Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy and being a student’s entrepreneur even more so. Not does that mean juggling the 101 tasks of running a startup but also those of a full-time degree. To recognize such individuals and support them is the aim of the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA). Organized by the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), it’s described as, “the premier global competition for student entrepreneurs.”
Even here in Sri Lanka, the competition has been supporting local student-led startups for six consecutive years. As we’ve seen in previous years, GSEA Sri Lanka 2020 also featured many such startups. This is where the competition begins for young entrepreneurs. The national-level competition began with a process shortlisting the top 5 startups from a pool of countless entries.
Afterwards, these 5 startups were invited to pitch to a panel of judges at the GSEA Sri Lanka 2020 National Finals. The first of these startups was POKKA, which aims to address the issue of polythene waste by recycling bags made out of polythene into clothes. The startup currently has a fashion line aimed at women. Buost Asia is a digital agency that aims to create engaging stories that help brands have meaningful engagements with their customers. Hailing from the Northern Province, CookooEats is an app offering food delivery while also working towards introducing environmentally friendly practices into its industry. Similarly, Olai is an online marketplace selling bags and other palmyrah products. Finally, we saw The Event Club, which is an event management startup that organizes a variety of events for its clients.
After an intense round of pitches, Olai emerged as the winner of the GSEA Sri Lanka National Finals. They won an all-expenses-paid trip to South Africa where they’ll represent Sri Lanka at the GSEA Global Finals. Here, they will get to compete against other student entrepreneurs from all over the world. The winners here will receive a cash prize of $25,000 with second and third place winners receiving $10,000 and $5,000 respectively.
Alongside this cash prize, the GSEA Global Finals also offers an invaluable networking opportunity. At this global gathering of student entrepreneurs, they’ll also meet members of the wider Entrepreneurs’ Organization. This is a community of leaders, peers, and mentors who can exponentially help their entrepreneurial journey. Hence, GSEA describes the opportunity being worth, “ nearly half a million dollars.”
Looking back at the history of the competition locally, Enosh Praveen – GSEA Ambassador of Sri Lanka said, “GSEA Sri Lanka concludes with the best finale to date, and team Olai from the North clinching the national title to represent the island in South Africa for the Global Competition. This programme has certainly come a long way since 2015, and the bar has been raised high by many noteworthy predecessor candidates to set this as a platform for all local student entrepreneurs who venture out to make a difference.”
Needless to say, the competition offers an invaluable opportunity for young entrepreneurs to accelerate the growth of their companies. Locally, GSEA has been doing this for many such founders for 5 consecutive years. Thus, as the national rounds of the competition end, we wish Olai the best of luck on their journey. One that will take the from the Northern Province of Sri Lanka to the GSEA Global Finals in South Africa and hopefully beyond.