Travelling great distances can be quite a tiring task. We found ourselves making our way over to the town of Trincomalee. Why, you ask? Well. It was the weekend. But this was a special weekend. This was Startup Weekend Trincomalee.
Now if you’ve been to a Startup Weekend before such as the one held in Negombo, you would know exactly what happens. People from all walks of life and all fields of work would gather in one central location. From there, for the next 54 hours, these individuals would team up and work on an idea with the hope of making that idea a reality. Startup Weekend Trincomalee marks the 5th Startup Weekend event held since the initial event which was Startup Weekend Jaffna back in 2016. Since then, we’ve seen some awesome ideas put forth and even greater commitment from teams to bring these ideas to life. We had great expectations for Startup Weekend Trincomalee as well.
After a 6-hour journey, we had reached our destination for Startup Weekend Trincomalee which was Trinco Beach Hotel, Trincomalee. Once we got ourselves settled in, we took a bit of time to explore the area till it was time for Startup Weekend Trincomalee to kick off. At 6.30PM, we all gathered in the main hall of the hotel to bring to life Startup Weekend Trincomalee.
Mr. K. Kulatheepan, Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, Trincomalee was up first to start the evening’s proceedings. He thanked all the participants and also encouraged those participating to learn from these experiences. He also spoke about how events such as Startup Weekend Trincomalee can help boost the economy and commerce of Trincomalee. With 72% of students having either a Diploma or a Bachelor’s degree, only 34% of the government has employment opportunities.
He urged those who are on the path to become entrepreneurs, to engage with the Trincomalee chamber of commerce and develop their potential and their skills. He also spoke about initiatives put forth by the chamber of commerce such as the Young Entrepreneurs Network, Women Entrepreneurs network and entrepreneurs network.
Ahamed Nishadh, Project Manager of the ICTA was up next. He spoke about the support mechanisms given by ICTA such as Spiralation and other incubators and funding programs for startups. If you have a startup, you can get funding from these programs. There are a lot of opportunities for startups, Ahamed says. Simply logging on to the Spiralation website will give you all the details you need. He emphasized that despite being in Trincomalee, those participating in Startup Weekend Trincomalee are not isolated.
He emphasized that if support is needed by anyone with regard to a startup, it will indeed be given to you. According to Ahamed, the Government of Sri Lanka had allocated LKR 1.5 Billion for 1500 Entrepreneurs. Do the math and you end up with LKR 1 Million per entrepreneur which is quite a hefty sum to boost your startup. Ahamed also spoke about the startup ecosystem in Sri Lanka. It is quite young, he says, around 5-6 years. It is currently valued at USD 32 Million with around 250-300 startups identified. The end goal, explained Ahamed, is to identify 1,000 startups within the next two years.
Priyanka Khanna, Entrepreneur and Facilitator and organizer of Startup Weekend Delhi and also Startup Weekend Trincomalee was up next. She gave an example of what Startup Weekend is. Their mission is to inspire change in the lives of entrepreneurs. They want to build a support system, but at a grassroots level.
She gave an example of success stories of Startup Weekends such as Easy Taxi, Giftstarter, Rover, Beardbrand, Zapier, Foodspotting, and Hidrate. Perhaps at the next startup weekend, we would see some success stories from Startup Weekend Trincomalee as well.
With the formalities out of the way, Priyanka kicked off the event proceedings with an Ice breaker. The participants were asked to yell out random words. The sillier the word, the better. Two words would be strung together and volunteers would have to pitch a product or business idea using these two words. If you’re lost, just have a look below.
Priyanka also added that around 30 other cities across the world would also be having their own Startup Weekend this weekend as well. While talking about her experiences in Startup Weekend, Priyanka reminisced about an idea she saw in Bhutan for a red rice noodle. Here, the team actually brought a machine to make noodles according to their specification and presented it to the judges.
Priyanka went on to speak about the judging criteria for Startup Weekend Trincomalee. Teams would be judged on Validation, Execution and Design and the Business Model. Before teaming up though, each participant would be required to make a 60-second pitch. The pitch would include details such as Name of person, Problem they want to solve, their solution, and what resources they need.
At the end, they would write their name and idea on a paper and keep it at the back of the hall to be voted upon later. In case you were wondering, here are the ideas that were pitched:
With the ideas being pitched, it was time for two important things: dinner and voting, in that order. After a refreshing dinner, the voting began to see the top 10 ideas that would be selected to be worked on during the course of the 54-hour Startup Weekend Trincomalee.
And they were:
With the top ten ideas being picked for Startup Weekend Trincomalee, all that was needed was for the formation of teams to be carried out.
Once that was done, it would be time for the teams to get cracking as they go on a race against time. Who would be crowned the winner of Startup Weekend Trincomalee?
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