New frontiers: The Venture Frontier Lanka Startup Boot Camp


Build local, Reach global. That was the theme at the Startup Boot Camp organized by Venture Frontier Lanka. Held on the 2nd and 3rd of May 2018 at Trace Expert City, Maradana, the Startup Boot Camp comprised of a number of interactive sessions, mentoring sessions, a pitch tournament and a full out demo day.

Here 6 potential startups/entrepreneurs would be selected to proceed in the Venture Frontier Lanka programme. The programme is a 4-year nationwide entrepreneurship initiative launched by Ovibees. Kicking off the day’s proceedings was Ovidiu Bujorean, Co-Founder of Venture Frontier Lanka. Ovidiu welcomed all the participants of the Startup Boot Camp and thanked them for their presence for the next two days.

Startup Boot Camp Venture Frontier Lanka
Ovidiu Bujorean introducing the speakers and staff for Startup Boot Camp

He went on to introduce the speakers who would be sharing their thoughts at the Startup Boot Camp and also identified the staff members who would be around, making sure that everyone was seen to.

Leadership is everybody’s business

That was the topic of the first speaker for the day at the Startup Boot Camp. It was conducted by Jim Bagnola – President of the Leadership Group International. Jim started off by explaining that no one is good enough to lead without consent. If you want to lead your followers, you must first gain their consent.

Startup Boot Camp Venture Frontier Lanka
Jim Bagnola addressing the participants

Jim then asked the participants to turn to each other and share what they needed to be a leader. Jim’s point in the exercise was simple. Rather than asking how to become a leader, you have to learn to influence people to follow you. This is where your pitch is important.

When pitching to investors, your pitch has to have a clearly identified problem and an accompanying solution. Once you have these two factors, you must also sell yourself. If you’re not solving a problem, you can’t get people to follow you.

Startup Boot Camp Venture Frontier Lanka
Jim Bagnola continuing his session

Jim went on to explain that you have to be customer-centric in order for customers to keep coming back to you. Another important note he spoke about was how titles do not confer the ability to lead. Just because you have the title of a leader, that doesn’t mean that people will follow you. Rather, the leader must earn the right to lead. Simply put, people don’t follow titles.

Getting introduced to the Entrepreneurship Ecosystem

Next up was Heminda Jayaweera, Co-Founder of Venture Frontier Lanka. Apart from being involved in Venture Frontier Lanka, Heminda also has his own incubator called Mora Ventures.

Heminda went on to speak about how diversity is a problem. Whereas usually, diversity is a good thing, Heminda explained that there’s an underlying view that Colombo people know best, compared to other regions or areas in the country.

Then there’s also the issue of resources. Being in Colombo means that you have easy access to resources for a business as opposed to other areas. Communication is another problem. No one knows how to kick off a startup or how to ask for support.

Startup Boot Camp Venture Frontier Lanka
Heminda Jayaweera addressing the participants

One thing that Heminda emphasized was that contrary to popular belief, funding is not a problem. There are enough and more investors looking to invest in startups. All they need a reason that makes investing in a startup worthwhile.

Heminda also explained that innovation is the key. Rather than worrying about people stealing your ideas and replicating them, Heminda’s views were that at the point of launch, you have to focus more on the speed and execution of your product. If you can develop fast, you can get ahead of the competition.

Appreciating the many faces of Intelligence

Jim Bagnola was back to talk about how entrepreneurship is a team sport. Jim spoke about the 9 types of Intelligence and also spoke about Michael Gerber’s Business Development Program. Based on the 9 types of intelligence, Jim asked the participants to pick two forms of intelligence and see how they could improve on these types with the person sitting next to them.

In short, in a team, we would need members with different types of intelligence to succeed. But that also means that you shouldn’t pick your team just because they are your friends.

Startup Boot Camp Venture Frontier Lanka
Jim Bagnola talking about intelligence and teamwork

Rather, you have to pick members who would actually be an asset to the team based on their skills. Once you have identified these members, then you can begin to work on your product successfully.

Startup Boot Camp Venture Frontier Lanka
Team work makes the dream work

By means of a long pole, Jim demonstrated how teamwork and leadership is key. Participants were asked to form groups and hoist the pole in the air and then bring it down while maintaining its level despite the height differences in the team members.

