VC Pledges $1m to Early-Stage Cambodian Startups

An early-stage venture capital firm is gearing up to open its doors in Cambodia, pledging $1 million to invest in early-stage startups. Kiripost’s Tharum Bun talks to Choice Accelerator CEO, Jennifer Lin, to find out more.
Choice Accelerator CEO, Jennifer Lin. Kiripost/Siv Channa
Choice Accelerator CEO, Jennifer Lin. Kiripost/Siv Channa

In Cambodia, there are about 30 venture capital and private equity firms investing in startups at various stages. Like many other countries, there are not many early-stage investors. Just ahead of the end of the year, early-stage venture capital firm, Choice Accelerator, has pledged $1 million for its equity investment to back pre-seed and seed-stage startups in Cambodia.

This means early-stage startups looking to raise pre-seed investment now have one more choice. The venture capital firm also offers a tailored mentorship program and co-working space at its new venue at KY iCenter.

“We’re among the few active players in this market,” said Choice Accelerator CEO, Jennifer Lin, adding she hopes that in six months there will be more players.

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Choice Accelerator CEO, Jennifer Lin. Kiripost/Siv Channa
Choice Accelerator CEO, Jennifer Lin. Kiripost/Siv Channa

Investing in Cambodia’s early-stage startups and emerging companies

As there are not many early-stage startup investors in Cambodia, Jennifer said Choice Accelerator aims to fill the gap. Her VC wants to be a helpful player in the startup ecosystem, saying startup founders graduating from the accelerator program need this kind of early investment. Until now, there was not much choice with regard to investors to talk to and raise funds.

“Startup companies operating in Cambodia are the only criteria,” said Jennifer, adding the early-stage VC firm is looking to invest in early startups, stable companies, or social enterprises in any sector.

The VC will not have a schedule, but is open to applications from startups year-round.
“When you’re ready, you can send us your company deck. I’ll have an interview with the founder to have a brief idea if this is actually something we want to explore,” Jennifer said of the early-stage, first round of filtering.

“I’ll start to do detailed due diligence with teams we are interested in. After one or two months, we’ll be able to tell the founders if we want to invest in them and other resources we can provide,” the CEO explained of her VC’s process.

Choice Accelerator: equity investment and mentoring Cambodia-based startup founders

Choice Accelerator will connect startups with experienced, entrepreneurial mentors, who understand the business in their respective sectors and can really help solve daily problems. Jennifer noted that it is not classroom mentoring, but will be one-on-one discussions and problem shooting. Bringing angel investors from countries in Southeast Asia to provide mentorship in raising the next investment round is also part of Choice Accelerator’s presence in Phnom Penh.

Most early-stage startups still need to go through the accelerator program. There are many running this program, though without providing the pre-seed funding, in Cambodia.

After passing the acceleration program, startups will conduct their business with minimum viable products, generating revenue in the first couple of years when they are not sponsoring by themselves and the competition is not big enough anymore.

“We’ll come as the early-stage ticket writer to do equity investment. Hopefully, to help raise more investment for them as well make the ticket size more significant and help them to grow, to scale,” explained Jennifer, who is also a seasoned angel investor and startup mentor with years of experience in auditing, finance, and mergers and acquisitions in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

“Hopefully, after their growth stage, they’ll be big enough to talk to the VC players here,” she added.

As her VC office and co-working space, on the 29th floor of KY iCenter, is slated to open the door to startup founders before 2023, Jennifer said the startup community in Cambodia is friendly and welcoming. She has met more than two dozen startup founders, key stakeholders in the investment community, and ecosystem builders.

“Startup founders are hardworking, so they’re inspiring,” Jennifer told Kiripost in a recent interview.

When asked about the most promising startup founders she is looking to invest in, the VC CEO said,

“As a founder, you need to know exactly what you want to do. It’s very tricky. Some founders cannot describe this in detail, that means they really don’t know what to do. Without details, you’ll not be able to execute.”

In an early-stage startup, a business model is not the most important thing. To be too focused on a business means owners do not know how to be flexible when they encounter difficulties. “When the big market is not what it is, you'll be stuck here,” she noted.

“For capable founders, they see the whole picture. They’re going to encounter many kinds of difficulties.”

The Choice Accelerator CEO said her VC firm is ready to support the younger generation of Cambodian entrepreneurs. She believes that anyone, from any background and with any education, will have a chance when they choose to take the journey to be an entrepreneur.