It’s 8.30 AM on a Thursday morning. It’s a lovely morning and the traffic in Colombo was terrible as always. But somehow, we arrived at the Hilton Colombo, just in the nick of time. Some say that the hall had a selection of sandwiches and iced coffee but we chose not to check. Why? Because Disrupt Asia 2016, was about to begin. In case you need a little recap, Disrupt Asia was a massive conference organized by ICTA celebrating startups.
Disrupt Asia had a massive showcase of 35 startups and many valuable knowledge sharing sessions for the different stakeholders of the Sri Lankan startup ecosystem. Many of these sessions happened in parallel throughout the day until lunch. Here’s what we learned at the sessions we attended.
The opening keynote speaker at Disrupt Asia 2016 was Jean-Francois Gauthier – COO of Compass. He shared with us that there’s an explosion of startups in every industry. This is a revolution. What does it mean for jobs? Old companies want to increase productivity from employees bit eventually they destroy jobs by automation and outsourcing. This is why startups are now the number one job generation engines.
Jean went on to share with us that power structures have also changed with few big companies controlling assets. But now the startups are disrupting it. This change is bringing a change of values. The table below highlights the old power values and the new ones replacing them.
|Old Power Values||New Power Values|
Jean-Francois then shared with us that the younger generation learns faster. Today a 22-year-old will build a startup. Within 2 years he/she will learn to do financial planning, dealing with customers, design products, hiring etc. This means in 10-20 years we’ll have 5-10℅ of the population with a wide range of skill. And it’s happening globally. In Canada, Asia, Europe, and Latin America it’s growing. This will happen in Sri Lanka too.
Some examples Jean-Francois shared at Disrupt Asia 2016 to prove his point were:
Then there’s Colombo with 8 million people which makes it a larger than Waterloo. India is right next door. According to Jean-Francois, what’s we need to do is think about startup ecosystems. As Michael Porter in the Competitive Advantage of Nations said, we need to have interconnected businesses. But the most important thing is entrepreneurs. For Sri Lanka to truly have a huge startup eco-system, entrepreneurs would need to:
Jean-Francois concluded by encouraging the entrepreneurs in the audience at Disrupt Asia to make the Sri Lankan startup ecosystem great. For in 15 years, it will be they who’ll be known as legends. The legendary entrepreneurs that kick-started a startup revolution.
Following Jean’s session was a short break before Disrupt Asia 2016 split into multiple tracks. We chose to take a look at the many startups that were exhibiting their products and keep an eye on what was happening on the main stage. At the main stage was a panel discussion which was focused on building the Sri Lankan startup ecosystem.
The panel discussion was moderated by Anushka Wijesingha – Chief Economist at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. Meanwhile, the panelists were: Ruwindhu Pieris – Vice Chairman of SLASSCOM, Muhunthan Canagey – MD/ CEO of ICTA, Jean-Francois Gauthier, and Fayaz Hudah – Programme Head at ICTA.
During the early stages of the panel discussion, Jean-Francois highlighted some key ingredients needed to create a successful startup. Fayaz also shared some of the challenges entrepreneurs face. One of the biggest challenges he highlighted is the lack of experience.
Muhunthan also made some interesting reflections during this panel discussion. He stated that when it comes to supporting startups there are areas the government should and should not get involved in. However, at the same time, Muhunthan stated that the government should show the same level of interest and investment to the software industry, as they do to the tourism industry. He also commented on the state of payment gateways in Sri Lanka. Muhunthan stated that the government has stated that it is committed but right now they’re waiting for approval from the Central Bank.
Meanwhile, Ruwindhu stated during the panel discussion that one of the biggest challenges startups say they face is to find funding. However, he highlighted that there’s plenty of money available saying, “look at all the cars people drive in Sri Lanka!” The challenge for entrepreneurs is not in finding funding, but in communicating their ideas and needs. Ruwindhu also went on to say that one of the most beneficial things for the Sri Lankan eco-system would be a shared workspace for the top startups in the country.
Following the previous panel discussion, we were treated to two more panel discussions at Disrupt Asia 2016’s main stage. Both of these panel discussions revolved specifically around money. The first of these panel discussions was titled: Bootstrap vs Funding.
The panel was moderated by Mangala Karunaratne – Cofounder & CEO of Calcey. Meanwhile, the panelists were: Lahiru Pathmalal – Cofounder & CEO of Takas, Chandika Jayasundara – Co-founder & CEO of Cinergix and Ehantha Sirisena – CEO/MD of OMAK Technologies.
During the panel discussion, one of the key points illustrating the pros and cons of funding were shared by Ehantha. He stated that the governance aspect becomes bigger with funding, which costs the founders control. However, by choosing to pursue funding, entrepreneurs can use it grow their network as well.
Towards, the end of the panel discussion, Chandika gave an important reminder. He reminded the entrepreneurs at Disrupt Asia 2016 that they should bootstrap until they feel like they know what they’re doing. Keep bootstrapping he told the audience until they had proof, then pursue funding.
The following panel discussion we saw at the Disrupt Asia 2016 main stage was also revolving around money. This panel discussion was about the technology used to provide financial services aka Fintech. Consider the state of Sri Lankan fintech, this was easily one of the most interesting panel discussions we saw during the morning session.
