Last year, we saw a Singaporean startup accelerator visit Sri Lanka with the aim of helping them grow in Asia and beyond. This startup accelerator was AIRMaker, which primarily focuses on IoT startups building solutions in the areas of Digital Health and Smart Cities. Fast forward to today, and you’ll now find a Sri Lankan startup amongthe latest batch that was accepted into AIRMaker. This Sri Lankan startup is: SitRight.
Sit Right is a smart seat cover with a mobile app that monitors your posture and coaches you to improve it. All you have to do is simply place the seat cover on your usual chair to transform it into a smart chair that monitors your posture. Once you’ve downloaded the app, placed the smart seat cover on your chair, and configured them for your body, SitRight will monitor your posture in real time.
In the event that you’re seated in an unhealthy manner, the SitRight smart cover would vibrate to help nudge you towards sitting in a position with a healthier posture. At the same time, you can also open the app to get a detailed understanding as to why the seating position you were in was unhealthy for your posture. Additionally, the app also gives you reminders to regularly stretch your legs and lets you compete with your friends to keep things interesting.
The journey of SitRight begins with a software engineering internship. The two founders: Sasanka Kudagoda and Rashmi Mendis had just completed the 2nd year of their Software Engineering degree at IIT. They were now entering their 3rd year, which would be the year they spend as interns. After applying to various companies, they ended up at Calcey Technologies.
After joining Calcey, they pitched the idea of a smart water bottle called Genisys to Mangala Karunaratne – Founder & CEO of Calcey. He liked the smart water bottle but didn’t think it had a market. However, Mangala was impressed with the entrepreneurial passion both Sasanka and Rashmi possessed. So he gave them a choice: continue working as software engineering interns working on normal projects or join the Calcey Incubation Labs and build a startup.
Sasanka and Rashmi chose to join the Calcey Incubation Labs and become entrepreneurs. The goal of Calcey’s Incubation Labs is to help startups it’s invested in achieving global success. The program accepts 1 or 2 startups at a given time and supports them from the ideation to seed funding stage. In exchange, A Calcey takes a majority stake in the startup of 70%.
The incubation process began with Mangala sharing the issues he faces with his back. Afterward, the three of them then discussed multiple ideas until they narrowed it down to a simple solution. This solution was SitRight. After devising the solution, Calcey began the process of obtaining the patent while it’s engineering teams built the app and smart seat covers. Once the app and seat covers were built, the team was formed with Sasanka, Rashmi, Mangala, and Mudith Uswatta – Director of Sales & Product Marketing at Calcey. SitRight was ready to take on the world.
Typically, most startups that get accepted into AIRMaker fill out an application form first and are then selected by the accelerator. This wasn’t the case with SitRight, which didn’t even initially consider applying for the accelerator. It all happened by chance in early May at Innovfest Unbound 2017 in Singapore, where they bumped into and gave their pitch to the AIRMaker partners.
The partners were impressed and asked SitRight to join the program for two weeks. These two weeks would be an evaluation to see if SitRight would meet AIRMaker’s requirements. If they passed the evaluation, then they would be accepted into the program and receive an investment of $35,000 in exchange for 7% equity. On paper, things looked good but this was actually a massive gamble. If they didn’t get into the program, then that would mean two expensive weeks in Singapore would be a waste. Luckily, the gamble paid off and today SitRight is among the latest batch of startups that were accepted into AIRMaker.
For the next three months, SitRight will be going through the AIRMaker program. The program itself will be conducted in three stages. The first stage involves helping startups develop a proper business plan and go-to-market strategy. The second stage would see the startups traveling to Shenzhen, China where they would receive support in building devices. At the final stage, AIRMaker gives the startups access to early-stage and growth-stage investors in Singapore and China.
However, just like its entry into the program, SitRight’s AIRMaker journey is set to be slightly different. While the other startups would be going to China, SitRight plans on building its prototype here in Sri Lanka. Why? Because they believe that Sri Lanka does have the necessary facilities to build working prototypes and they want to show that to the world. Hopefully, at the end of the AIRMaker program, we’ll see this startup that was born out of an internship be a few steps closer towards selling smart seat covers designed Sri Lanka all across Asia and the rest of the world.
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