Camboticket is the second startup out of Cambodia to raise a substantial venture capital round this year.
The ticket booking app received a US$100,000 investment from Obor Capital, founder Shivam Tripathi tells Tech in Asia. This will be topped up with an additional US$100,000 if growth targets are achieved.
A few weeks ago, media site Khmerload raised US$200,000, making it the first local startup to join US VC firm 500 Startups’ portfolio.
Cambodia’s relatively small population means venture capital is scarce. It doesn’t present a huge market potential on its own. This has made entrepreneurs self-reliant, and sometimes forces them to wear multiple hats.
Not strapped for cash
Founded in 2014, Camboticket sells tickets for buses, private taxis, and ferries for inter-city travellers within Cambodia and cross-border trips to and from neighboring countries, like Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand. It claims to sell an average of 6,000 seats a month.
“In a country where buses and taxis are the predominant mode of transportation due to the lack of a train network and limited flight options, we are solving a real problem,” Tripathi says
Ticket sales aren’t its only source of revenue. Camboticket offers booking software for transportation companies to manage their operations and distribute seat inventory.
“Before our launch, only two Cambodian travel operators were selling tickets online. Now close to 40 partner operators, representing 60 percent of the market, sell tickets on online channels and accept e-tickets,” says Tripathi. “We were never cash-strapped.”
Beyond traditional sectors
Venture capital is hard to come by in Cambodia, especially in the tech industry, which is still in its infancy. Knowing this, Tripathi and his co-founder Rahul Anand set out building the company using their own resources.
This has led to what most would consider an unusual constellation: Obor Capital, the VC firm that backs Camboticket, also employs Tripathi as a portfolio manager.
He joined Obor at the fund’s inception in 2016. Before that, he worked for another investment firm. Both firms invested in traditional sectors, like agriculture and utilities.
Camboticket started as a side project – albeit his employers were aware of, Tripathi says.
The startup is Obor’s first tech investment. It doubles as a test bed for the VC to explore opportunities beyond traditional investment sectors.
After the decision to back the app from its fund, Tripathi can allot more time to Camboticket, though he keeps some responsibilities working with Obor’s other companies. How much time he spends where is well regulated through agreements, Tripathi maintains.
Growing the customer base
Next, Camboticket wants to fix one problem: its customer base is largely international travelers and expats.
Tourism to the country has been growing steadily, reaching more than 5 million international arrivals last year, data from the Ministry of Tourism shows.
Cambodia itself has a population of roughly 15.5 million. Only half of those are online, and many are still hesitant to use apps for more than chatting and browsing, Tripathi explains.
Adoption among tourists and expats has been quicker because they are more familiar with online payments systems.
For Camboticket, achieving higher acceptance among locals is top priority now. It has started to put in place payment mechanisms that let customers pay by cash through offline agents.
“We started this service in Phnom Penh and have now expanded the payment by cash option to all major cities in Cambodia.”
Camboticket also plans to branch out into more verticals, like hotels and tours, and has the ambition to establish itself in neighboring countries.
It’s competing in its home market with Bookmebus, which started a little later than Camboticket.
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