Masterclass Graduates Transforming Cambodian Incubators

Entrepreneurial ecosystems
On April 9th, 2024, Khmer Enterprise, Swisscontact Cambodia and St. Gallen University came together to organize the masterclass peer-to-peer gathering, which served as an alumnus networking event, reuniting participants from the Masterclass to reflect on their experiences, celebrate their achievements, and receive certificates for completing the program. 

The Masterclass, aptly named "Operating Start-up Incubators for Excellence," was a collaborative effort of Khmer Enterprise, Swisscontact Cambodia and St. Gallen University, tailored specifically for the Cambodian incubator ecosystem. Held from October 23rd to October 26th , 2023, the Masterclass brought together 20 participants from 10 different organisations, and four months mentoring and coaching supported to develop an curriculum roadmap. Two distinguished facilitators, Dr. Justus von Grone and Dr. Maximilian Richter, led the program, imparting their knowledge and expertise to the eager participants. 

"I am extremely thrilled about the quality of the incubators, and also about the quality they gained now through our masterclass. We designed this program to add value in three areas: personal capacity building, curriculum improvement and third, one of the most important - increasing the capacity of the incubator itself.  Our approach, like the teach the teacher approach, is designed to maximize impact. So, we do not only teach the participants of the masterclass, we are also teaching the ecosystem as a whole because the teachers now go out to the incubators, the network, the ecosystem and also teach them about the tools they got here."
Said Dr. Justus von Grone, University of St. Gallen.

Following the intensive in-person Masterclass, participants received virtual support from November 2023 to March 2024. This support aimed to further refine the participants' incubator programs, ensuring they were finely tuned to meet the needs of stakeholders. At the conclusion of the virtual support period, participants were required to deliver a new or updated incubator program, showcasing their growth and development throughout the Masterclass. 

Participants also shared their key takeaways, providing valuable insights for future programs aimed at supporting Entrepreneur Support Organisations (ESOs) in Cambodia. Each incubator shared what they loved about the Masterclass, highlighting the practical tools and contents that could be integrated into their programs, the effective facilitation approaches, and the valuable network connections fostered within the ecosystem. They appreciated the collaborative atmosphere and the opportunities for sharing challenges and experiences, which enhanced their thinking and provided constructive feedback. The Masterclass also opened avenues for future collaboration. However, they noted some difficulties, such as the overwhelming 4-day content, the challenge of managing work schedules, and the time commitment for virtual support.  

The practical application of Masterclass tools and contents, the instructors' constructive feedback, and the hackathon sessions were particularly beneficial, helping incubators rethink their implementation and develop new curriculums and roadmaps. Peer-sharing and assessment were also valuable for gaining new perspectives and fostering collaboration, though some tools were not applicable due to contextual differences. Incubators expressed the need for more training, particularly on facilitation techniques, and more technical assistance and support from experts. They also suggested more gathering opportunities to expand the network and enhance collaboration and insights. 

Furthermore, a 5K grant was also awarded. Two proposals were submitted to the committee, one from Cambodia Academy of Digital Technology (CADT) and one from Cambodia-Japan Cooperation Center (CJCC). CJCC was ultimately selected based on the selection criteria agreed upon by Khmer Enterprise and Swisscontact.  

"One thing that inspired me the most to join this program is that it is tailored to be very intensive training. I am especially interested in how they are going to build the capacity of incubators, share tools, and provide participants with the chance to connect with one another."
Said Kimhorng Lim, Business Development Coordinator, CADT 
"The masterclass is very good for building my skills and capacity to manage and run the incubation and start-up program. For us, there are not enough tools, and incubation is quite new to us, so we need to learn how to manage and operate at full capacity."
Said Vanna Sy, Senior of HR Development, CJCC 

The event marked the official graduation of the Masterclass participants. As the Masterclass alumni embark on their next ventures, they do so equipped with new knowledge, skills, and a network of like-minded individuals. Their journey is a testament to the power of collaboration, innovation, and lifelong learning in driving positive change in the entrepreneurial landscape of Cambodia and beyond. 

The Masterclass program is part of the Enhancing Entrepreneurial Ecosystem and Investments (3Ei) is a five-year initiative (2023 – 2027) implemented by Khmer Enterprise and Swisscontact and co-financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and Khmer Enterprise. 

Entrepreneurial ecosystems
Enhancing Entrepreneurial Ecosystem and Investments (3Ei)
The overall goal of the 3Ei is for the private sector to actively contribute to the Cambodia's socio-economic development and attaining the goals of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The achievement of this overall goal will be driven by two outcomes: enhanced coordination, and collaboration within the entrepreneurial ecosystem; and increased business performance and investments in the ecosystem.