Learning About Diversity and Inclusiveness at Startup School Colombo


We’ve been covering Startup School Colombo since they initially kicked off a few weeks ago. Their most recent session took place on the 16th of October 2018 at StartupX Foundry. The session took the form of a panel discussion revolving around the theme of diversity and inclusion.

Building the perfect dream team

Up first was Portia Ratnayake – Vice President of Communications at Digital Mobility Solutions Lanka (Pvt) Ltd. In case you didn’t know, that’s the company behind PickMe. Portia started off her session by explaining how people like to think about running a startup. In their mind, they may have a multitude of reasons for kicking off their own thing.

Startup School Colombo
Portia Portia Ratnayake addressing the participants

Portia went on to explain that while people may think that running a startup or your own company is all about the hustle, it’s actually not. It’s about working together. You may have an idea that the next best thing since sliced bread, but you can’t run a one-man show. As such, it’s important to important to welcome and include people into your team and your company. Using examples of her work at PickMe, Portia explained how the company set about on the journey of PickMe back in 2015.

From there, Portia went on to speak about developing the Driver and Rider apps. The drivers had not idea about how a smartphone worked, so the team at PickMe had their work cut out for them. They had to make sure the app was easy to use and that drivers would be around to use the app.  Portia explained that it was largely due to the ability of two co-founders of PickMe that this was achievable. They had the ability to include people and make them part of the team. This, she said, was the perfect example of diversity and inclusiveness.

Where you come from doesn’t matter

Jehan Wijesinghe – Co-Founder and CEO of IgniterSpace gave his views on how to build a company. By no means is it an easy task. Jehan explained that when he wanted to build his first startup, he had no idea what he was doing. But he had determination and passion.

Startup School Colombo
Jehan Wijesinghe talking about his journey with IgniterSpace

These were two key things elements that gave him the motivation he needed to go ahead. In time, he built up a core team of members who were dedicated to the cause of teaching. For Jehan, it wasn’t about their background or where they came from or if they were rich or poor. What mattered to him was that they had the passion and the willingness to carry out their work. They were diverse in their backgrounds and where they came from. But in the end, they came together, were inclusive, and made Jehan’s dreams a reality.

Lessons from a not so techy startup

Rayhana Jiffry – Founder and CEO at Glitteray was the third speaker for the evening at the 7th session of Startup School Colombo. She shared her life story of how from a young age, she tried her hand at a number of jobs. Most of them were not to her liking, so she left them.  She started Glitteray based on some designs she posted on social media. From there, things caught on and by overcoming her fair share of obstacles, Glitteray is now on the fast track to becoming a unique tech startup.

Startup School Colombo
Rayhana Jiffry sharing the story of Glitteray

Rayhana’s points were simple, yet powerful. “You must learn to be agile”, she explained. If you’re not going to be thinking about what’s going to happen next, you’re going to be replaced by someone else. She also explained that in terms of diversity and inclusiveness, people come with their own strengths and weaknesses.

As a CEO or as a person running a startup, you should identify those strengths and weaknesses and align them with your own, so that together, you can achieve anything. If you want to start something always think about how you can bring about a new perspective n whatever you do.

Wrapping up another Startup School Colombo session

With that, the panel discussion on diversity and inclusiveness at Startup School Colombo came to an end. If you are interested in what Startup School Colombo is doing, you can check out their Facebook page here and their Twitter profile here.


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