What we saw at the GSEA Sri Lanka 2016 Finals

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The Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards is one the largest programmes that recognizes and supports student entrepreneurs. Officially organized by Entrepreneurs Organization, this is a competition that’s held in almost all corners of the globe. In January, with the support of Spiralation, Startup Sri Lanka, AIESEC, Global Tutor and Tellida, the Global Student Entrepreneurship programme came to Sri Lanka. Chaired by Mohammed Fawaz – founder and CEO of Global Tutor, the GSEA programme saw 18 startups apply.

Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane
Mohammed Fawaz – CEO of Global Tutor and GSEA Chair (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)

Out of the 18 applicants who applied, 3 of them got selected to participate in the final phase of the competition in Sri Lanka. This final phase of GSEA 2016 Sri Lanka was held on the 4th of March 2016 at BMICH. Addressing the gathering, Fawaz welcomed all the judges and invitees who graced the occasion with their presence. Being a GSEA finalist, he did not forget to mention the final contestants on how GSEA impacts personality development, entrepreneurial development and wider view on business understanding. He then congratulated the finalists and invited Chandrasekhar Konda – GSEA Director, South Asia Region, to address the occasion.

Starting off his speech Chandrasekar decided to share a few words on the hospitality and energy levels of Sri Lankans. An introduction to what EO and what it offers to the world as a non-profit and a professional organization was delivered by him. He also mentioned how EO plans to help entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka to achieve success.

Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane
Miranda Barrett – VP Membership Development at EO (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)

Miranda Barrett – VP Membership Development at EO was next to take the stage. She explained to the panel of judges on the judging criteria and how the evaluation process should be carried out when scoring the contestants. She pointed out that when evaluating it is important to provide a score of 70% for entrepreneurial aspects of the contestants for managing both entrepreneurial and student roles. Rest of the score which is 30% to be awarded for the business aspects of the contestants. With the judge’s having been briefed, it was time for the finalists to make their pitch.

The first contestant to present was Sasanka Kudagoda from IIT. Her product was called Genisys and focused on an important issue which most of us already face or will face in the future. The problem is making sure we stay hydrated. If we don’t drink enough water, then it’s becomes all too easy to get sick. Sasanka’s solution was a water bottle which reminds you when you need to hydrate yourself. To do this, the water bottle has a variety of sensors and a companion app which you can use on your smartphone to figure out your hydration statistics.

Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane
Sasanka Kudagoda from IIT pitching her product Genisys (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)

Upon sign up the user is prompted with personal data, height, weight, gender, age, humidity level and the environment details. By taking these details into account, Genisys calculates a “water goal” for you. This water goal is the amount of water the user has to consume to keep him/herself hydrated. Apart from the details gathered when signing up, the user has the ability to define his/her body type and any diseases they are currently fighting, to receive the best possible personalized outcome.

Buddhika Jayawardhana from Moratuwa University was the second contestant to come up on stage. He began his presentation by sharing with us, the hardships he had to face to get to where he is today. Through his presentation he pointed out how school students have to either go for expensive individual classes, mass classes or other forms of classes to pass their examinations. He then highlighted that students who survive these classes and complete their A/L exams, spent months waiting to get selected to a state university.

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Buddhika Jayawardhana from Moratuwa University pitching Siplo.lk (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)

These pre-university students have lots of free time at their disposal and have no source of income but are knowledgeable on a particular subject area. Buddhika seeks to bridge this gap between school students and pre-university students, which is why he built Siplo.lk. This is an online tutoring website that provides a virtual classroom where pre-university students can conduct tuition classes for students about to sit for their exams. What sets Siplo stand apart in terms of special features are parental monitoring capability, low data consumption, one-to-one live tutoring session, rating system and the ability to pay through your mobile phone.

The third and final contestant to present was Thilina Deepal who studied at SLIIT. Thilina began by providing a basic background on how he became a student and how that contributed him to start his first business: TDSoft. It was a computer repairing and networking company. He then started off DOWEBY, an online marketing company aimed at providing clients with services such as web development, hosting, mobile optimization, online marketing and search engine optimization (SEO). He shared with the audience on how Sri Lankan businesses maintain a website for the sake of it and how that negatively impacts the business by creating an added liability. These problems and a few other issues which he has identified during his research are what DOWEBY aims to tackle in order to provide viable solutions.

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Thilina Deepal from SLIIT pitching DOWEBY (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)

After Thilina’s presentation it was now time for the judges to discuss and decide who will be the winner. After they had a discussion there was an attractive dance organized to entertain the attendees. Following the dance was Miranda Barrett addressing the gathering about the competition and also the contestants. Miranda expressed how GSEA finals is going to help student entrepreneurs reach success with their businesses.

Following Miranda’s speech, the semifinalists of GSEA Sri Lanka 2016 were then presented with their awards.After the awards were handed over to the semifinalists it was then time for the most anticipated moment of the evening which was announcing the winner who will represent Sri Lanka in the GSEA 2016 finals to be held in Bangkok, Thailand. Everyone was eagerly awaiting to find out who the winner would be announced as the winnner. The winner was then finally announced as Buddhika Jayawardhana who accepted the award for his entrepreneurial excellence while managing his student role effectively. The 1st runner-up was Sasanka Kudagoda and the 2nd runner-up was Thilina Deepal.

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Buddhika Jayawardhana’s winning moment (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)

After announcing Buddhika’s victory a vote of thanks was delivered by Fawas to everyone who helped him make the competition a success. The evening ended with yet another student entrepreneur facing off against other competitors from across the globe at Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards 2016. ReadMe would like to wish Buddhika Jayawardhana all the very best to make Sri Lanka proud by winning GSEA 2016.

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