Last Friday, Stax closed the fourth week of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Global Startup Labs (GSL) startup incubator, held this year at the University of Moratuwa. The GSL participants consist of five teams of UoM students who, over the course of seven weeks, will each build a mobile or web-based startup from the ground up.
In the first half of the intensive GSL program, student entrepreneurs identified key problems and business opportunities to serve society, created targeted customer surveys, and outlined their business models. They are now deep into coding version 1.0 of their products, to be released at GSL’s Launch Day finale on August 1st. The teams’ ideas are well formulated, but fundamental questions remain: How will they monetize their services to create sustainable revenue models? Are their products in sufficient demand to merit investment and carry their companies to expansion? How will the startups market themselves and articulate the value of their services to the public?
GSL participants have, for the past two years, looked to Stax to help think through such strategic questions. Pioneered by Arj Wignaraja and Ruwindhu Peiris, two outstanding startup mentors and supporters of GSL since its inception, Stax Lab brings together GSL startup teams with a panel of judges – including experienced business consultants from the Stax consulting company, potential investors, and leaders from Sri Lanka’s IT industry – in an interactive pitching and critique session.
At Stax Lab, GSL entrepreneurs had the opportunity to pitch to real investors, faced tough questions, and learned first-hand the information needed to effectively pitch a startup idea. Questions ranged from startups’ projected cost of marketing to capitalize on a first-mover advantage, to the cultural aspects of consumer interaction with their services.
The 14-strong panel of experienced judges included Imran Furkan, Executive Director of SLASSCOM; Prajeeth Balasubramaniam, Managing Director at Blue Ocean Ventures; Mafaz Ishaq, Director at Calamander Capital; Rohan Jayaweera, Google Country Consultant; Madu Ratnayake, VP and General Manager at Virtusa; Ramesh Shanmuganathan, Executive VP and CIO at John Keells; Decca F C Fan, Managing Director at HSBC Electronic Data Processing; Indaka Raigama, CEO at Navantis; Chanaka Wickramasuriya, Managing Partner at LR Global Lanka Private Equity Fund; Dr. Ajith Madurapperuma, senior lecturer and researcher at Open University; Dileeka Dias, University of Moratuwa professor, leading researcher, and one of the pioneers in bringing GSL to Sri Lanka; and of course the Stax team: Ruwindhu Peiris, Director; Arj Wignaraja, Senior Adviser and former Managing Director; and Lasith Lansakara, Engagement Manager.
Under to-the-minute timing and coordination by Stax analyst Shenali de Silva, each startup team presented their idea, followed by 10 minutes of intense drilling and feedback by the judging panel. The panel of judges then rated each team on several aspects of their businesses, including their problem significance, understanding of customers and competitors, and how successfully they have planned to reach their target market. Following key advice and critical feedback offered by the judging panel, teams are now working to finalize their product development, filling any identified gaps in their marketing plans and long-term financial projections, and reaching out to obtain their first customers.
Thanks to the incredible support and timely feedback from the Stax team and judging panel, we expect to see five market-ready products backed by solid business plans coming out of GSL this year, ready to publicly launch by GSL’s finale event, Launch Day, this August 1st.
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