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. Last year, we saw this programme come to Sri Lanka and our representative being among the three finalists on the global stage. This year, we saw the return of the programme with GSEA 2017.
Once again, GSEA saw applicants from universities across the island. Ultimately, of these many contestants, the number decreased to a few with the most talented startups. It was at the preliminaries that we saw these talented student entrepreneurs and their startups. Here are the student entrepreneurs of GSEA 2017
The first student entrepreneur we saw at GSEA 2017 surprisingly wasn’t pitching a tech product. Triple-A is a company that aims to create products that make people healthier and looks better. Its main product at the moment is LifeGem Herbal Soap. The first three weeks of sales were rough, but Triple-A overcame this challenge over time by introducing accessories.
The second student entrepreneur we saw was Zahara Habeeb. Her startup is aimed at selling an energy drink called Attitude. What does Attitude bring to the table? It’s supposedly a healthy drink without any caffeine and sugar. Priced at Rs. 150, this energy drink is aimed primarily at women. Zahara’s argument was that most energy drinks today are not only unhealthy but primarily aimed at men.
We first saw them at Startup Weekend Colombo where they won 3rd place. Afrah opened her pitch by sharing with everyone the story of how she fell in love with programming. This love for programming is what propelled her to move to Colombo from her hometown in the Eastern Province. She began pursuing a degree in Software Engineering but noticed that her seniors couldn’t get the jobs they wanted despite having a degree.
This was because despite having a degree, there was still a massive gap in skills between her seniors and employers. To bridge this gap of skills is why Afrah and her team launched Colombo Coding Camp. This is a coding bootcamp that aims to help its students become employable software engineers. The journey officially began at Startup Weekend Colombo. Initially, they faced challenges in terms of funding and coding camps being an unfamiliar concept. Nonetheless, five months later, Colombo Coding Camp still lives and is moving forward.
Adhisha Gammanpila began his journey as an entrepreneur in 2010. After many failures, he and his team at SurfEdge built Gurupaara. They originally pitched Gurupaara for years. However, many teachers said the idea wouldn’t work. Yet, today these very same teachers are their paying clients. This year alone they expect to earn Rs. 6.7 million by helping these teachers. You can find our review of Gurupaara here.
Recently, they also expanded the platform with Gurupaara Compass for higher education. You can find our review of Gurupaara Compass here. So what’s next for Gurupaara? In Sept. 2017 they aim to do a project for foreign students and in 2018 are planning to merge Gurupaara and Gurupaara compass. Come 2019 they hope all of it pays off and Gurupaara becomes a big name in education.
Akash A. Perera is a photographer by trade studying software engineering at IIT. At GSEA 2017, he shared with us what he wants to build on his new journey as an entrepreneur. His startup AAK Labs is offering a smart toothbrush. This smart toothbrush has a video camera attached, which analyses your teeth to give you a quick oral checkup. The key component in this toothbrush is the camera. As such, in theory, it can work on almost any toothbrush. However, whether it works in practice is yet to be seen.
After the break, we saw Nuwan Jayawardene. His journey began when he joined IIT with his startup called Vortex Labs, building 3D animations of products. His second startup aimed to sell an air purifying mask called AeroSens. At GSEA 2017, he shared his third entrepreneurial venture: Pulze.
Pulze is a social network that aims to help you socialize with those in your immediate vicinity. The social network will be rolled out in two stages. The first would be as a standalone app with the second being a website aimed at businesses that wish to run advertisements. Currently, the app is in beta amongst a group of students at IIT.
Following Nuwan’s pitch, we saw Brion Mario take the stage. His startup is one that wants to help save lives of those affected by kidney disease. Currently, there are two options for those affected by kidney disease: dialysis or a kidney transplant. A transplant is the recommended option but it’s only for those who are lucky. Even after getting a transplant, the after effects are painful and costly for patients.
To help such patients, Ruwan’s startup built Safe Lab. Safe Lab is a smartwatch with its companion app that monitors the health of kidney patients. The smartwatch precisely will give patients statistics about their health and also offers activity tracking features. While aimed at kidney patients, their offerings mean they have competitors with Fitbit’s activity trackers and Xiaomi’s Mi Band.
The next pitch we saw at GSEA 2017 was by Thilan Hassim. His startup, Phase Maps wants to help you get from Point A to Point B faster. His argument is that solutions like Google Maps don’t meet the needs of today’s users. Some needs are not met he shares are reviews, alternative paths, and notifications. Additionally, it would also use Arduinos as beacons to help businesses advertise via notifications to users nearby.
This is why they built Phase Maps……using Google Maps. Yes, despite saying that Google Maps doesn’t meet the requirements of users, Phase Maps is built on top of Google Maps. Furthermore, the judges pointed out that Google Maps does actually offer many of the features that Thilan said was missing. Furthermore, few judges also had doubts regarding the beacons as the last thing anyone wants to see while driving and navigating with Google Maps is a sudden random notification form, Perera and Sons.
Isuru Kariyawasam opens his presentation with a video of Samantha who lost his vision. He then introduces himself as the Founder & CEO of Enif Labs. His startup wants to help the one million people in Sri Lanka that are visually impaired. Their first product was Orasi N, which was a braille keyboard recognized by many competitions but never the winners.
So, the Enif Labs team went back to the drawing board and built Orasi 2.0 World. This is a lightweight device with 64 braille buttons. It also has various features such as talkback services to help make smartphones more accessible to the visually impaired. All it needs is a Bluetooth connection and it can work with any phone. Priced at Rs. 5,700, the Enif Labs plans to launch in December 2017 and already has 19 preorders.
The final pitch we saw at GSEA 2017 was by Piumal Kulasekera. His startup wants to help children struggling with autism. To do so, he and his team are building a toy aimed at children suffering from autism. The design of this toy revolves around a proposed theory from 1998, which states that it helps to stimulate the minds of autism patients both verbally and visually. Here’s a simple toy car that wants to help autistic children lead a normal life.
Once all the contestants had finished their pitches, the judges now had the challenging task of selecting the three finalists. These three finalists would once again face each other at the GSEA 2017 Sri Lanka Finale, where one of them will represent Sri Lanka at the GSEA 2017 Global Grand Finale. So who are the three finalists of GSEA 2017? They are:
We wish the three finalists the best of luck when they face each other at the GSEA 2017 Sri Lanka Finale on the 9th of March 2017.
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