Burma

Burma’s Next Generation of Tech Entrepreneurs Showcase Start-ups

By The Irrawaddy 8 March 2017

RANGOON — Burma embraced a fresh generation of tech entrepreneurs who have abandoned traditional paths, as the country’s first startup accelerator presented its “most promising” tech startups.

Phandeeyar, a creation space for the country’s technology community, organized a six-month domestic startup accelerator program last year to encourage entrepreneurship and attempt to ease a lack of investment in the tech sector.

Last week, participants of its first cohort proved how the new tech generation is keen to start their own businesses while pitching capital firms for the investment. Through different products, the startups aim to tackle common problems. Products ranged from a platform to boost freelance careers to a travel-booking tool for affordable accommodation to an online comic studio.

Among the participants were Ma Honey Mya Win and Ma Shwe Yee Mya Win, two sisters who co-founded tech solutions provider Technoholic and launched its product Chate Sat, an online marketplace that links freelancers and employers.

Ma Honey Mya Win, a former engineer at a mobile company, said it was a struggle for employers to find the right talent for their outsourced projects as an increasing number of business opportunities have entered the country in recent years. She saw a need to connect freelancers and employers.

It is difficult for freelancers to find work, with no guarantee of payment after projects are finished, she said.

“Our solutions are simple. We get the resources. We guarantee businesses that we will find the best talent and we guarantee that freelancers will get paid on time,” she added.

Chate Sat currently has more than 3,000 freelancers and has handled some 100 projects for more than 500 employers since its launch six months ago, said Ma Honey Mya Win.

Phandeeyar Accelerator aims to ease the financial burden of tech start-ups by providing US$25,000 in seed funding, six months of mentoring and free office space to the program’s participants.

White Merak, one of Phandeeyar Accelerator’s participant teams, is a comic application that launched in late 2016. It aims to disrupt the country’s entertainment consumption trend and features semi-animated comics in both Burmese and English.

“We are in a country with people who think the Internet is just Facebook,” said Ko Aung Ye Kyaw, a White Merak co-founder who quit his medical career to try his hand at entrepreneurship.

“Even so, we did manage to get more than 10,000 registered users within three months,” he added.

According to co-founder Ko Nay Oo Lin, White Merak creates its own content with the help of local artists. While it’s a free app, it charges 500 kyats per episode for certain featured comics. The firm is currently trying to develop their mobile app for iOS users.

“With the help of talented comic artists and the power of digital connectivity, our vision is to become the top entertainment platform in [Burma] in the next three years,” its founders said.

The Internet penetration rate in Burma was less than one percent prior to 2010. Six years later, more than half of the country’s population is online.

Phandeeyar accelerator director Jes Kaliebe Petersen said the startups have built their products and shown that there is demand in the market.

“We hope that investors will get behind these startups and give them the financing that they need to take their companies to the next level.”

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