If you have heard from our secret agents about Rockstart Impact’s expansion to Myanmar, yes- you heard it right! We are super thrilled to share this news with all of you who have supported our success in Kathmandu for the past three years and given us so much love and recognition in the Nepali entrepreneurial ecosystem. We are thankful, heartily! When we started Rockstart Impact back in 2014, the idea of Venture Capital and accelerating companies was such a new idea. And with your support, and a lot of effort from our team based in Nepal and Netherlands, we have completed accelerating 29 companies in the past three years with 70% success in terms of receiving an investment pledge. Along with an expansion of Rockstart Impact Myanmar which was carefully planned over the past two years, we would also like to inform that our applications for the 4th iteration of Rockstart Impact Nepal will be open on the 1st of August 2017!
Without further ado, we would like to solve the queries that you have in mind about Rockstart Impact Myanmar through an exclusive interview with Program Manager for RSI Myanmar, Robbert Groenen- and also welcome him to the team!
Who is Robbert?
My name is Robbert Groenen, a sports enthusiast and I enjoy exploring cultures around the world. I studied economics and finance in the Netherlands and in the US, and have been working the UK, Mexico, Nepal and currently in Myanmar. I am passionate about Impact Investment, since I believe it enables and inspires people from completely different backgrounds and different walks of life to work together, to create an inclusive economy in which every person has the opportunity to build his or her life via entrepreneurship or employment!
Why Rockstart Impact and what does he do?
After I graduated I started working in a bank in London. Although it was an interesting start of my career, I felt that the impact that I could make on people’s lives was fairly limited. After learning more about the power of entrepreneurship, and how this could transform lives in developing countries, I decided to start looking for a way in which I could use my financial and entrepreneurial skills to support those entrepreneurs. After a long stroll, talking to pretty much everyone I knew, I stumbled on Rockstart Impact and One to Watch. I knew immediately that this was exactly what I was looking for!
After having been part of the RSI and OTW team in Nepal, I am now the Program Manager for Rockstart Impact in Myanmar. Together with a local team, and with the support from RSI Nepal, we will lead the operations of RSI into Myanmar! Before the program can start, we have to perfectly understand the opportunities and challenges that Burmese entrepreneurs are facing, find and connect to the most promising entrepreneurs and potential mentors, connect with the right local partner organizations and understand the Myanmar business culture and regulations!
His Myanmar experience so far
Myanmar is a beautiful country with a very complex and interesting history. The Burmese people have endured the worst of times, and are now energetically and positively looking towards the future. Yangon is a city where the authentic Asian culture is still largely untouched, combined with a small but sprawling international community. I am enjoying every single day that I can be part of such a great vibe!
Since the Burmese people are very gentle and open, and since the opportunities for development are everywhere to be seen, it is very easy to underestimate the work to be done. The reality is that a model like Rockstart Impact and One to Watch does not yet exist in Myanmar, and that regulations are changing constantly (fortunately for the better). Fears for the government, or to lose one’s company, which are stemming from years of suppression are not likely to disappear easily. I am therefore expecting a long transition process. Based on my first months of experiences in Myanmar and with the Burmese entrepreneurs, I am nonetheless very positive about the long term potential that Myanmar holds!
ROCKSTART IMPACT MYANMAR
Why Myanmar as an extension?
Myanmar was one of the richest and most entrepreneurial places of South East Asia in the 1950s. The military dictatorship, which lasted from 1962 to 2011, has left the country with an underdeveloped economy, a weak financial system and low levels of education.
Fortunately, the spirit of a born entrepreneur can never be fully extinguished by a suppressive government. Many of these entrepreneurs which had been kept small by the dictatorship are now freed from the restrictions that existed before. In their current quest to create the necessary innovations to develop Myanmar, they struggle to professionalize their companies, and as a result, they cannot finance their growth plans. It is precisely this combination of an underdeveloped but stable economy, where the support for these ambitious entrepreneurs is most important. Myanmar is the most suitable next country where RSI can start making an impact!
What is the target of RSI Myanmar?
RSI Myanmar is using the model and experience from Nepal to enable 10 of the most ambitious Burmese entrepreneurs per year to become investment ready. Each entrepreneur will, in their own niche, become a champion of the Burmese development. The program aims to create €2 million of investable business cases per year. These investments will, in turn, generate an increase in income of €15 million.
What is the current progress with RSI Myanmar?
The market analysis has been done, and we are currently setting up the local team. We have organized events together with other organizations, worked with many entrepreneurs through their business plans and are building a network of Burmese business experts with a passion for supporting SMEs in their development: potential local mentors. In the coming months, the pipeline for the first RSI Myanmar program will be built!
When do you think will the program start?
The program will start at the beginning of March 2018, right after the RSI Nepal’s 4th round is finished!
What are the entrepreneurs in Myanmar like?
Many Burmese entrepreneurs that we met are very engaged with their communities. One example is Ye Kyaw Zin, Director of Bayin Exports. He started his business of exporting sesame and peanut oil to Europe after he saw that the people of his community were struggling to sell their products. He is using part of his profit to providing training for the farmers to increase their production and the quality of their produce!
What about the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Myanmar?
In Myanmar, many subsistence farmers and micro entrepreneurs exist, alongside a few large conglomerates. In between, you can find the innovative entrepreneurs, which range from farmers who also buy and process the produce from the farmers around them to entrepreneurs who are building completely new products. The entrepreneurs are organized in several groups, such as the Myanmar Young Entrepreneurship Association. These platforms facilitate networking and knowledge sharing, and many events are organized via these associations!
If you would like to know more details about Rockstart Impact’s program in Myanmar, feel free to reach out to the Program Director of Rockstart Impact Nepal/Myanmar Victoria Ous at email@example.com or Program Manager for Rockstart Impact Myanmar, Robbert Groenen at firstname.lastname@example.org