Remarks by Ambassador William A. Heidt at the National Pitch Event for Technovation 2018

Institute of Technology of Cambodia, Phnom Penh
May 20, 2018

Your Excellency Secretary of State Mr. Im Koch, Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport;
Ms. Kate Heuisler, Chief of Party, Development Innovations Project;
Friends from the private sector who are partnering with us on this event;
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning everyone and welcome to the Technovation 2018 National Pitch Event! I am very excited to be here this morning to hear Technovation teams from across Cambodia present their business ideas and mobile applications designed to address social issues they have identified in their communities.

I want to take a moment to thank Development Innovations, Digital Mobile Innovations, Smart Axiata and our other partners who are supporting both the Technovation program and the development of Cambodia’s technology sector.

This is the second time I have taken part in a Technovation event this year. In March, I visited a Technovation mini-demo session with His Excellency Dr. Hang Chuon Naron, the Minister of Education, Youth, and Sport.

We heard teams pitch their mobile solutions and business ideas and provided feedback to them to refine their applications and business plans. I was very impressed with the very creative ideas, strong teamwork, and impressive English language ability of all the teams. I can’t wait to hear the teams’ new and improved pitches today.

Last year, the Technovation program trained more than 20 teams of girls, all of whom made compelling, innovative pitches, just like you guys will do today.

We were very proud when one of the 23 teams from Cambodia advanced to the final stage of the World Finals in Silicon Valley, beating out more than a thousand teams from around the globe.

That team pitched an app they called “Cambodian Identity Product” – an online sales platform for Cambodian handicraft products. They even presented their app at Google Headquarters in Silicon Valley last year.

Although not selected as the winner, the team received $5,000 to further develop their app and learn more about science, technical, engineering, and math-related subjects.

I had the opportunity to meet this all-girl team from the Liger Learning Center. They are smart, creative, and enterprising – exactly the type of young people who can help push Cambodia forward in the technology field.

This team succeeded not because Cambodia’s problems are bigger than other countries’ and therefore needed bigger solutions. The truth is, they succeeded because they had a great idea and they worked harder than the other teams.

I hope all of our participants take this message home with them today—you really can go a long way with the right idea and good, old fashioned hard work.

I’m very happy to see a number of female role models here today for Cambodian girls interested in Technology.

Ms. Sok Sikieng, one of the judges for today’s competition, is a curriculum developer for Saturday Kids, a technological literacy and coding program for children. I met Sikieng in Singapore last year, and told her I would love to see Saturday Kids start up a program in Cambodia.

Sikieng has been a tireless advocate for women in STEM fields for the past ten years, and recently was chosen to be an Asia Foundation 2018 Development Fellow, a very select group of emerging leaders working to improve lives in Asia.

We also have here this morning this year’s Regional Ambassador for Technovation, Ms. Heang Oumuoy. She is the co-founder of CamSolution, a tech firm here in Phnom Penh, and she has been coordinating tech entrepreneurship programming and representing Technovation for the past two years.

Both Sikieng and Oumuoy are the kinds of mentors and role models that can inspire Cambodian girls to pursue careers in innovation and technology.

The U.S. Embassy – and me personally – spend a lot of time and effort supporting the growth of Cambodia’s technology sector. We do this both because America has so many terrific technology companies with experiences and skills to share, but also because we really think Cambodia has a great story to tell.

And we think that with a little help, through initiatives such as Technovation and this National Pitch Event, Cambodia can fully take part in – and take advantage of – the tech boom sweeping Southeast Asia. This would be good for Cambodia’s economy and good for the tens of thousands of young Cambodians interested in tech.

I am very confident that all the teams pitching here today are going to have great business ideas and even better apps aimed at solving the problems they see in their communities. And who knows, maybe, through a lot of hard work and perseverance, one of these apps will make it big and put Cambodia on the tech map!

Once again, I want to thank all of you for coming out this morning.

Let’s have a great time and get ready for some great pitches! Thank you very much.