South Asia Connect: Helping Sri Lankan startups go beyond Asia

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It aims to help entrepreneurs across India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. The South Asia Connect program was launched in February earlier this year. It’s funded by the U.S. Department of State and operated by the IC² Institute of the University of Texas at Austin. Since its inception, the program has been seeking entrepreneurs, early-stage investors, government officials, and stakeholders where it operates.

South Asia Connect
The South Asia Connect program aims to help entrepreneurs across Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh and Bhutan (Image credits: South Asia Connect)

The goal of the South Asia Connect program is to create a network of entrepreneurial leaders, establish regional best practices. With these practices and it hopes the collaborative network would serve as a catalyst to help companies grow both regionally and globally. To achieve this goal, the program offers participating entrepreneurs access to new business opportunities, build market-fitted strategies, and connections to an international community.

Following the inception of the program, ten leaders of organizations promoting entrepreneurship attended the orientation program in New Delhi. The purpose of this orientation was to build regional cooperation and connecting regional networks, mentors, and venture opportunities.

South Asia Connect
Vithushan Vijayaratnam & Heminda Jayaweera (L) were selected as Country Leaders from Sri Lanka for the South Asia Connect program (Image credits: South Asia Connect)

Representing Sri Lanka among these leaders were Heminda Jayaweera – Cofounder of Venture Frontier Lanka and Vithushan Vijayaratnam – Director at Uki.  They were selected as the country leaders for Sri Lanka for the South Asia Connect program. As such, they were trained extensively by the IC² Institute of the University of Texas at Austin since then.

Later, applications were called in May 2018 for the first cohort of entrepreneurs. From these applicants across the region, sixteen entrepreneurs were selected for an online training program by IC² Institute of the University of Texas at Austin. This training focused on technology, intellectual property, product fit and market fit.

South Asia Connect
Anu Rakavan – Founder of Idea Factory from Sri Lanka was accepted into an accelerator program conducted by Nexus Startup Hub at the end of the program

Following this training program, the best entrepreneurs were selected for an extended 1-week training program at the American Center in New Delhi. The program hosted entrepreneurs from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. At the conclusion of the training program, Anu Rakavan – Founder of Idea Factory from Sri Lanka was accepted into an accelerator program conducted by Nexus Startup Hub at the American Center, New Delhi.

Applications for the second cohort of the South Asia Connect program were called in September 2018. Sixteen teams were selected from the 80+ applications from Sri Lanka. These teams too went through the online training program. Of the 16 that were accepted, 4 Sri Lankan entrepreneurs were selected for the training program in New Delhi.

These Sri Lankan entrepreneurs are Kanushka Sanjaya Jayakody, Vithurshan Raveendran, Omali Sanjani, and Bavitha Sivaganeshamoorthy. Hopefully, we’ll hear that they too would be accepted into the Startup Nexus accelerator program. The application process for the third cohort of the South Asia Connect program will be opening in early 2019. If you’re interested in joining the program, click here.

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