What’s Spiralation? Well, we had no proper idea ourselves, until a few weeks ago, when we ran into the team from ICTA that runs the show.
Spiralation, short for Spiral of Innovation, is a program of a rare breed in Sri Lanka: it’s an accelerator program for tech startups. Simply put, the Spiralation folks find and fund entrepreneurs / tech companies who have a great idea, helping them break into the market.
It’s noteworthy because there aren’t many of these in Sri Lanka (in case you haven’t noticed, we’re not Silicon Valley…yet). A lot of great ideas are to be had, but the money, expertise and influence to implement them is often wielded exclusively by large corporations which see no real need to help such new efforts. A support culture is growing, slowly but steadily, and it’s largely thanks to the efforts of programs like Spiralation.
“Spiralation was one of the best thing ever happened to us. It boosts us tremendously,” says Gayan, who is part of CODE IT Solutions – a provider of low cost automation systems CMS solutions for companies. Gayan says that the 3 step selection process – in which they had to focus on a different part of the business helped them figure out their own priorities.
Not content with one viewpoint, we went hunting for more data. Out of the 21 startups that Spiralation has funded since 2010, some 17 are still in operation, and some of these are scoring major profits. There was one with an annual revenue of over 75 million, while others (as we understood) were expanding into international waters. In fact, you might recognize the name Loops – one company that made it through the program. Thus, we found no shortage of people willing to talk about what Spiralation did for them.
“Building the core product isn’t everything. That’s only 50%,” we were told by Hemal from ChannelCert, a company that has an award-winning app called WeServe to its name. “Developing the augmented product over it, making it a successful business that’s the real challenge for engineers as entrepreneurs. That’s exactly where Spiralation is targeting. Helping us to fill the gap between what we know and what we should know.”
We also met Angelo from eTenders.lk, someone who has dealt a lot with tenders while being employed in the private sector – and has now come up with a solution to automate the tender process for companies. eTenders has an impressive customer base: Mobitel, Abans, Hayleys and Softlogic are a few of its clients. “The advice and guidance given by mentors are just amazing,” said Angelo when we asked about the impact Spiralation has had on his business. “The trainings are first class. I wish all entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka get this amount of exposure and knowledge to develop their business so that Sri Lanka would soon be in the forefront in the IT world.”
It’s readily apparent that Spiralation’s reach exceeds simply funding noteworthy applicants. The program brings in education: they spend time with each companies, helping them in everything from strategy to ops. It brings in industry experts who can mentor these upstarts (or startups). Spiralation companies are also given the opportunity to bid for small government projects, which is a metaphorical booster shot if they manage to win the bid. However, Fayaz Hudah, Programme Head of ICTA pointed out to us that this is actually discouraged, since it tends to distract startups from their core projects.
If you’re thinking this would be a great way to grab some easy money, you’d be deluded: Spiralation has some very strict requirements. If you’ve got a good idea and enough passion, though, you might just make it. The easiest way to keep tabs on Spiralation is to check out their Facebook page. Good luck.