Reliving Techstars Startup Weekend Hikka

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It’s taken us from Colombo to Jaffna, Negombo, Trincomalee, and Kandy. Ever since the global phenomena that is Techstars Startup Weekend first came to Sri Lanka, we’ve been a part of it. Over the weekend, its latest iteration took us down south where we witnessed Techstars Startup Weekend Hikka. What unfolded over the course of these 56 hours? Here’s what we saw.

The Techstars Startup Weekend Hikka Orientation

Kicking things off was Kanishka Weeramunda – the cofacilitator of the event. He took the stage to introduce the participants as to what exactly Startup Weekend is. He shared that the goal of Techstars Startup Weekend is to encourage and assist its participants to build startups over the course of a single weekend. Having shared this with the participants it was time for the icebreaker.

The participants on Day 01 of Techstars Startup Weekend Hikka
The participants on Day 01 of Techstars Startup Weekend Hikka

Conducting this icebreaker was Anagi Perera – one of the organizers of Techstars Startup Weekend Hikka. The participants were split up and had to form a team with five strangers. Afterward, the teams were tasked with coming up with three random words. These words were then shared with another team, which had to create a business idea and a logo based on those three words.

When the game ended, we saw a variety of ideas. These ranged from startups that give you the door of your dreams. Afterward, Pasan Ketipearachchi – CEO of AENZ International took the stage. He shared their story and how they’re now active in nine districts in Sri Lanka and internationally. Having shared their story, he encouraged the students to walk down the path of entrepreneurship to build a better future.

Top ideas at Techstars Startup Weekend Hikka
The top ideas with their votes

Following this speech was dinner. Afterward, it was time for the main event of Day 01 of Techstars Startup Weekend Hikka – the pitches. This was the moment where the participants shared their startup ideas with everyone. The participants themselves then voted for the top six ideas. It was these ideas, that participants would form teams for and work on over the weekend.

Getting hands dirty and building startups

When we walked into the hall on Day 02 of Techstars Startup Weekend Hikka, we saw that some of the teams had been working through the night. They had started early on building their startups, which was the focus on Day 02. In fact, some of them had already built their apps overnight.

But simply building apps and calling it a day isn’t enough and that’s not what Startup Weekend is about. With the arrival of Brijendra R. Boshi – Facilitator of Techstars Startup Weekend Hikka, the teams were introduced to two very important concepts – the Business Model Canvas and the Value Proposition Canvas.

We’ve been introduced to these two concepts very often in recent times. But in a nutshell, the Business Model Canvas is a tool to create a suitable business model for a startup. It does this by breaking down the business idea into nine sections. If what you write in the nine sections are related to each other, then you’re close to a good business model.

The Value Proposition Canvas, on the other hand, is an extension of the above concept. The purpose of this canvas is to help a startup identify its value proposition. In other words, what value it offers customers for their money. If done right, it can also help you convince investors to invest in your startup.

Working with the mentors at Techstars Startup Weekend Hikka
Working with mentors alongside coffee to build startups

With these concepts in mind, the teams took the next step. They began validating their business ideas and perfecting them with the help of their mentors. Of course, this meant some of the teams that worked throughout the night building their apps, had to begin brainstorming things anew.

The 56 hours come to an end

When the sun rose on Sunday morning, the teams were greeted with some exercise. Day 03 of Techstars Startup Weekend Hikka kicked off with a volleyball match. Following this intense match, the teams resumed their work. Having selected a business model, they began working towards creating their pitch deck.

Early morning volleyball at Techstars Startup Weekend Hikka
Early morning volleyball at Techstars Startup Weekend Hikka

Fast forward to noon and we saw Dhanika Perera – Founder of Bhasha and PayHere take the stage. He shared with the participants that entrepreneurship was about conquering challenges. Having said that, he shared the challenge of finding the right business model for Helakuru, which took 5 years. Dhanika also shared the challenges faced with launching PayHere.

Dhanika Perera at Techstars Startup Weekend Hikka
Dhanika Perera speaks at Techstars Startup Weekend Hikka

“Technological know-how isn’t a barrier anymore if you have passion,” he told the participants. Along with these words, Dhanika encouraged the participants not to give up. He concluded by saying that he credits his success to persevering in the face of challenges. Afterward, the teams resumed their work adding the final touches on their pitch decks.

Towards the late afternoon following lunch, the teams participated in the mock pitches. During these mock pitches, the teams received feedback from the mentors. This was aimed at helping the teams get some quick feedback and improve their presentations before the final pitches took place. Then, as the sun began to set, the final pitches of Startup Weekend Hikka began.

The mock pitches at the Techstars Startup Weekend Hikka
The mock pitches at the Techstars Startup Weekend Hikka

What are the ideas did we see at the Techstars Startup Weekend Hikka? Stay tuned for Part 02 of our series to find out.  

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