PillTech Raises Half a Million Dollars to Transform Cambodian Pharmacies

Award-winning startup, PillTech, has secured $500,000 in pre-seed investment to roll out its operations that are revolutionizing the pharmacy landscape to the provinces, before expanding across the region.
Most pharmacies are still sourcing their medicines manually through sales representatives. Kiripost/Siv Channa
Most pharmacies are still sourcing their medicines manually through sales representatives. Kiripost/Siv Channa

Cambodian startup, PillTech, built by pharmacists for community pharmacists, has raised $500,000 from three international and local investors to take on the domestic market before entering Vietnam or Thailand within the next year.

“This is our pre-seed funding round”, said Chea Vireak, PillTech founder and CEO, speaking of the investment from Cambodia’s CiC Capital Partner, Singapore’s POEMS Pte Ltd, and South Korea’s Eugenetek.

The investment comes in the wake of the pandemic, a period that saw huge growth for PillTech as it gained traction of 250 percent in Monthly Active Users from August to October 2021. A total of 2,000 Cambodian pharmacies are currently platform-users, with the number rising.

PillTech plans to use the pre-seed fund to scale its operations to provinces across Cambodia. Vireak said, “They have bigger pain points with product-sourcing compared to pharmacies in Phnom Penh.” 

The other portion of the fund will be used to upgrade PillTech’s technology “to provide more insights to help the operations team make better decisions and moves to scale up bigger and faster”. It will also go towards marketing to bolster the brand.

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People buy medicines at a pharmacy in Phnom Penh, October 13, 2022. Kiripost/Siv Channa
People buy medicines at a pharmacy in Phnom Penh, October 13, 2022. Kiripost/Siv Channa

PillTech is on a mission to digitize the nation’s pharmacy SMEs to incorporate technology to help their business grow using data.

“I was expecting it would take a really long time to close our fundraising round during Covid-19, so I started talking to investors early,” he told Kiripost when asked about how he managed to secure the pre-seed investment in the post-pandemic economic climate.

Vireak noted, “Providing investors with quarterly updates, even if they are not yet your investors, really helps, so when they are ready to pull the trigger then due diligence will be fast.”

He advised startup founders seeking investors that, “One of the keys is to get a referral to meet your investors. Credible referral was the key for me. Also, research your investors as some only invest in early-seed and some only post-series A, for example. Knowing this in advance really helps when speaking to investors.”

Before eyeing Southeast Asian markets, the PillTech CEO said his focus is on expanding to Cambodia’s major provinces. “Learning to expand locally is key to expanding regionally. For example, how to lead teams that are in other provinces or how to leverage partners that are already in those provinces to help you scale and prepare for regional expansion.

“We are looking to expand regionally within the next eight to 12 months, possibly to Vietnam or Thailand. We will need to understand the current market and players there first, and see their strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for collaboration,” said Vireak.

“The key to success for regional expansion is to leverage the existing players in the ecosystem.”

Founded in 2020, PillTech won best digital startup for products, services, and accomplishments at Cambodia ICT Awards 2021. It also won a gold medal at the ASEAN ICT Awards 2021, beating off tough competition from startups across the region.

Vireak’s experience spans 15 years working as a pharmacist at Walgreens in the United States, and more than nine years in pharmacy retail in Cambodia. 

Vireak and his brother left home and their parents in Cambodia to move to the US at the age of 13. They stayed with their aunt and uncle in San Diego, California.

The Cambodian-American said in an email interview with Kiripost in December, “What frustrates me the most is that most pharmacies are still sourcing their medicines manually through sales representatives, which can be inefficient. This is one of the main reasons why PillTech exists.”

Recently, the Cambodian tech startup clinched a deal with PPM Pharma, the largest pharmaceutical manufacturing company based in Cambodia, to further improve access to quality and affordable medicines on its online marketplace. This is one step forward  to bringing more affordable healthcare closer to everyone leveraging technology.