Designing the perfect wallet

Following a small break, we had Chris Doering from SLASSCOM conducting another breakout session. Participants were asked to go talk to someone they didn’t know. Once they got to know each other, they were asked to form up and design the ideal wallet. This is ideation. An idea that can bring people together, so that could do what others could not.

Startup Boot Camp Venture Frontier Lanka
Chris Doering talking about designing the perfect wallet

The next exercise was to take a stand. Here, the participants would identify a problem, and then write down one particular aspect of the problem identified. Following this, they would have to reflect on that aspect and generate a new solution

We learned about product development

Conducted by Tilak Dissanayake, this session was related to product development. Tilak spoke about advancements in Science, Technology, and product design engineering. Using examples from his work with the Robotic Air Cargo Network, Tilak went on to speak about quick visual learning techniques, modeling and simulation tools, rapid prototyping, and robotic learning. All these techniques and technologies have made learning significantly faster.

Startup Boot Camp Venture Frontier Lanka
Tilak Dissanayake on Product development

Tilak emphasized that in this new world of learning, English is a must. Unfortunately for Sri Lanka, even if we have a sufficient research mindset, we will not be able to explain our ideas if we cannot communicate it properly in English.

New frontiers: The Venture Frontier Lanka Startup Boot Camp 2
Tilak continuing his session

In addition, Tilak went on to talk about underemployment in Sri Lanka and the high brain drain as well. Here, we essentially train the best of the best, then send them abroad. This, in turn, negatively affects Sri Lanka’s growth and innovation ecosystem. Tilak’s proposed solution included plans for a long-term loan facility, as well as shared resources. Overall, it would be up to the Government of Sri Lanka to attend to these plans.

How to tell a good Story

Following lunch, we had Jon Cayzer talking to the participants about the power of storytelling narratives in entrepreneurship. Jon, a Speechwriter We think of our lives as stories. Storytelling is essential for human life. They enable people to give meaning to their existence, pass on knowledge, change behavior and understand their history and future.

Startup Boot Camp Venture Frontier Lanka
Jon Cayzer on telling a powerful story

Stories set the context. A good story has the power of memory. Stories create purpose and they create action. So what makes a good story? According to Jon, a story has the following attributes: A Setting, a Hero, A quest, an Antagonist, Helpers, a Transformation, a Mood, a Theme, and a Point of View.

Startup Boot Camp Venture Frontier Lanka
Jon Cayzer continuing his session

What makes a powerful story? Well, a powerful story links an idea to an emotion. It also simplifies the complex, creates visuals, sticks in the memory, and lastly, inspires action. Every good story has a beginning, middle and an end. This is so that you can see the overall picture. Jon also explained that when you’re telling your story, you should make it fluid and interesting. In addition, you should also use simple language

The participants then broke off into two groups

One group had a mentoring session with a number of industry experts. The other group took part in a session about legal concerns. Conducted by Senura Abeywardena and Revan Weerasinghe, the session identified the 4 types of intellectual property: Copyrights, Trademark, Patent, Industrial Design.

Startup Boot Camp Venture Frontier Lanka
Revan Weerasinghe addressing the participants

Throughout the session, the participants were briefed on how to ensure our ideas should be protected so that no one steals your ideas. Another point that was discussed was the Right of first refusal or RFR. This is a contractual right that gives its holder the option to enter a business transaction with the owner of something, according to specified terms, before the owner is entitled to enter into that transaction with a third party.

Startup Boot Camp Venture Frontier Lanka
Senura Abeywardena addressing the participants

Following that was a session by Ravi Bamunusugne about marketing and sales. Here, Ravi spoke about Innovation and how we should never stop innovating. In order to get ahead of our competitors, it’s important that we spend a lot (but not too much) time on innovation so that we can stand out from the rest.

Startup Boot Camp Venture Frontier Lanka
Ravi Bamunusinghe talking about innovation

That brought an end to Day 01 of the Startup Boot Camp by Venture Frontier Lanka. Stay tuned for Day 02 and the Demo Day presentations as well.

You can click here to learn more about Venture Frontier Lanka.


  1. The event was succesful and it provided startups like us the opportunity to learn things from a startup point of view. Our thanks to everyone involved in the event.


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