Remarks by Ambassador William A. Heidt at the Screening of American Documentary Film “Generation Startup”

Raintree, Phnom Penh
May 16, 2018

Good evening everyone and thanks for coming!

I am excited to be here tonight – in this space that was built precisely to support startups – for our first event of the year in our American Film Showcase exchange.

Tonight we are very pleased to welcome Cheryl Miller Houser, the co-director of the documentary Generation Startup!

First, I would like to thank the AmCham ICT Committee for co-hosting, and Raintree for the use of this space.

The American Film Showcase is a U.S. Department of State project that brings award-winning contemporary American documentaries and independent films to audiences around the world. This gives our friends around the world a view of American society and culture as seen by independent filmmakers.

This year, we are focusing on entrepreneurship because as part of our support for the very dynamic startup ecosystem here in Cambodia. Cheryl was just in Vietnam and Laos, so I am sure she can tell you about what she learned about the startup scenes in those countries too.

Cheryl’s film documents six struggling entrepreneurs in Detroit who dream of making it big. I don’t know how much you guys know about Detroit, but it is famous in the U.S. for two main reasons. First, for more than 100 years now, it has been the center of the American automobile industry. That’s why they call it “Motor City.”

But more recently, it has become a symbol of industrial decline in the U.S. The population of the city fell from nearly two million in 1950 to 700,000 today. Detroit was hit hard by our recession in 2008, and went bankrupt in 2013—the biggest municipal bankruptcy in American history.

But Detroit’s story isn’t over yet. With the help of entrepreneurs like the ones portrayed in the film, it is coming back. Young people are moving back and new companies are emerging. For the first time in decades, there is a real feeling of hope.

This film takes an honest look at American entrepreneurship – the good, the bad, and the ugly. It isn’t always easy – and Cheryl does a great job portraying that in the film. Starting your own business can be a struggle, and you will see the characters in this documentary sacrificing a lot to be successful.

We also wanted to focus this American Film Showcase on entrepreneurship because it is an important part of American culture and something we at the Embassy spend a lot of time promoting in Cambodia.

Last October, we sent seven young Cambodian tech entrepreneurs to several different cities in the United States for a study tour. I think we have some of you here tonight?

One of the five cities they visited was Akron, Ohio, another American city that has struggled with economic decline but is making a strong comeback based on a very vibrant technology sector. (Rubber Capital of the World)

I am also very pleased that we will be sending a delegation of women entrepreneurs on a study tour to the United States this fall. We hope that they will return to Cambodia with inspiration and best practices from the American experience.

Many of you in this room already have a business underway or have plans to start a business. In fact, I know that we have one YSEALI alumna here – Bunhourng Tan – who just returned from the United States. While she was there, she and her team came in the top 10 of over 35 universities in the International Business Model Competition.

Bunhourng’s project beat out universities from the United States, Canada, Japan and India. Her team even won $3,500 in seed funding to take back here to Cambodia to help kick-start her “Eco-Plastic” project.

I would like to recognize Steve Paterson from NUM, who traveled with the team and coached them along the way.

Very obviously, there are great things happening here in Cambodia on entrepreneurship. We hope that this film will inspire you to pursue your own dreams – understanding that it will not always be easy – and make them a reality. Cambodia needs more entrepreneurs like you all to advance its development.

I hope you enjoy the film, and now I’d like to welcome Chris from the AmCham ICT Committee to say a few words.