The Sri Lankan story of the EO Global Student Entrepreneur Awards


The Global Student Entrepreneur Awards or GSEA is, to date, the only student entrepreneurship competition that gives access to a worldwide network of over 11000 successfully entrepreneurs. Consider it essentially as a catalyst to inspire students and fresh entrepreneurs to start, grow and make their entrepreneurial ventures take off.

A scene from the GSEA Global Finals 2014/2015 (Image credits: Mohammed Fawaz)
A scene from the GSEA Global Finals 2014/2015 (Image credits: Mohammed Fawaz)

For the first time in Sri Lanka, The Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) together with Spiralation, Startup Sri Lanka, AIESEC, Global Tutor and Tellida present to you the EO Global Student Entrepreneur Awards, a premier awards program for students who are currently involved in a bachelor’s degree whilst also running a business. If you are an entrepreneur who has been running a business for 6 months or more and is currently reading for their bachelor’s degree, you too can apply for this awards program.

Now that application criteria might sound crazy. After all, it’s tough for university to run a business and balance their university assignments. But that’s the point. GSEA is not looking for people that just want awards. It wants real entrepreneurs who want to succeed and have actually built a business.

Where it all began

Any good story has a pivotal character. A figure around whom the entire plot revolves. The man in this story is Mohammed Fawaz – Founder and CEO of Global Tutor.

Mohammed Fawaz - Founder & CEO of Global Tutor (Image credits: GSEA Sri Lanka)
Mohammed Fawaz – Founder & CEO of Global Tutor (Image credits: GSEA Sri Lanka)

Fawaz joined the competition fresh out of University. This was the first competition he applied his startup “Global Tutor” into. After attempting to apply to the Indian GSEA, Fawaz was unfortunately rejected as he was Sri Lankan. Nevertheless, he was automatically declared region winner of Sri Lanka and from there, proceeded to the finals in Washington.

It was at that fateful location where Fawaz interacted with a number of other entrepreneurs each who taught him many valuable lessons. As he proceeded through the final rounds, Fawaz found himself facing tough competition.

Many of his fellow competitors were veterans who had successful startups that were making money. Whereas Global Tutor was barely in its first year. But as he progressed, Fawaz witnessed pitches by other competitors and learned how to explain the real benefits of Global Tutor rather than its technical features.

Seeing the benefits of the program first-hand, Fawaz decided to bring the GSEA program to Sri Lanka.

How does the competition work?

Currently, the local competition is organized by the local GSEA chapter headed by non-other than Fawaz himself. This is currently an extended chapter of GSEA India. The reason being that the EO doesn’t have a chapter here as it currently has just one solitary member in the country.

There is a total of 5 stages in the competition. Think of it as a trial by fire where the judges will primarily vet your character. They’re not just interested in your idea but also want to know if you are a real entrepreneur. They want to know if you’re willing to start multiple ventures in different industries and how exactly you plan on starting these ventures. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t look through your business plan with a magnifying glass.

A few competitors taking part in the Sri Lankan GSEA competition
A few competitors taking part in the Sri Lankan GSEA competition (Image credits: GSEA Sri Lanka)

Judging for the local competition will be carried out by a total of 6 judges of which 5 would be local individuals and the 6th would be an international one. The winners of the local competition will go on to represent Sri Lanka at the finals scheduled to be held in Bangkok.

This will be a 3-day conference with a number of various workshops. It will also give participants the chance to network with other entrepreneurs from across the world. However, the structure of the competition is exactly the same as the local competition. Each contestant will face 5 rounds of judges asking different questions to identify your entrepreneurial spirit and business plans.

Fawaz while competing at the GSEA 2014/2015 global finals
Fawaz pictured with his fellow competitors at the GSEA 2014/2015 global finals (Image credits: Mohammed Fawaz)

This is the same conference that helped Fawaz, learn how to pitch Global Tutor and make the global connections that helped him make Global Tutor what it is today. Additionally, the winners of the GSEA finals walk away with a generous $20,000 cash prize.

The future of GSEA in Sri Lanka

Today, the GSEA programme is in Colombo with 18 applicants. In the near future, the organizers want to see this change. They hope to inspire a new generation of new entrepreneurs and make GSEA a platform that’ll help them find success. Sharing the intermediate plans with us, Fawaz said that they hope to take the GSEA programme outside Colombo and attract startups that are in a variety of industries. As time passes and the programme grows, they hope to setup an official GSEA chapter here.

But right now, the GSEA programme is here and it wants to help young local entrepreneurs. The local GSEA Sri Lanka semi-finals will be happening on the 3rd of March at Edulink Campus and the finals on the 4th of March at BMICH. If you can’t attend, fear not because the ReadMe Live team will be there to deliver updates as the finals unfold.


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