It was a Tuesday evening. As always, most events we attend happen in the evening. This was no exception, but then again, this was something different. This was Mora Ventures 2.0. Organized by the Entrepreneurship Society of the University of Moratuwa, Mora Ventures is aimed at all budding entrepreneurs completing their higher education at the University. The goal here is to help selected startups in reaching a valuation of USD 1 Million by the end of 2018 and to discover Sri Lanka’s first USD 1 Billion Unicorn by the year 2027.
Mora Ventures 2.0 kicked off with the Opening Speech by Heminda Jayaweera – IFS Endowed Senior Fellow in Innovation and Entrepreneurship of University of Moratuwa. He spoke on how graduates from the University of Moratuwa should be the leader in the IT Industry and how Mora Ventures is opening its doors to their Undergraduates and Postgraduates to develop the innovative and entrepreneurial mindset.
He also emphasized that they are not meant for desk jobs or to be locked behind cubicles, but rather to go out and explore the world and to make a name for themselves.
We will not stop this program until we find the first Unicorn in Sri Lanka – Heminda Jayaweera
Following Heminda’s speech, next up was Ranil Rajapakse, Chief Operating Officer at IFS to address the gathering. He spoke about how the IT industry in Sri Lanka has grown. The industry is now a USD 1 Billion industry with a goal to make it a USD 5 Billion one. He emphasized that graduates should develop three skills: thinking creative, thinking analytical and thinking out of the box.
Ranil’s speech came to an end and we had Prof. Ananda Jayawardane – Vice Chancellor – Department of Civil Engineering, Faculty of Engineering taking to the stage next. Prof. Ananda spoke about the initiatives taken by the University of Moratuwa to support Entrepreneurship. He also spoke about how NDB Bank and IFS had agreed to come aboard and assist them.
With that, the opening speeches came to an end and it was time to kick off the most anticipated and eagerly awaited part of the Mora Ventures 2.0: The Competition. Out of the 50 startups that had applied for Mora Ventures 1.0 and Mora Ventures 2.0, the top 9 teams would be presenting today. From there, the top three winners would be selected. Before the presentations began, some strict rulings were set in place. Each team will get 6 minutes to make their presentations. Following that, a buzzer would ring signaling that their time was up. Following that the Judges would have a 5-minute Q&A session which again would be according to strict timing.
This is an app revolving around Cricket where they can pitch the game to advertisers and clients where the rewards would be given to customers. They would get sponsors to advertise not for money, but for rewards such as reloads, discounts, etc. You can watch a game of cricket and also play a few cricket related games as well. The background of the app would be used to advertise brands. Premium users can choose a ball by ball result per over, whereas regular users would have to pick from a sequence.
This was something that we had not seen. The problem they identified was that traditional food in Sri Lanka has added preservatives. This can lead to dietary diseases later on. Their solution? Chilinut: a 100% organic crispy and spicy condiment that is organic and also does not contain any chemical preservatives.
A mixture of chili, coconut, and salt, Chilinut would be targeted at tourists and high end customers. Products such as Chilinut have a great potential in foreign markets, the team said. A 100g bottle would be Rs. 480/-. Their primary point of sales would be at the Goods Market. Following that, they would then export to foreign markets. They have also carried out tests at the University of Kelaniya, to ensure that the product can be preserved for prolonged periods; in this case, 3 months.
The team has a simple slogan: optimizing apparel waste for a sustainable future. According to research carried out by the team, approximately 26 million tons of apparel waste is generated every year. Team Chroma’s solution is a platform to obtain said discarded cut fabric and recycle it to create new clothing products and lines.
They would either combine materials to create new fabrics, or sell it separately so that the end user can stitch it together, literally. Their example is a backpack created from this material. The judges raised a point where it would be more cost effective to take the discarded material away free of charge without actually buying it off the manufacturers.
Their product is a platform to connect users to printing service providers. All you have to do is simply upload your document to their platform. Once that is done, you can specify if you want the document in color or greyscale, specify page size, number of copies etc. It will then show you the available printers in the area and you can place your order and then pick it up. You can even have it delivered to your doorstep.
They would generate revenue via advertising space, delivery services and also a charge from each print job undertaken. The company kicked off operations in June 2017 with 2 shops online and an SMS gateway as well. Their future plans are to implement a payment gateway in the next 6 months and in 12 months you could even design your document on their platform. Within 2 and 3 years, they would be implementing a global platform.
Checks Plains and Stripes. These are the three designs that are currently available for handlooms and handloom artistry in Sri Lanka. The team argues that these are limited designs and that they are out to break the status quo with Wiyaman. The team is working on new designs and they are emphasizing on color shading for material and also proudly exclaim that they are the first to offer image weaving as well.
Inna is a platform to help travelers find low cost, high quality accommodations. Think of it as an online accommodation platform to help Sri Lankans. Their plus points are that there are more budget hotels, and more authentic payments. They plan to generate revenue from a commission from hotel bookings. Even though they earn profits from the get-go, that may all be used as marketing expenses, which according to the team, is quite high.
We saw them first at Disrupt Asia 2017. Aimed at cricketers and trainers, Hybriteq’s Stroke Master 1.0 is a device that fits on to the cricket bat. Once its attached, it will generate reports on various actions such as the power of the stroke, batting speed, etc. so that you can use all this information t practice your swings and perfect them. The analytics recorded can be viewed via the mobile app available on both Android and iOS.
A platform to create and collaborate on notes and documents. Sort of like a Google Docs but with more features. For example, you can add a musical stave and then drag and drop notes and accents to it. WavyNote is a structured content creation platform.
They would use an interface similar to how Chat apps work in order to save messages sent via messaging platform such as Whatsapp to save the notes in the message. From there, they would build up a user base. The free and basic version would be free for 2 years and then USD 1 per year. As of now, the beta version of the app has been launched and the MVP is almost complete.
We saw them at Inspire Sri Lanka organized by Mobitel. This is a drone retrofitted with a life jacket to save victims from drowning. The device would have two modes. One would be an automatic mode where a user would have a bracelet that can be used in case of emergencies. The user could press the button and the drone would lock onto the wearer’s position to drop off the safety gear. The manual mode would have a remote that can be activated by the lifesaver.
While the judges put their heads together to choose a winner, the teams were all called on stage to give their certificates of participation. Dhanika Perera, Founder and CEO of Bhasha.lk was up on stage to speak a few words. He emphasized that your execution should be aggressive and to be humble. It’s not always about success and victory, there’s always ups and downs. After the certificates were handed out, the judges gave their feedback. They were all impressed with the teams, but some teams lacked energy. The judges also encouraged the teams to concentrate more on commercial operations such as the go-to markets.
With that, it was time to announce the winners of Mora Ventures 2.0. And the winners were:
The First Place winners would receive LKR 200,000/- as prize money. With the vote of thanks given by the President of the Entrepreneurship Society of the University of Moratuwa, Mora Ventures 2.0 officially came to an end. But that wouldn’t be the end for these contestants though. Not by a long shot. They had bigger plans in store for them, for Mora Ventures 3.0 would be just around the corner. What would happen there? Well, I guess you would just have to wait and see.
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