The Oslo Innovation Week is a five-day series of events held in Oslo each October. These events are organized by 90 different organizers and feature seminars, talks, pitching contests, hackathons and more. The common thread between these events? Helping startups. This year, SLASSCOM formed a partnership with ICT Norway to allow a three Sri Lankan startups to participate in the Oslo Innovation Week.
Many startups applied for this opportunity. Ultimately, eight startups were shortlisted. These eight startups were then asked to pitch themselves to a panel of judges. These judges would select the startups that would represent Sri Lanka at the Oslo Innovation Week. Here are the eight shortlisted startups we found hoping to attend the Oslo Innovation Week.
The first startup that took the stage was a startup we’ve seen multiple times. ShoutOUT is a messaging platform that allows you to send personalized messages in bulk your customers. In order to do this, they gather data from the business regarding its customers. Once the data has been collected, ShoutOUT can then automatically send messages based on certain conditions specified by the business.
ShoutOUT was originally built by Square Mobile before it was spun off into a separate entity called ShoutOUT Labs. The goal of this startup is to simply help businesses communicate in a more meaningful manner. Currently, the startup has 75+ brands in over 70 cities across the world utilizing its system to reach out to customers. These brands include well-known names like EduLink, Certis Lanka, and Durex.
RightPosture is another startup that we’ve met before. This is a startup that was born out of an internship and became the first Sri Lankan startup to get accepted into the AIRMaker accelerator. But at the time the company had the same name as its product: SitRight. What exactly is SitRight? It’s a smart chair with sensors that monitor posture. It then sends notifications to your smartphone to help you sit with a healthy posture.
Following their entry into AIRMaker, the startup has revamped their product. They’ve filed a patent, which is pending and aims to have a market ready product for launch soon. Afterwards, they are aiming at conducting a Kickstarter campaign. Rather than obtain funding, the purpose of this campaign is to validate the product. Once validated, RightPosture aims to directly sell SitRight online and then look at the possibilities of licensing partnerships, and B2B sales.
“Are we really using visual data?”, asks CD Athuraliya – the founder of ConscientAI as he takes the stage. This is a young startup we first met at Disrupt Asia 2017. Its focus is to utilize deep learning and machine learning to solve problems in various industries. Their specialty is utilizing visual content with machine learning. But their scope isn’t limited to this as they support companies in building customizable AI solutions.
Currently, they’ve built a visual analytics solution for the fashion industry. This system takes an image, analyzes it to identity the texture, color, and type of clothes. Once the analysis is done the system generates an icon of the clothes in the image. Yet this was only a demo of ConscientAI’s capabilities. The startup is currently working with apparel manufacturers, private banks, and insurance companies. In the future, this startup aims to offer full-fledged AI solutions that can be used immediately, rather than API’s like Google and Microsoft.
One of the hottest tech trends today is chatbots. The trend began in early 2016 and in less than 6 months we saw major tech giants like WeChat and Facebook launch their bot development platforms. The primary driver of this trend is a key flaw that exists in mobile apps. This flaw is that we don’t need many of the apps on our phone as often as we think. But one app that everyone uses is a messaging app. Thus, by utilizing chatbots the services of these apps are more easily available in a single place.
However, creating chatbots can be a daunting task. This is because an effective chatbot is one that users can have a simple conversation with. To help simplify this process is the goal of BotFactory. This startup allows you to build chatbots with their platform. All you have to do is draw a flowchart describing the conversation a user would have with your chatbot. Once done, you can deploy it directly to Facebook Messenger in an instant. At the moment, this young startup has Union Assurance and MyCabz as their clients.
Ill-fitting bras are a problem faced by many women across the world. This startup aims to solve this problem. To do so, their goal is to introduce a scientific method into the 12-week fitting process. This scientific method involves the use of an IoT device that measures body pressure. By measuring body pressure, the device helps identify the right size that’s most comfortable. The startup demonstrated a prototype of their device and has said that they are now looking at various monetization options.
With the rise of instant messaging apps, email is on a slow journey towards its death. Yet, while corporates have begun embracing messaging apps like Slack, universities have not. This is what GradChat hopes to change. This is a private social network that aims to streamline campus communication. This social network would be one where a student can find jobs, events, and other opportunities while connecting with staff and alumni.
Behind the scenes, Gradchat offers an administrator panel that helps universities understand and better connect with their student community. It also aims to be a social layer to help create communities amongst online learning services. Currently, GradChat is being used by multiple universities such as The University of Colombo, Mercury, and ACBT. They launched last month and earn money on a subscription basis.
Veta is a startup that aims to create a Sri Lanka free of dengue. To do so, they’ve released an app that allows you to highlight areas of high-risk of dengue. Once highlighted, these areas alert everyone else. Once the community has received this alert, Veta aims to help the community coordinate and ensure they have the resources they need. To help with this, authorities also have access to analytics and reports generated by Veta.
The final startup to pitch at the Oslo Innovation Week local rounds was IJX Angel. We first saw them at Inspire Sri Lanka and then at Mora Venture 2.0. Their goal is to save lives with a drone that has a life jacket attached to it to save people from drowning. The drone has two modes. The first is the automatic mode that immediately comes to a user when they hit a button on a wearable bracelet. The second is the manual mode where the drone is controlled by an operator.
According to the team, the life jacket holder can be attached to any drone. This jacket holder will cost Rs. 30,000. Additionally, the team also plans on building their own drone with the life jacket holder built in, which will cost Rs. 300,000. Currently, the team is seeking Rs. 10 million in investment and hopes to launch soon.
Representing Sri Lanka at the Oslo Innovation Week
Once IJX Angel had concluded their pitch, the judges left the main hall. They went too quickly debate amongst themselves to finalize the results. The debate took approximately 15 minutes but felt almost like an eternity for everyone else. Once the judges returned, it was the moment of truth. Finally, we learned which three startups were the winners.
The three startups that will represent Sri Lanka at the Oslo Innovation Week are BotFactory, ShoutOUT, and Right Posture. We wish the three startups the best of luck and hope they find greater success in Norway.