Tony Weerasinghe is a name that resonates quite well in the Lankan tech industry and beyond. Being the founder of MillenniumIT and eChanneling, its not hard to see why. Back in 2014, Tony resigned from London Stock Exchange Group as the founding CEO of Millennium IT. He went on to live in Boston in the US, pursuing his next entrepreneurial venture (we’ll get to this later on). Now, Tony is back in Sri Lanka. We actually met Tony at the recent Spike meet up, where he shared his entrepreneurial journey as well as what he’s been up to lately.
“I want everybody to dream big”
With a man of Tony’s caliber it should come as no surprise that he can pull in a crowd. This month’s Spike had quite the turn out for Tony. “I want everybody to dream big”, is how he started off. He then spoke about the motivation behind his 3 ventures. In the case of Millennium IT, he wanted it to be the best in the world. With eChanneling, he wanted everyone to have the opportunity to channel their doctor without the need to come to Colombo. His 3rd venture, Ustocktrade, wants to be the world stock exchange. If you’re not sure what that means, don’t worry we’ll get to that in a bit.
Going back to the beginning of MillenniumIT, Tony Weerasinghe talked about why its important to believe in yourself. He mentioned how he stuck with his idea, even when he was offered a post as the country head for Oracle in Vietnam. Hence, the success that is known as MillenniumIT.
Tony also talked about how things started off with eChanneling. This was the first eCommerce company in Sri Lanka. Here, he mentioned how it was more or less the same every time when it came to investors. He remarked that investors always give money, but not when it comes to sustaining the business.
Tony Weerasinghe also talked about the reason behind his decision to sell off MillenniumIT. According to Tony, there were lot of accusations at the time. Quite a few people were of the opinion that he sold off the company too early to London Stock Exchange. Maybe he should have waited longer. But Tony disagrees, and points out that even though you may have a wonderful product, you have to keep reinventing yourself.
As the evening progressed, Tony went on to talk about why its important to look at personnel attitude, regardless of the person’s industry. Back when he was heading MillenniumIT, Tony had once hired a construction industry personnel to teach the employees project management. Although completely unrelated to what MillenniumIT was into, the personnel ended up becoming the ICT CEO of the company. Even at eChanneling, Tony had gotten an economist to join the team. The economist went on to become the head of development at MillenniumIT. Picking talent is obviously key.
Protecting Your Biggest Asset
Everybody likes to say, “our biggest asset in the company is our employees”. But how do you protect your talent. Tony believes there are 2 things one must do to achieve this.
1. Take a little bit more trouble and understand their lives
2. Find a way to build wealth for them
Democratizing Wealth With Ustocktrade
Remember when we said Tony Weerasinghe wanted to be the world stock exchange? Well, this idea comes in the form of Ustocktrade. Tony wants everybody to be able to buy any stock from anywhere in the world through the platform. Say you’re a Sri Lankan and want to trade in international stock exchanges like NASDAQ, Ustocktrade lets you do just that. At Spike, Tony spoke about how he kickstarted Ustocktrade with the Boston Exchange. He shared his story, how he managed to be the first Sri Lankan with a license for a retail stock exchange.
So how did the platform get their first 1000 customers on board? Will Ustocktrade enter Sri Lanka as a broker? These were some of the questions raised by the audience at the July Spike meet up. Here, he pointed out that their marketing strategy ran entirely on social media. Millennials prefer companies with a social presence. Hence, Ustocktrade was able to get their first 1000 customers within the first month. With regards to the platform entering Sri Lanka, Tony explained why they don’t need to act as a broker. The platform offers what’s known as an Alternate Trading System, which facilitates peer to peer trading. This eliminates the need for a broker.
Ustocktrade doesn’t require you to have a minimum deposit to register. This means that pretty much anyone can get on board. With regards to the cost, this will charge you $1 per trade. Additionally, membership fees will cost you $5 per month, and that’s pretty much it. The platform is now available for Sri Lankans and is on both Android and iOS platforms. You can click here for more details.
Selling The Companies, Overcoming Career Mistakes And Moving Forward
The questions didn’t end with Ustocktrade. The audience was curious about quite a few things. For instance, Tony talked about his biggest career mistake. He mentions that there was a time when he was under the impression he was the best around because of his popularity. He goes on to say, “after 9/11, I learnt I don’t control the world. I learnt to be humble after that”.
He also spoke about the companies he has sold off and his opinion on how they’re performing as of now. Tony highlighted how sometimes the vision of the company tends to get lost/diluted over time. He mentioned his disappointment with where eChanneling is right now. But noted how well Millennium IT is currently doing and hoped that the company culture remains intact. Talking about eChanneling, Tony also mentioned his lack of focus as the result of eChanneling not functioning as he initially intended. At the time, Tony’s concentration mostly fell on building MillenniumIT.
Before ending his session, Tony Weerasinghe emphasized once again on the importance of believing in yourself. He also mentioned how family plays an important support role in your entrepreneurial journey.
So what are your thoughts about the above story? Let us know in the comments below.