PHNOM PENH — Cambodia's start-up scene might be in its infancy, but it is slowly garnering attention on the world stage.
Vichet In, co-founder and CEO of digital media company Khmerload, helped put Cambodia on the radar when the company received a $200,000 investment from California-based venture capital seed fund 500 Startups, effectively becoming the first local company to receive funding from Silicon Valley.
Dubbed the Buzzfeed of Cambodia, content on the site includes sports, fashion, music and lifestyle news — like Cambodian singer Sokun Nisa's new outfit — all presented in local language. The name Khmerload is in fact derived from the local language, Khmer, and the trend of millennials downloading media content online.
Speaking to CNBC on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum's ASEAN meeting, the 33-year-old entrepreneur said he continues to see opportunities in the local market, but feels that understanding that audience is crucial.
"The local market is underserved," said Vichet, who saw an opportunity to provide content to local millennials, who may not find English content accessible. Khmerload produces its own content, and also outsources content from local newspapers.
Registered under parent company Mediaload in Singapore , the media player now boasts 10 million unique visitors and 56 million page views per month. It aims to grow tenfold, ultimately reaching a monthly viewership of 100 million in three to five years time.
Southeast Asian tech start-ups
This is Vichet's second venture after co-founding local e-commerce site L192.com, also known as Little Fashion, in late 2010. The platform carries products like apparel, footwear, bags, accessories and beauty, which are also carried in a brick-and-mortar store.
The entrepreneur dropped out of an International Monetary Fund -funded PhD program in the United States five years ago to cash in on the growing digital economy in Cambodia. Vichet said he believes opportunities are aplenty for international investors in the Cambodian market, and that more tech unicorns can be minted from the region.
There are currently around 8 million data plan users in Cambodia and 8 million internet users, Vichet estimated, adding that he sees the digital economy as a key driver of growth.
"With population of 630 million people, ASEAN GDP is actually more than that of its Indian partner. The population is young and ready to embrace technology. If India is hot, ASEAN should be super hot."
Correction: Khmerload received a $200,000 investment from California-based venture capital seed fund 500 Startups. An earlier version misstated that figure.
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