More than 200 people came to participate in a StartUp Challenge hosted by downtown innovation lab Phandeeyar on November 14, with entrepreneurs looking to launch businesses in e-commerce, mobile and more.
The nine-day event, held in conjunction with Myanmar’s fourth annual Global Entrepreneurship Week, urges budding entrepreneurs to turn brainstorms into businesses.
It also gives participants a jumping-off point for pitches as Phandeeyar will host workshops on topics such as pinning down problems and revenue streams.
The competition is not about putting business plans to paper – it’s about bringing them to life, according to Phandeeyar.
This has proved difficult for some in the past.
Myanmar is not the easiest place to get a business going. Investors are scant and human capital scarce, while costs are high.
The country came in dead last of 189 economies for starting a business last year, according to a report by the World Bank Group. It jumped 29 places this year, putting it at 160 out of 189 economies.
“To me entrepreneurship is the idea that ingenuity can overcome what [exists] to make what needs to be,” said USAID chief economist Daniel Swift at the event. The American international development agency is a sponsor.
“One of the biggest challenges with entrepreneurship is taking the first steps. This country is still not an easy place to do that. It’s still an economy that rewards privilege too often instead of hard work and talent.”
“I hope this event can give you a little push and send you on your way with whatever idea you have,” Mr Swift said to the entrepreneurs.
On November 14, entrepreneurs lined up and presented a diverse array of ideas to the audience. Brainstorms ranged from messaging apps to Myanmar audio books, lighting up public spaces to connecting students and teachers – and even one idea for a laundry service. Sixty-two teams emerged from the process.
Judges will evaluate winners based in part on whether they would dig into their own pockets and pump money into the new venture. Their criteria stress validation – addressing real issues for customers and creating a practical plan.
The winning team will go home with up to US$4000 donated by Telenor and Yoma Bank’s upcoming mobile money initiative, Wave Money; second prize is up to $3000 from KBZ Bank; and third place will win up to $2000 from investment firm Anthem Asia and Wave Money.
Participants can’t compete against a product already in the market, and half of the prize money will only be awarded once teams have achieved landmarks they set out to accomplish by December 22, a presentation by Phandeeyar said.
The deadline for presentations is 9am on November 22, with the day dedicated to pitches.