The panel was moderated by Kanishka Weeramunda – Founder of PayMedia. Meanwhile, the panelists were: Rohan Mutthiah – COO of NDB Bank, Channa De Silva – CEO of LankaClear and Conrad Dias – Group CIO at LOLC. The combined banking experience rather than tech experience the panelists brought to the table made this session even more interesting.
During this session, Rohan stated that many banks would like to say they are innovative. However, the truth is that banks aren’t truly innovative. Fintech in Sri Lanka he said, needs to change. He went on to state that the fact, he a banker is attending a forum such as Disrupt Asia 2016 was progress. As we’ve seen in the past, it’s all too common to see startup events frequent by those in the tech industry.
As the panel discussion progressed, the other panelists too shared their thoughts on fintech. However, it was only when the Q&A session opened that they were truly challenged. A member of the audience asked why the banks denied PickMe a support for cashless payments. It was only until Uber came to Sri Lanka that the banks went to PickMe and started making offers.
Channa replied that the reason for this was that the system wasn’t ready when PickMe requested it. The system was still in development back then. He then went on to state that before such a system can be implemented, our banks had to spend time (a lot of it) to get many of the basics right. Not exactly the most favorable of answers. Such a system should have been available ages ago. Needless to say, Rohan was right when he said that our approach to Fintech needs to change.
As we mentioned before, Disrupt Asia had a TON of things happening at the same time. The opening sessions were just another step in our long Disrupt Asia journey. Stay tuned because we still have more stories to tell. Stories from our very own brutal startup battle: Voltage 230. There’s a lot more coming your way.
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Venture Frontier Lanka is bringing experts in entrepreneurship from around the country to cities throughout Sri Lanka to train local entrepreneurs to think differently about the ventures they will start.
Venture Frontier Lanka is bringing experts in entrepreneurship from around the country to cities throughout Sri Lanka to train local entrepreneurs to think differently about the ventures they will start. A caravan stop consists of different sessions about creating unique ideas for startup ventures and strategies for financing those ideas.
Come join the sessions on the 19th of December, starting with 2 pm at Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology.
The event is free of charge! REGISTRATION is mandatory for this event
(Wednesday) 2:00 pm - 6:00 pm
SLIIT, New Kandy Road, Malabe
Early Bird till the 16th of Dec: 20% discount Likuid Members: 20% discount Female/Social Entrepreneurs (Locals Only): 50% discount Join for a one day workshop where we unchain the collective wisdom and creativity
Early Bird till the 16th of Dec: 20% discount
Likuid Members: 20% discount
Female/Social Entrepreneurs (Locals Only): 50% discount
Join for a one day workshop where we unchain the collective wisdom and creativity to help each other having a more productive digital nomad new year and build better cooperations for teamwork.
During this peer to peer learning session you can share your experiences to help others and learn from other practitioners. Together, dive into the most painful problems and brainstorm on solutions. It’s for you if you resonate with some of these questions:
How do I integrate work, life and travel?
How do I keep motivated to achieve?
How do I keep engaged with a client?
How do I manage my time and energy?
How do I get clients?
How do I find people to collaborate with?
How to deal with time differences?
How can I make human interactions with slack profiles?
How to set realistic goals in constantly changing environment?
What are the best tools & methods for productivity?
What’s the secret of aligned teams?
What are the best skills for a digital nomad?
ABOUT THE METHOD:
“We create space for meaningful conversations, experimental and peer to peer learning. Nothing frontal, no preaching. But space for your very unique questions.”
+ Full-day mentored learning program
+ Breakfast on the roof
+ BBQ lunch on the roof
+ Goodie bags & Take-home handbooks
+ Post-event networking
ABOUT THE HOST:
Kitti is a digital nomad herself and a marketing consultant for innovative companies and early stage startups. She is a conversation ambassador for tedxdanubia, hosted meaningful conversations on ideas worth spreading. In the past years she worked in self organized teams, practiced facilitation, joined peer to peer networks, decentralized teams and cocreated a collective of freelancers. She is a cofounder of a sustainability startup that just secured its first round of investment. Worked as a mentor for many startups, and in the meantime she visited more than 15 countries.
Are you a Sri Lankan female entrepreneur or a local social business? Reach out for your discounted tickets!
PRICE IN SRI LANKAN RUPEES:
Regular: LKR 5000
Early Bird till 16th of Dec: LKR 4000
Likuid Members: LKR 4000
Female/Social Entrepreneurs (Locals Only): LKR 2500
(Saturday) 8:30 am - 5:30 pm
5 Charles Place 00300 Colombo, Sri Lanka
Karthik ( Associate Director, DTCC & Co-organiser of Hyperledger Chennai Meetup) will be here for the 2nd Hyperledger meetup. He will share his experience with Hyperledger and Business application of Blockchain
Karthik ( Associate Director, DTCC & Co-organiser of Hyperledger Chennai Meetup) will be here for the 2nd Hyperledger meetup.
He will share his experience with Hyperledger and Business application of Blockchain technologies.
1. Work with Hyperledger Fabric and Explorer.
2. Business use case with Hyperledger Blockchain Framework
3. Q&A session
This is a Free session. Register here
(Friday) 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Startup X Foundry
07, Charles Place, Colombo 03, Colombo
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