Entrepreneurship, a term that is quite a hot topic these days.

As you saw from the previous article, Day 02 of the Kandy IT/BPM Week consisted of a forum and workshop about IT/BPM facilitated by the Export Development board. From there we moved on towards the Queen’s Hotel located in Kandy for something a little different.

This was the Entrepreneurship workshop

Carried out by Ruwindu Pieris, the first session of the workshop dealt with all things related to entrepreneurship and startups. We saw a number of raw facts and figures such as the total number of aspiring entrepreneurs, existing entrepreneurs, investors, and number of Govt/industry/corporate/education bodies thrown at the audience.

Ruwindu then throws numbers at more the audience such as age demographics and gender distribution.

Entrepreneurship

You need to think global, he says explaining that almost 60% of the reach of these startups was outside Sri Lanka.

Availability of capital is a huge problem, but not so, says Ruwindu. The actual question is whether your idea can be utilized to make use of that capital. It’s not the lack of ideas per se, but rather, how scalable and relevant your idea is.

The journey of entrepreneurship is by no means a walk in the park. For aspiring entrepreneurs, the important part is on how fast you can fail and how fast you can be back up. The faster you can sidestep a failure and then change your product accordingly, the closer of an eye potential investors will keep on you.

In conclusion, as for the way forward, it’s three steps; you accelerate existing startups with high potential, incubate high value startups, initiate an entrepreneurship mindset at school level.

Co-founder and CEO of 99X Technologies, Mano Sekaram and Ruwindu Peiris were called to launch the Startup Sri Lanka Project and the website.

Next up was a very familiar face, Ganindu Nanayakkara, the creator of the famous iHelmet.

I’ve been building things since I was a kid – Ganidu Nanayakkara

He mentioned on a separate note that he has a planet named after him, not something everyone can boast about, but he can. He also gives us a brief flashback of all his inventions.

If you want to be a great entrepreneur, you need to have Innovation – Ganidu Nanayakkara

Drawing inspiration from Elon Musk, Ganindu explains how most Sri Lankans tend to reinvent the wheel when it comes to new products and ideas and entrepreneurship. He also encourages people to use Facebook as a platform to be updated with the latest trends in technology. Furthermore, learning technologies to a grassroot level would give you a thorough understanding of them.

Entrepreneurship

Learn, stay relevant and keep learning, Ganindu explains. His next point is to learn or cultivate presentation skills. Learning to be creative in your marketing will give you the edge over your competition.

The next skill is to have good financial management skills. Just because you make some profit, doen’t mean you can go get yourself a fancy new BMW or Mercedes Benz without suffering a lost to your finances. Rather you can reinvest that profit in numerous methods and thereby reap more profits. This is good financial management.

Next up was CEO and founder of Calcey Technologies, Mangala Karunaratne on Scaling up start-ups. Mangala begins his presentation by saying that he doesn’t have a planet named after him, yet. With regard to scaling start-ups, scaling fast isn’t everything. Rather, it’s about customer satisfaction, making better hires and doing things yourself when you need to (examples being AirBnB where they themselves took photos of the apartments and Pebble, where the founders themselves got involved in the production of the first 100 pebble smartwatches).

 

Entrepreneurship

He then shares a life experience of when Calcey was moving office and had to reconfigure a router. Mangala requested a System Administrator to perform the task and was immediately refused saying that that “was not his job”. At that point Mangala performed two actions. He went up and configured the router himself, and also fired the system administrator.

Back to the presentation, Mangala continues with foundations for scaling, where to be truly scalable, your business should be able to function without you. Also, maintaining a work life balance is not exactly easier said than done, rather, it’s next to impossible to do so.

Chandika Jayasundara, Co-founder and CEO of Cynergix was up next talking about Ideas to execution and about his product Creately.

Make something people want – Chandika Jayasundara

Chandika lists down a number of objectives to look into in order to have good entrepreneurship skills and to have a successful product.

  • Know your customer
  • Look out for ignorance
  • YOU!
  • Find others
  • Listen and adapt. Repeat.

Is it 10x better? – Chandika Jayasundara

That’s the benchmark that you have to use to see how your product matches up against another product in the market.

Entrepreneurship

Chandika also encouraged the audience to focus on their products and customers, always do the hardest things first, stay lean and cheap and to always start with the end in mind.

A unique solution to a problem that can scale – that is a startup – Chandika Jayasundara

Always measure your growth to see how well you’re doing. This helps you to see if you’re on the correct track or not.

The next speaker for the day was Chairman and CEO of OpenArc Group, Daya Hettiarachchi talking to us on how to build Entrepreneurial employees. He spoke to the audience about what the IT industry needs tomorrow. He walked us through his life journey where he decided to open up a company with two of his friends from university.

You see things and you ask Why? But I dream things that never were and ask, Why not? – George Shaw

He defines an entrepreneur as someone who establishes a new entity to offer a new or existing product or service into a new or existing market for a profit or non-profit outcome. In order to be successful at entrepreneurship, one must correctly identify a niche in the market and appeal to than niche.

Daya then talks about Education with a difference where he compares Sri Lanka and developing economies with developed countries. As examples he takes attendance where in Sri Lanka it is seen as compulsory whereas in a developed country, students would attend lectures because they are passionate about it. Furthermore whereas where no questions are asked from students in our economy, in a developed economy, the students would be full of questions. In addition, where coursework is number driven, in a developed economy, it would be a drive for quality over quantity.

He then talks about ToE or The OpenArc Entrepreneur, a platform to promote Sri Lankan IT entrepreneurs. As such sponsorships are offered to university students and OpenArc Students and employees.

He ends his session with Shaw’s statement of “Why Not?” which indeed is the question.

Following Daya’s session was another Panel discussion titled “How innovation and technology creates and develops start-ups”

The panel members were:

  • Ganidu Nanayakkara
  • Mangala Karunarathne
  • Chandika Jayasundara
  • Daya Hettiarachchi
  • Ashique M Ali

Moderated by Ruwindu Peiris, this took a different approach to ye regular panel discussion. Ruwindu’s approach was a lot more hands on as he encouraged the audience to come up with a startup idea. On the line, a cool 100K in cash to get started in Kandy. An idea from the audience was a job portal perhaps using a simple SMS network to find semi-skilled labor where with a small rental, you can find results.

Entrepreneurship

As the session continued we saw numerous ideas from the audience and the panel reciprocated their feedback with the good, the bad and the ugly. It was indeed amazing to see such entrepreneurship skills untapped, just waiting for a chance to burst forward.

In the end a grand total of four ideas were selected by Ruwindu.

  • Trip Planner – Akin to TripAdvisor, this would plan your trip for you and note down particular points of interest.
  • Online MCQ – A portal for O/L and A/L MCQ question papers.
  • Bucket List – Akin to Trip Planner but with a list of places and things to do at said places that can be checked off a list to unlock achievements.
  • O/L, A/L Online Tutoring Centre – Again, similar to the Online MCQ, this provides a learning environment where the lecturers are university students as research has shown that O/L and A/L students are more comfortable with learning from university students rather than regular lecturers.

The selection of the top four ideas brought and end to the Panel discussion and with it Day 02 of the Kandy IT/BPM Week also came to an end.

Tomorrow would be the final day of the three day event which is the Kandy IT Conference scheduled to be held at the E.O.E Pereira Memorial Hall at the Faculty of Engineering, University of Peradeniya.

A special shout out to Dialog Home Broadband for powering our live tweets and Instagram.

Till then, a pleasant evening to you folks.

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