Ever since the John Keells X Open Innovation Challenge kicked off for 2019, we’ve seen a number of startups enter, receive training and mentorship and go about onboarding customers. Now, once the dust has settled, it was time to announce which startups made it through to the JKX Accelerator 2019. A total of 11 startups made their pitch at Demo Day. Out of these, 5 startups would go on to the final accelerator stage.
Each startup will receive LKR 2.5 Million in initial funding, access to mentors, further training and workshops, free office space and other resources, access to the entire network of John Keells and it’s corporate services and the ultimate prize of follow on funding of up to LKR 50 Million. Of course, this was after they braved a series of tough questions from the panel of judges. The judging criteria this year included analyzing several factors. These factors include scalability, competitive landscape, business model, monetization, and the capability of the team. Without further ado, here are the startups that were accepted into the John Keells X Accelerator.
Catering to those looking for branded products, Urban.lk highlighted a number of problems with e-commerce in Sri Lanka. They currently deal with only branded products catering to the customer segments that expect high quality associated with these brands. While developed Asian markets focus on fashion and electronics, in Sri Lanka, the need is for household appliances. But then again, the margins for these are paper-thin.
They currently seek funding for marketing, development and accelerated growth. They plan to use funding over 6 months and raise a further Rs. 22 million. Dumith Fernando raised a question on how they would carry out the inventory and fulfillment process. He also asked about their supply chain.
Ramesh asked how much of the market they plan to capture after getting the investment. The size of the market exceeds Rs.6.4Bn and is growing rapidly. With a current team of four, Urban.lk believes they can capture significant market share.
BuilderBuy by Circ technologies is a B2B marketplace focused on the engineering industry. They’re tackling an old school problem which is material procurement. BuilderBuy aims to modernize this. Using the service, you can find materials, make negotiations and quotes and then once everything is settled, make the payment.
They are aiming to utilize funds of Rs.2.5 million to build a team and do some marketing for the platform. Initially, Builderbuy offers its services free of charge for its vendors, incentivizing them to get onboard the modern solution. So a burn period for six months or more is expected. The platform is built but they’re looking to increase the merchant base. Ramesh and Dumith asked how challenging it would be to onboard vendors. The team explained that Builderbuy’s solutions to ease out vendors’ business problems would encourage them to get onboard. Thus allowing Builderbuy to set its roots and reshape the industry.
A truck aggregator in essence, vShip has a bold vision. They are building an app that allows service providers and clients to share assets through aggregation. By doing this, vShip aims to help increase efficiency and bring down the cost of transporting products.
At the time of publication, Vship is in the process of adding truckers and shippers onto the network, with the first few truckers and shippers signed up on the platform. The company’s next goal is to introduce trucks on demand. Why? Because they want resources to be shared across the industry. As such, they plan to get 300 trucks and take a commission on backhauls within the first 6 months They’ve already built an Android app.
In terms of revenue, they expect to generate LKR 50 million within their first year. Dumith shared that several companies have already gotten into this space. As a response, the team emphasized that their model is focused on increasing capacity utilization and backhauling opportunities. Another concern was when they would have to ship organic substances such as food as well as other materials like concrete. The team shared that they’ll initially separate food vs non-food, but will look at optimizing the process in the future.
Blue Lotus 360
An ERP system that focuses on small and medium enterprises as well as large companies, Blue Lotus Is geared towards those in any project or batch based industry. When we last checked up on the folks at Blue Lotus 360, they were researching on blockchain and AI. Nithushan Uthyakumar – Co Founder and COO of Blue Lotus 360 shared that the company would be closing the first round of funding in the next few months.
Nithushan also shared that the goal of the company was to be in as many markets as possible through channel partners. Currently, they’ve obtained channel partners in the UK, USA and in Bangladesh and they’ve also started a small operation in the UK.
Offering an eLearning Solution using gamification, microlearning, and activity-based learning, Viduhala is fashioned around delivering digital content to school children. Their primary product, Punchi Pahe Hapan is a mobile app aimed for students from Grades 3-5. The second product, Sigithi Hapan is aimed at Grades 1,2 3 and Kindergarten. Additionally, we learned that they have more exciting products in their product road map.
The content taught on Viduhala is based on the current curriculum put forth by the Government. The team plans to get the assistance of retired primary education administrators to oversee that the content on the app is up to date. In addition, for those in rural areas where the smartphone penetration is low, Viduhala.lk would take the form of a CD to use on computers as a software.
In terms of a revenue model, Viduhala.lk would have free content up to a predefined level. From there onwards, if the user wishes to access more content, they would have to pay via a subscription model. One point that the judges noted was, what makes Viduhala.lk different from the content taught in schools. The team replied that a majority of the content is similar and mostly in video form. But Viduhala.lk follows a different approach by making gamified content, essentially making it fun to play and acquire subject knowledge in the process.
Up next: The John Keells X Accelerator
These are the 5 teams, which were accepted into the John Keells Accelerator. Each team will receive LKR 2.5 Million in initial funding and other amazing accelerator benefits mentioned. This, in turn, would give them all the opportunity they need to go out there, grow their startup, make a bigger name for themselves and raise follow on funding of up to LKR 50 Million. Here’s to the 5 startups that got selected, all the very best and hope to see the hard work pay off in the near future.