripost/Siv Channa

Choice Accelerator and BCC Group jointly invested $275,000 in the latest pre-seed fundraising round of Cambodian edtech startup, Sala.

This is Choice Accelerator's first equity investment deal in Cambodia after its soft launch in October. Sala plans to use the funds to expand its NFT project, launch its Student Ambassador Programs, and accommodate more functions on its established student platform.

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The company plans to offer solutions to solve issues encountered by students, including potential internship positions, loans, e-learning capabilities, and job searching and career opportunities.

Jennifer Lin, Choice Accelerator CEO, said she sees high potential in Cambodia's education sector, and Sala is one of the most mature solution providers in the market.

She told Kiripost,

“Education in Cambodia is predicted by Choice as one of the highest potential and fastest growing sectors in the next five years. From what we have seen, there is high demand from white collar families to spend their budget on education for their children.”

She reiterated, “Beside business models and financial performances, Choice emphasizes a lot on the resilience of the founding teams.”

Besides investing in Sala, Choice Accelerator also provides mentoring, advice, and free co-working spaces for the startup.

“The new investment will help Sala accelerate and increase capacities to support a broader student population we couldn’t reach before. As a local enterprise, Sala directly contributes to the Cambodian economy through job creation and its business activity by developing products that serve the national and global goals of ensuring inclusive and equitable education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all,” Sok Leap, CEO of Sala, told Kiripost as he closed the deal last week.

The Edtech founder recalled 20 years ago, when he graduated from high school.

“I was one of these students navigating through this journey. Without my supporting family and pursuing the major and career path that I love, I wouldn't be here personally and professionally today.”

He added, “Access to information, advice, and support can help young people make better-informed decisions and succeed in life. Increasing the diversity of skills, mindsets, beliefs, and doubts, the population of future workers at large will have profound long-term benefits.”

BCC Group, a Japanese information technology (IT) solution provider, said it invested in Sala to expand its business in the Cambodian market. “With the IT solution BCC Group provides, the digital certificate on the blockchain issued by Sala and BCC can be instantly confirmed as a digital proof of certificate, so we think it can be a platform that various institutions need. By teaming up with Sala, the synergistic effect would increase.”

In a recent email interview with Lin, Kiripost asked her about an Edtech startup in Cambodia, why did she decide to make this as the first investment, and whether she could do more as an investor to help the invested startup. [The interview was slightly edited for clarity and length.]

What potential do you see in Edtech for Cambodia?

Although the percentage of students enrolled in universities is not high at the moment, we see a promising trend to increase the percentage of professionals and workers with university degrees in the country.

Edtech startups have a very strong chance to push their products to the market under this atmosphere, and Sala is no doubt one of the most matured solution providers currently out there. With this in mind, Sala was a target for investment for us pretty early during our deal sourcing stage.

Besides financial potential, we also see education as one of the most important sectors for the development and growth of Cambodia and its people. While the economy is growing rapidly, we see more and more enterprises facing difficulties finding enough talents to cover their operations in the country.

Education offers the perfect solution to develop and grow the work force needed to sustain increasing demands. If we contribute to the education sector in Cambodia to be more efficient through products that target the development of its human capital, we will also help the local community to nurture enough local talent to meet the needs of enterprises.

A main priority of Sala is to provide support and help to underprivileged communities in Cambodia to get access to top tier education opportunities by leveraging technology and efficient platforms, and empower high school students to find out what’s their best university and career fit. In this social aspect, investing in Sala is a win-win for the provinces, the enterprises, the people and the country.

Why did Choice Accelerator invest in Sala?

Sala's management team impressed Choice with their dedication to the company, even throughout the severe challenges during the pandemic. A team that survived under that kind of harsh situation should be able to navigate other challenges in the future. And, of course, the business model makes sense.

Sala is building a platform that can provide all the resources and information students need, so students can benefit from easily leveraging all the functions the platform provides and be more competitive. We see the potential for Sala to create a whole ecosystem for their partners (including all kinds of service providers, schools, students, and even organizations and governments) to interact with each other on the platform.

All participants will get advantages as a result of this healthy and cooperative platform, and that is a future Choice wants to bet on and be a part of.

We also hope by investing in Sala, Choice can contribute back to society by helping to fund an amazing solution that can benefit all participants. So Sala is a perfect fit of the philosophy of Choice, in which we want to invest in startups maximizing financial performances and social impacts.

In addition to investment, what else do you do to support Sala?

Sala actually has a whole grand plan of territories they want to cover in the longer term going forward, so this pre-seed fundraising is of course not enough.

Choice is constantly trying to engage with more potential investors, so hopefully when Sala kicks off their next fundraising round, we can shortlist some investors who are interested. Choice also provides mentoring to Sala. As the business grows, the management team constantly faces challenges and issues they haven’t encountered before.

Choice will be there to walk alongside the management team and brainstorm together with the founders to solve those operational and strategic issues. For example, Sala might need financial advice while their revenues grow bigger, and Choice will help to provide connections of professional solutions. Choice also provides free co-working space for Sala.