Returning to the North: Startup Weekend Jaffna 2017

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On a cold Friday morning last year, we made our way to Jaffna. We were on our way to the first Startup Weekend to be held in Jaffna. At the end of this journey, we had no idea that this would’ve been the first of many. And now we’re back in Jaffna to witness the sixth Startup Weekend in Sri Lanka. Here’s what we found on Day 01 of Startup Weekend Jaffna 2017.

Startup Weekend Jaffna 2017 begins

Kicking things off, we saw Nikhil Jain – the facilitator of Startup Weekend Jaffna greet the participants with an energetic hello. Afterwards, he asked them to introduce themselves in brief and select one of three tags: designer, developer, or business. It would be these tags that define what role they’d play in their respective teams over the weekend.

Nikhil Jain kicks off Startup Weekend Jaffna 2017
Nikhil Jain kicks off Startup Weekend Jaffna 2017

Soon after, we saw Rushangan Kodeeswaran – Managing Director at Sikaram Academy, take the stage and said, “Entrepreneurs are not produced, they are born.” Having made this bold statement, he went on to share the stories of some of Jaffna’s most successful entrepreneurs. He concluded by sharing that every business had a mentor and a model that allowed it to find success.

Baking a fresh batch of ideas

Following Rushangan’s speech, we saw Nikhil return to the stage to introduce himself and his co-facilitator Sharanyan Sharma – the founder of ExtremeSEO. Following the introductions of the organizers and the mentors, it was time to start the traditional game of half-baked at Startup Weekend Jaffna 2017.

In case you’re new to Startup Weekend, Half Baked is a game played on the first day. The first stage of the game has participants throwing random words, which are noted down. The second stage involves a few participants selecting a few words. They are then asked to create a business idea around these words and then pitch the business idea within 30 seconds.

A participant takes part in the game of half baked at Startup Weekend Jaffna
Playing Half Baked at Startup Weekend Jaffna 2017

Once the participants understood how it worked, it wasn’t long before we saw enthusiastic participants take the stage and pitch ideas. When the game ended, Nikhil shared a list of the partners that made Startup Weekend Jaffna 2017 possible.

Then he told the teams, “If you’re not investing, then you need to come with your idea.” It was time for the participants to pitch their ideas. He went on to explain how the weekend would unfold and the judging criteria. Once Nikhil concluded, it was time for dinner.

The pitching begins

Following dinner, the participants returned to the hall. After they took their seats, Nikhil asked them to stand on their chairs and jump. He then asked them to stand on their chairs again, face another person, give them a high five, and then jump down. Afterwards, Nikhil and Sharanyan gave their own demo Day 01 pitches to give the participants an idea as to how they should deliver a pitch.

The participants pitching their ideas at Startup Weekend Jaffna 2017
The participants pitching their ideas at Startup Weekend Jaffna 2017

Once the pitching session came to an end, there was a hardly a participant that hadn’t taken the stage to pitch an idea. As we saw at the original Startup Weekend Jaffna, there was a salad of ideas pitched on Day 01. These ideas ranged from a website to watch movies to an app for tracking cricket teams to an anonymous social network. We even saw Michael Moonesinghe – Founder of Business Hubs take the stage and pitch an app to connect entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka and across the world.

When the pitching session came to an end, the participants swarmed the head table. They grabbed the first sheet of paper and pen they could get their hands on. They hurriedly wrote their ideas and began pitching their ideas to their fellow participants. Startup Weekend Jaffna 2017 had entered the voting stage. At this stage, the participants themselves would shortlist the ideas to select which ones they would be working on over the weekend.

The chaos during the voting at Startup Weekend Jaffna 2017
The chaos during the voting at Startup Weekend Jaffna 2017

Once the results were announced, Nikhil shared that the participants now had to form teams of four. He went on to say that an ideal team would consist of a developer, domain expert, business expert, and a creative. Ultimately, 10 ideas were selected and the participants began forming teams. Once the teams had been formed, Day 01 of Startup Weekend Jaffna 2017 came to an end.

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