“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.” – Bob Proctor

The mentorship program was the next step in the CIMA Launch Pad 2015 competition after the Pace Pitch. The top 10 teams from both categories; Social and Business, that were handpicked from the pace pitch were advised to submit a comprehensive business proposal. Next, all of the participants were directed to the Mentorship Program.

The mentorship program took two phases; the general workshop and individual mentoring. The mentors were top level professionals from various organizations who worked with the teams to refine their ideas and make them even better.

Business Category                  

Business category is nothing new to CIMA Launch Pad. The general workshop consisted of 3 presentations along with a session by the guys from Cobweb IO, a startup born from the previous year’s program.

Sustainability Framework for SME’s

Photo Courtesy: Malshan Gunawardane
Dr. Rizvan Jaldeen, CEO – Business Development Centre & Services LLC
Photo Courtesy: Malshan Gunawardane

“You should not be even selling ‘Sarawita’ on the streets if you can’t manage your financials.” – Dr. Rizvan Jaldeen

It was Dr. Rizvan Jaldeen, CEO – Business Development Centre & Services LLC, who took the stage as the first mentor for the day. It was an inspiring presentation in which he shared some extreme essentials for a startup to be successful and sustain in this competitive market.

The doctor presented his first point as ‘Leadership’, can anything ever at least exist without proper leadership? He spoke how important the managerial experience one has, could play when you lead a business.

“People come and ask me what the best business to start is? I say no business at all.” – Dr. Rizvan Jaldeen

‘Advices’, he encouraged them to seek for advice but in the same time to make your own decisions. ‘Passion has become a catch phrase these days, Dr. Jaldeen stated that passion itself wouldn’t make you or your business successful. “Passion fruit isn’t getting you anywhere, you need the right amount of sugar and water until people say your passion is nice.”

He then spoke about how important it is to incorporate ‘Disruptive technologies’ into your SME. Here he shared his views about why you will have to consider dropping out the traditional ways of doing business and moving into concepts like virtual offices and utilizing the power of social media.

Next he discussed the value of the employees. To make things effective and efficient, he stated that all key employees should be empowered and should have the flexibility.

“Sleep eat and drink with the marketing and sales guys, because they are the ones who will bring you business.” – Dr. Rizvan Jaldeen

A Look Back at Launch Pad 2014

Photo Courtesy: Malshan Gunawardane
Sanjeev and Madhawa, Co-founders – Cobweb IO
Photo Courtesy: Malshan Gunawardane

Sanjeev and Madhawa, the co-founders of Cobweb IO shared their journey of bringing a thought that was in their minds to a successful venture today as a result of CIMA Launch Pad 2014. This idea is called Cobweb IO, a platform to share IoT sensor data among the users, which is more similar to a “Social Network for Internet of Things”.

They also didn’t forget to tell their story of getting to IOT Asia where they showcased their product and gained attraction even among the giants like BOSH, Intel and Equinix.

Here is a small intro to their platform.

Interactive Workshop

It was a session done by Ms. Nadeesha Wijekoon an Associate Consultant at PwC and Mr. Rizny Faisal a Consultant at PwC. It was more of a talk which covered important points for startup entrepreneurs. They also spoke how they help business at PwC by means of business consulting.

“You can’t be the market leader for a long time.” – Rizny Faisal

Photo Courtesy: Malshan Gunawardane
Mr. Rizny Faisal, Consultant – PwC
Photo Courtesy: Malshan Gunawardane

One of the most important points the duo discussed was how to look out for pitfalls that might put a full stop to your business. One of it was how you could maintain the friendship with your founders and it is by “creating firewalls to secure both your relationships and the venture”.

Crux of a Startup   

“You know that there is a problem and that’s why you started up” – Haridhu Abeygoonaratne

Photo Courtesy: Malshan Gunawardane
Mr. Haridhu Abeygoonaratne, COO – SimCentric Technologies
Photo Courtesy: Malshan Gunawardane

We next had Mr. Haridhu Abeygoonaratne – Chief Operating Officer, SimCentric Technologies. He spoke on the bare basics of a startup, how they work, their difference and the culture.

“If a kindergarten kid could draw your logo, that’s branding done properly.” – Haridhu Abeygoonaratne

Speaking on startups, no doubt the term ‘innovation’ is a one that you see 99% of the time coupled with. Most startups are formed of by a limited number of people, where each individual plays multiple roles. According to him; patience, determination and the ability to plan are the key things that one should pose before even thinking of starting up. What do you need to have? Haridhu listed the essentials as a business plan, resources, marketing and branding strategies, knowledge on finance and legal aspects.

“When you are finding investors, find people who are from the same field, because they know the struggle.” – Haridhu Abeygoonaratne

Now comes the game time, technically it was a part of his presentation where he asked the participants to team up and solve a problem. Teams were given 15 minutes to think of a product and present it in a mode of a commercial; yes they had to act it!

Social Category

Just like in the business category it was a general workshop followed by individual mentoring sessions. But it was just one session which was conducted by Mr. Eranda Ginige the Co-Founder of Social Enterprise Lanka. Unfortunately, he had to limit his session to the shortest possible due to time constraints. Starting off his presentation, he gave a general review on the proposals that were submitted. Moving on, he handed out blank business model canvases to each team where Eranda guided the teams to fill them out.

Photo Courtesy: Malshan Gunawardane
Mr. Eranda Ginige, Co-Founder – Social Enterprise Lanka
Photo Courtesy: Malshan Gunawardane

We asked few teams on how was their experience of doing this exercise and many stated that, though they already knew about the business model canvas, the quick exercise with Eranda helped them a lot to focus on the points in a much effective and realistic manner which helped them to rethink and refine their ideas.

Individual Mentoring  

Here, mentors were assigned to each team and the participants were given the chance to have one to one discussions of the business idea. Another focus of this session was to guide the team members to enhance their entrepreneurial thinking.

The mentors for the teams competing under business category were Mr. Dhanushka Fernando (Director, Future Works – MAS Innovation), Mr. Jehan Mutaliph – (Chief Information Officer, MAS Holdings), Ms. Ruwani Munasinha (Associate Director – Corporate Finance & Strategy Consulting, PWC) and Mr. Haridhu Abeygoonaratne (Chief Operating Officer, SimCentric Technologies).

Photo Courtesy: Malshan Gunawardane
Photo Courtesy: Malshan Gunawardane

For the social category, it was Mr. Eranda Ginige (Co-Founder, Social Enterprise Lanka), Mr. Varuna Ponnamperuma (Assistant Director, Office for National Unity and Reconciliation), Mr. Abdul Qadir Uvais (Country Representative, Earth Hour Sri Lanka (Head of Expolanka Green Team)), Mr. Mohammed Hisham (Director Operations, Tellida Pvt Ltd), Mr. Varatharaja Kumaraguru (National Programme Manager, Youth Business Sri Lanka, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce) and Ms. Amanthi Wickramasinghe (Programme Analyst, United Nations Development Programme Sri Lanka).

Wrapping Up

Any idea isn’t a great idea at the moment it stroked your head. It needs a lot of research, analysis and definitely a trip through the ‘Creative Destruction Machine’. In this long process, mentors play a huge role. Why? Most of the times they have gone through the same. Probably taken the longer and hard ways where they would definitely know the shortcuts and the pitfalls by now.

As we saw, there was a visible improvement in the teams after the mentorship sessions which proves the above point.

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