On the first day, it featured a small gathering of veteran entrepreneurs. On the second day, it kicked off with practically everyone that helps build startups in Sri Lanka under one roof. But that was merely scratching the surface. To mark its official launch Hatch brought together corporates like Facebook, investors, entrepreneurs and so many more. Here’s everything else we saw.
Facebook at Hatch
Satyajeet Singh – Head of Strategic Product Partnerships for India & South Asia at Facebook shared the current programs that Facebook is working on to engage the community. The Developer Circles is one such programme. This is an initiative aimed at developers and students to create a developer community in a region.
One of the goals of the Developer Circle is to inspire students to code. Another goal is to support developers and to make sure they have all the related knowledge needed to become a better developer. He also spoke about the various projects that Facebook is working on.
Towards the evening, we also saw the local Facebook Developer Circle host its first meetup of the year. During this meetup, we saw Dr. Ruvan Weerasinghe – Senior Lecturer at University of Colombo School of Computing. He spoke on the topic of converting NLP into text analytics.
Encouraging Female Entrepreneurship
Satyajeet was also part of a panel discussion about female entrepreneurship. Moderated by Sachindra Samararatne – Program Manager at ICTA, the panel also had Nisha Tillas – Cofounder of RyTrak Solutions as a panel member. Being the only woman on the panel, it was from Nisha that we found the key takeaways from this panel.
Nisha shared that regardless of your gender, having an idea and transforming it into something you can be happy about is a journey that you take every day. “The main foundation of a successful business is to have people who you can challenge and who can also challenge you”, Nisha added.
Nisha added that a majority of the industries are male dominated with women just scratching the surface of the industry. One key point that Nisha emphasized was that certain inherent skills related to entrepreneurship cannot be categorized according to gender. She stated that each person has their own strengths irrespective of gender.
With regard to startups, there might be a notion that finding capital investment when you’re a female entrepreneur might be more challenging. Nisha explained that regardless of gender, Sri Lanka has the challenge to gain access to funds.
This is because people pitch their ideas in an unattractive manner. Nisha emphasized that startups should focus more on maintaining a healthy relationship with investors. While urban areas in Sri Lanka have mitigated this issue, it’s still prevalent in rural areas of the country.
Moving on to the final day
The 3rd and final day of the Hatch launch, kicked off with a Panel discussion called The Crazy Ones. Moderated by Yudhanjaya Wijeratne – Author & Data Scientist, the panel featured Amanda Klessel, Harpo Gooneratne, Dulith Herath, and Raveen Wijayatilake. The panellists opened by sharing their origins.
Amanda – cofounder of The GoodMarket shared that it was originally planning to build software. The sales from the Good Market would’ve funded software development. Whereas Harpo – Cofounder and CEO of Harpo’s Pizza shared that he built his pizzeria after being a DJ because he wanted to meet new people. Raveen also spoke of the origins of Gamer.LK and Dulith the origins of Kapruka.
One of the key takeaways from these panellists were the first steps they took to start. Raveen answered that it always start by breaking down a goal into small pieces. Harpo shared that since he had the Harpo brand it was easy to start. Amanda’s answer was to surround yourself with crazy people. However, Dulith admitted that it’s not easy to start.
Taking smart risks
Afterward, we saw Tony Weerasinghe – CEO of Ustocktrade take the stage at Hatch. He opened by sharing his experiences from founding Millennium IT. Some of the key lessons he shared were: do the impossible, understand your clients, stay focused, and believe in yourself. He then moved onto speak about Ustocktrade.
Ustocktrade is his latest venture. In the form of a mobile app, this is a platform that aims to make trading stocks more accessible to the masses. Tony describes it as an app that will democratize the world’s wealth. He also stated that Sri Lanka hasn’t done anything to attract investors and that insider trading is quite common in the Sri Lankan Stock Exchange.
We then saw Anuruddha Meddegoda – Founder of The Movement take the stage. He’s also a champion poker player. Despite being a business analyst at MAS, he always wanted to play poker. While challenging, he got the support of his parents and co-workers. Since then he’s been to multiple poker championships.
Anuruddha shared that poker isn’t simply rolling dice and picking cards. There’s a lot of strategy and work required. This applies to real life as well. Today he’s moving from poker to being an entrepreneur. He opened up a gym, which is aimed at women and is now looking at opening a fitness resort in Ahangama.
Fast forward to the evening and we saw another panel discussion moderated by Sachindra Samararatne – Program Manager of ICTA. The focus of this panel discussion was about how some had broken barriers placed on them by society. And opening this discussion was Khalid Oshman – an Ironman originally born in Kuwait.
In 2011, Khalid lost his eyesight and attempted suicide 3 times. Luckily it didn’t work out and he decided to rebuild his life. He joined the Sri Lanka Council from the Blind and mastered mobility training within a week. He began to learn and then look for employment. Yet, most companies refused to hire him despite his excellent skills with a computer. Luckily, he finally got a job.
Khalid would go onto obtain many achievements in sports. He took part in RFTL 2013, completed Walk for Sight – East to West in 17 days. His greatest challenge was Iron Man 2018. While others were training for months, Khalid trained just 50 days. He would complete it within 7 hours.
Afterward, we heard from Bihan Mahadewa. A young coder, he shared that we obsessed with computers games as a kid. So at the age of 10 he started learning programming languages. At the age of 12 he started a diploma in software engineering and one year later a degree at ICBT. Now at 15, he’s graduating from ICBT and has his own startup.
Finally, we heard from Dennis. He had been playing rugby for 20 years in France. But one day he got a heart attack and was forced to rebuild his life. He went into a rehabilitation center and when he left he started running. Afterward, he moved to Chicago and took part in an Ironman at the age of 43.
When he crossed the
Closing off with a much anticipated fireside chat
The final panel discussion of the day featured a group of seasoned investors. These investors shared insights on what Sri Lankan startups can do in order to attract investors. The panellists of this session were: Prajeeth Balasubramaniam – General Partner at BOV Capital, Dumith Fernando – Executive Chairman of Asia Securities Holdings, Hiran Embuldeniya – Managing Partner at Ironwood Capital Partners and Beau Seil – Managing Partner of Patamar Capital.
But the final item on the agenda of the Hatch launch was arguably what everyone was excited for. This was a fireside chat with Slava Rubin – The Cofounder of Indiegogo. He spoke of his origins and how he founded Indiegogo, which he also shared on the first day Hatch launched. You can find our article about that here.
During this fireside chat, Slava also shared that Indiegogo was originally rejected by 93 investors in a row. As such, he also encouraged anyone with a crazy to go ahead and do it. And once you succeed, make sure people see it. He also shared that it can be challenging to gain funding for a project.
It’s especially challenging to get money from strangers if your project is has not reached beyond 40% of its funding goals. So how can you gain traction to raise funds? A tactic Slava shared during his fireside chat at Hatch was to ask your friends to fund it. Then ask their friends to fund it as well. But he reminded everyone that you only have one shot at making a first impression.
With the conclusion of the Fireside chat, the official launch of Hatch came to an end. If you want to know more about Hatch itself and what they’ll be working on from here onwards, click here.