It was a rather cold, blustery day. While the rest of Colombo awoke from their slumber, or rather chose not to and simply rolled over in their beds. A group of individuals, both young and old were taking their place at WSO2 HQ in Palm Grove, Colombo. Looking at the artwork present here, one would assume that they were celebrating the birth of a dragon. Well, it was a birth indeed, but a slightly different one. This was Hatchery.
A concept devised by WSO2, Hatchery is a program that aims to help startups. In a nutshell, WSO2’s solution architects would work as CTO’s at startups. These new CTO’s would help the participating startups, solve any and all technical problems they have. The initiative kicked off, with an inaugural meetup, which took place recently at WSO2 HQ.
Ishara Naotunna was up on a small stage at the meetup to give the audience a small description about the history of WSO2. A standard program from Hatchery would be around three months in duration. It also gives access to their open source platform. If you have a problem related to your startup, then some of WSO2’s most intelligent minds are at your disposal to tell you what you need to do to get it working.
The Alignment of Interest
Founder, CEO & Chief Architect at WSO2, Dr. Sanjiva Weerawarna was up next to deliver the opening speech. Dr. Sanjiva, dressed in a simple attire kept his speech short and sweet. He spoke about a concept called the “Alignment of interest”. As with anything in life, there’s nothing called a free lunch. He then spoke about the concepts behind Hatchery. The whole idea behind WSO2 launching Hatchery is so that they want you to build your solution using their middleware platform.
With regard to starting your own company, Sanjiva emphasized that you should always look for the difficult problems and try to find a solution for them. That is where the true potential lies. If you’re starting a company, you need a mission. If not, your employees will not follow you. If it’s just a job, you’re not doing anything different.
“If you want to land on the moon, aim for the stars. Make whatever you’re doing a mission and not a project”
With that, Dr. Sanjiva moved off stage to make way for the first speaker for the day. Up on the big screen via skype was a well-known face in Sri Lankan YouTube scene. This face was of Tharindu Wijesekara also known as Gappiya.
Learning how to build a brand from Gappiya
Tharindu started his session by explaining the hardships he had in his life due to unemployment. From there, he thought of making a video. One video led to another video and the rest, as we know is history. Tharindu drew his inspiration from Jehan Ratnatunga (JehanR), another YouTube star from Sri Lanka.
This, however, was met with contempt as people accused him of copying Jehan’s style. It was there that Tharindu did a bit of soul-searching and created content to a Sinhala audience using a combination of ideas and concepts. Thus Gappiya was born.
Coming up with a unique identity may seem a bit silly at first, but it is a key element. For example, viewers complained that the background in his videos was messy and “looked like a slum”. Tharindu, rather than being offended, took this as a way to change his style and proceeded to bring in more characters for his videos thus creating his own style.
On building a brand, Gappiya also has his own clothing line. As a startup, you should spend most of your time creating and developing your product rather than developing your brand. Once customers see your product, your brand name will automatically go viral, just like Gappiya’s videos.
The going is not always going to be smooth. There will be a lot of friction. Tharindu faced a lot of criticism and negative reviews. He took all this with a pinch of salt and decided to learn from them to come back and have the courage to push forward. If you feel your product is facing these issues, you should look back and think about why you started the product or concept. That would help you take a new approach to engaging new or potential customers. If your product is really good it will attract the right customer and audience. If you don’t get it straight away, don’t worry too much about it. It will take time. You will lose sleep, shed tears etc. His advice: that’s normal.
Another important factor is to keep up with the current trends. You need to decide which platform in terms of social media that you should be investing in.
A small Q&A session followed. One key point was to have people who share your ideas in your team. Not doing that can lead to conflicts. How do you recover from hitting rock bottom? There will be days when you are down and nothing seems to go right. In cases like this, Tharindu says, you got to do it for the love. Remember why you started what you’re doing and use that to motivate yourself.
The story of 24/7 Techies
Dilendra Wimalasekere, the Co-Founder of Takas (Pvt) Ltd, was the next speaker of the day. He took the stage to speak about his brainchild, 24/7 Techies. Dilendra started off his session by stating that it is of the utmost importance to identify the strategy behind your business.
Taking 24/7 Techies as an example, Dilendra explains how it is all about providing remote tech support for its customers. Deep into their research, the team at 24/7 Techies found that a majority of the customer base for those who require tech support are those aged 50 and older.
The problem here was that the tech support companies were not providing a satisfactory service and/or were not too keen to cater to that market. 24/7 Techies was created to provide 24/7 unlimited tech support for a yearly subscription of $189, hence the name. Their vision “An outstanding experience, or your money back” which had its fair share of misuse, proved itself successful. This enabled 24/7 Techies to be the reputed company that it is now. In fact, they are recognized as a premium tech support company in the US.
Following Dilendra’s session was a Q&A which provided an in-depth insight into choosing the correct marketing strategy when there are many. Connect with as many people as you can, Dilendra says. Don’t worry if you face rejection. For every rejection you face, there will also be a number of successful connections.
The startups of Hatchery
After Dilendra’s session, the audience (ourselves included) were invited for lunch. Following lunch, it was time for the startups to meet their respective CTOs. A total of 16 startups had registered for Hatchery and their CTOs were ready and willing to assist in any way possible.
The 16 startups that joined Hatchery were:
- Deli Serve
- Express 418
- Cascadia Solutions
- Insurance Solutions
Throughout the next 4 hours, the startups met with their CTOs to discuss new ideas and possible solutions to problems that the Startups had identified. According to Afkham Azeez, Senior Director, Platform Architecture at WSO2, the startups that were present showed a great potential. He also praised them for taking the plunge to create their own startup rather than go the traditional route for employment. It is a lot riskier, he says, but it pays off if done right.
Towards 5PM, the event drew to a close with the startups having completed their first meeting with their respective CTOs. They would be reevaluated at the end of a three-month period to see if they require further support. All in all, we felt it was a very well executed first meeting. We will stay in touch with both WSO2 and the respective CTOs and startups to see how they fare in three months. Till then, this was Team ReadMe signing off.