Inspiring tech entrepreneurship

Stuart Alan Becker

The arrival of Startup Weekend in Cambodia marked a new beginning for high-tech entrepreneurship as more than 80 people worked on all kinds of new business ideas all weekend at Yellow Tower across the Tonle Sap from The Riverside.

Chief Marketing Officer Joey Pomerenke of Startup Weekend flew out specially from the US to attend all three days and to lead a planning group of regional high-tech participants at the Lazy Beach private hideaway on Koh Rong island off the coast of Sihanoukville and is leaving on Tuesday.

“It is really about bringing the region together. The organisers from Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand can work together,” he said.

Startup Weekend originated in Boulder, Colorado in 2007 as the brainchild of a man named Andrew Hyde. Two friends of Pomerenke, Marc Nager and Clint Nelsen, attended a Startup Weekend in Seattle and found it very inspiring. 

“They saw an opportunity to take this model and turn it into a non-profit and scale it up across the world.” In 2009, Nager and Nelsen paid Hyde more than $100,000 for the Startup Weekend concept and since then have grown it to 86 events in 2010 and 261 events in 2011.

“This year we’re on track to do 550 events,” Pomerenke said. 

Since the status of Startup Weekend is as a non-profit, Nager and Nelsen were able to get a grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the largest in the world for entrepreneurship, to fund Startupweekend.org. The first year’s grant disbursement was $250,000.

“This is funded all through corporate sponsorships and foundations. That’s how we pay our staff of 25.”

Pomerenke says the Startup Weekends are experiential education.

“You are learning by doing and you can take these two days over the weekend and have a zero-risk way of validating your idea. In two days you learn a lot, validate your idea with your peers and you have mentors and judges on Sunday night.”

He says a “ton” of real businesses have been founded as a result of Startup Weekends, citing Zaarly as one, a business that organises deliveries.

“Entrepreneurship is the best thing for economies,” …

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