Saturday Morning, 9AM. We are in the Jaffna Peninsula, far away from Colombo. Most people when visiting a faraway town would consider exploring it on a Saturday morning. Instead, we chose to walk into the 2nd-floor hall at the Jaffna Tilko City Hotel. We see the same number of people as we saw yesterday. It’s Day 02 of Startup Weekend Jaffna and none of the participants have run away.

Day 02 of Startup Weekend Jaffna begins

Yesterday, we saw the individuals pitch their startup ideas and form teams. Today, those teams have returned. Their task for the day is to build an MVP and validate it to bring their startups to life. These are the MVP’s that they’ll be pitching tomorrow to the judges during the final pitches.

Shakya Lahiru Pathmalal, CEO and co-founder of Takas.lk speaking at Startup Weekend Jaffna (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)
Shakya Lahiru Pathmalal, CEO and co-founder of Takas.lk speaking at Startup Weekend Jaffna (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)

With the goal being set, the teams arrived. The day opened with Anurag greeting everyone after a filling breakfast. Following his greetings, Day 02 kicked off with a few presentations. The first speaker of the day was Shakya Lahiru Pathmalal, Takas.lk’s Co-founder and CEO. Lahiru’s presentation emphasized the importance finding the right team. You and your co-founders should be on the same page and have the same values he says. This is because the greatest challenges your business will face will not come from outside but from inside. With the conclusion of Lahiru’s presentation, it was time for a short tea break.

Sam De Silva, Co-founder of Ground Reality Asia speaking at Startup Weekend Jaffna (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)
Sam De Silva, Co-founder of Ground Reality Asia speaking at Startup Weekend Jaffna (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)

Shortly after the tea break, it was time for the second presentation. The second speaker of the day was Sam De Silva, Co-founder of Ground Reality Asia. Sam’s presentation introduced important startup methodologies the teams could use to validate their ideas. As we learned yesterday validation is an important thing for all startups. He went on to emphasize that when validating a product it’s important to put yourselves in the shoes of the customer.

Sam’s presentation ended with a brief Q&A session – with a twist. Instead of the audience asking Sam questions, Sam asked the audience to explain the problem they were working on. At first the teams weren’t able to clearly communicate it. So a few minutes of preparation time was given to everyone. Once they were prepared, the teams were finally able to make a mini-pitch about the problem they’re trying to solve and its importance.

The teams speaking during the Q&A session (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)
The teams speaking during the Q&A session (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)

Validating startup ideas

Once Sam concluded his presentation, it was time for lunch. Once the lunch break ended, it was time for the teams to take their lessons about validation to heart. It was time for them to actually validate their ideas. And so for approximately 3 hours, we saw the teams carry out the validation process. Some teams went out and spoke to a few people. Other teams stayed in the hall and asked everyone inside – including us.

Needless to say, the vast majority of teams actually went out and validated their ideas. However, depending on the feedback some teams may have to modify their ideas. Whether any team had to modify their ideas or not is something we shall know tomorrow at the final pitches. Either way, we are impressed that they asked people for feedback.

This was also the time where the teams were refining their ideas with the mentors. It’s safe to say that this segment was one of the most tiring ones for the mentors. Each mentor was told not to spend more than 30 minutes with one team. It’s clear to see why they were told to do so. Each mentor brought a unique skill to the table. As such, each was in demand at different times. It was a common sight to see mentors dash to advise another team the moment they were finished helping the team they were with previously.

The mentors advising the teams at Startup Weekend Jaffna (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)
The mentors advising the teams at Startup Weekend Jaffna (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)

As we got closer to the tea break, Anurag takes the stage. He asks everyone to come towards the stage. Everyone stops whatever it is they’re doing and walk towards the stage.  Once everyone gathers near the stage, Anurag initiates a Zumba session without music. And so for a brief moment, we saw everyone at Startup Weekend Jaffna Jaffna doing Zumba exercises. With everyone having been refreshed after hours of building their startups, Anurag throws a simple question at the audience. He asks the audience for their feedback about the event.

A few individuals share their feedback and then it’s time for a tea break. Following the tea break, the teams got back to work with refreshed boost of energy. Once again, the teams begin racing against the clock to build their startups.  For an observer, it looks as if the pace has slowed down. For the teams, it’s a completely different story. As they progress in building their ideas, it became clear to a few that they don’t have all the resources.

Anurag randomly drops by a team to check on their progress and more importantly take a selfie (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)
Anurag randomly drops by a team to check on their progress and more importantly take a selfie (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)

For those teams that didn’t have resources, they chose to collaborate with other teams. By the time the sun set, we saw teams sharing many unexpected things. In fact, two teams were sharing a single developer in building their MVP’s. As Anurag describes, “This is the spirit of Startup Weekend Jaffna. You don’t have all the resources at once. So you collaborate with others and build amazing things.” This is how the teams were building their startups until dinner time arrived. When the food appeared, everyone took a short break.

How to give a killer pitch at Startup Weekend Jaffna

Following dinner, Arunag took the stage once more. This time, he was here to brief the audience on how to deliver a great final presentation on Sunday. Each team during the final pitching session can only have one presenter to make the pitch. These presenters will have 5 minutes to present their idea to the judges. Following the 5 minute presentation, judges have 3 minutes to ask questions from the entire team.

The points and judging criteria the teams have to watch out for during their final pitches (Image credits: Malshan Gunawaradane)
The points and judging criteria the teams have to watch out for during their final pitches (Image credits: Malshan Gunawaradane)

Anurag then spoke about the format of the presentations. He states that at Startup Weekend Jaffna, you can use any tool to communicate your startup idea. One such tool you could use is singing which, Anurag is very interested in. A powerful example Anurag once shared with us from a Startup Weekend Jaffna held in India. A 55-year-old woman took part wanting to make a startup selling tea. On the final day, during her pitch she only asked one question, “How was your tea?” It was then we all learned that she offered some tea to the judges prior to the event. Mind = blown.

However, if anyone chooses to use PowerPoint, Anurag has an important tip. This tip is that you should only have 8 slides in your deck and spend only 30 seconds on each slide. During the presentation, the 8 slides should help you cover these points:

  • Explain the problem
  • Explain the solution
  • The marketing plan
  • The competition
  • How you plan on making money
  • A brief introduction to the team behind this idea
  • One simple but powerful message you want everyone to remember.

With that being said, Anurag’s briefing came to an end and with it Day 02. This was probably the section of Startup Weekend Jaffna with a slow pace if you’re an observer. But today is Day 03 and the final day of Startup Weekend Jaffna Jaffna.

Startup Weekend Jaffna in one picture (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)
Startup Weekend Jaffna in one picture (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)

This is the moment of truth, where we shall see all the teams pitch their ideas. Today is the day we’ll find the winner of the first Startup Weekend Jaffna in Sri Lanka. We expect to be a bit faster paced. With that being said, we wish all the teams the best of luck.

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