If you’ve been with us over the last two days, then you would know that we were at the scenic town of Negombo for Startup Weekend Negombo. A Startup Weekend is a 54-hour event that brings together everyone from the likes of graphics designers, to software developers, to financial accountants to everyone in between, in order to provide them with all the relevant tools needed to build and launch their own startup.

Day One was about the teams finding their noses and pitching their ideas to the audience in the hopes of collecting enough votes. If their ideas gained enough votes, they would move on to the next rounds. once selected, the individuals who had the idea also would have to build up a team to carry forth their ideas to Day 02 and then to the final pitches on Day 03.

Day 02 had the teams waking up early morning, or not going to sleep at all from the previous night to get together and work on developing a minimum viable product. Throughout day 02, the teams received vital information from a number of guest speakers and also received advice from mentors. Some of the advice was helpful, whereas some of the advice would cause a drastic shift in the team’s ideas and even their products.

Startup Weekend Negombo
A look back at Day 01 and day 02
Image Credits: Udara Sampath Bandara

And Now Onto Day 03

This was the day that everyone would remember. 54-hours of sleepless hard work, unending effort and a copious amounts of coffee resulted in this: D-Day. Today was the day that the teams would showcase their completed (or semi-completed) products. The teams gathered in the main hall of the hotel to kick things off. Apart from the teams finalizing their ideas, there were a few speeches by some industry professionals to help amp up the mood for Day 03 of Startup Weekend Negombo.

We learnt that having confidence is important

Amithe Gamage – Co-founder at Quantum Leap set the stage for the day by speaking to the audience about the importance of confidence. Imagine you are sales department at your Startup. Even though you would recruit people later on who would sell for you, initially, it’s all on you.

So, how do you sell? By having confidence. Have confidence in yourself. Have confidence in your solution. Use appropriate words and terminology. Know your product/solution well. Most importantly, have confidence in your own startup. don’t back down from a pitch. Go ahead with confidence. Have proper body language and eye contact. Be thorough with everything. Afterwards, he talked about what you need for B2B platforms. He took the example of PickMe to say that before they spoke to the end customer, they had to speak and sell the platform to drivers.

If users are not happy with your product, then they will not use it – Amithe Gamage

Amithe also spoke about driving your product through social media. It’s not only through social media though. There also has to be personal selling. If you’re good at something, then (apart from not doing ot for free) you must spread that awareness. If you want to sell your product, it is vital that you go and pitch it to the important people.

“Even now, I’m selling myself”, Amithe Gamage

Building relationships is another key factor. You’re selling to a human being so you must build relationships. Most business deals happen after 5PM and not between 8AM-5PM. Furthermore, schedule meetings. If you’re a good entrepreneur, your itinerary should be full of meetings. You have to be out meeting people. Do your networking. Your social media channels should sell for you. No doubt, running your own startup is a challenge. Amithe went on to explain some of the biggest challenges that an entrepreneur or a startup can face. The biggest challenges are the lack sales experience, fear of rejection and also the lack of time. But Amithe encouraged the participants to not lose hope. One success is worth a thousand failures.

Eventually rejection is just a number – Amithe Gamage

With a few more words of wisdom, Amithe walked off stages to a great applause by everyone present.

The teams looked as if to have been inspired by Amithe’s words. In fact, many of them skipped lunch and redoubled their effort to finish their products in time for the Mock Pitches

Following lunch were the mock pitches

These took place three at a time so as to speed things along. The teams had 5 minutes to pitch their product, business model and also to showcase a demo of the product. After each pitch, the assigned mentor gave his/her feedback on as to how the team could fine tune the little things in the presentation and also urged them to stay within the allocated time limit if they were out of time. Following that, because all work and no play indeed makes everyone a tad dull, we all headed to the beach to strike a pose and also to indulge in a bit of photography.

Startup Weekend Negombo
Image Credits: Udara Sampath Bandara

The teams and we ourselves spent a bit of time on the beach and then headed back to the hall only to find out that it had been completely transformed. When we left, the area was made up as a working space complete with whiteboard, a plethora of bean bags and numerous power cords running all over the place. Now, it resembled a traditional conference hall with rows of chairs and a table in the front for the judges.

Getting the Pitch ready at Startup Weekend Negombo

As we took our respective beanbags and made ourselves comfortable, Anurag Maloo was on stage to tell us exactly what Startup Weekend was. You could cut the excitement in the room with a knife. Anurag introduced the judges of the evening and also laid down some ground rule such as keeping to the time limit. Speaking of time limits, the teams would have 5 minutes for their presentation and a further 3 minutes would be allocated for questions from the judges.

First up was Tie-The-Knot

This is aimed at those about to tie the knot and enter into marriage. Anyone who is married would know how stressful planning a wedding can be. Tie-the-know would be a one-stop platform to connect wedding planner to customers. The solution would be a Web app and also a mobile app for Android and iOS, so that you can check the status of you’re the wedding aspects. By implementing this, the customer (or bride) would be able to keep track of wedding aspects with the wedding planner such as floral decorations.

Startup Weekend Negombo
Tie-the-Knot being presented to the Judges
Image Credits: Udara Sampath Bandara

In terms of a revenue model, it would be a one-time purchase model, where the customer pays the entire total upfront. Their unique selling point is that they offer a unique tracking feature that according to them, no one else offers.  You can view available packages and then proceed to place your order. A question raised was how you would implement a Face-to-Face conversation with brides, especially in Sri Lanka, as they prefer to have direct communication rather than with someone online. Apart from weddings, the team aims to organize bigger events as well.

Finding your Sound with Wave Head

 When we first saw them, the team called their product Find Your Sound. Despite the name change, the original theme of the product stays true to its roots. Sri Lanka has a large potential for music production, but sadly, most of this talent goes unnoticed. Their solution? A web platform to link talented music producers and artists who have no recognition.

Startup Weekend Negombo
Wave Head being presented to the Judges
Image Credits: Udara Sampath Bandara

In order to spread the word, they would take samples of these music producers and listen to them. If it meets the industry standard, then they send over the clip to record labels to see if they’re interested. They would harness the power of social media to spread the word and work of these artists. The demo product offers a simple interface with a submission form. Potential producers can add their details and submit an audio clip. They would act as an agent for these music producers. In terms of the business model, they would gain a commission from the signup between the record label and producer and they would also add a royalty fee from each purchase of the song.

Getting odd jobs done with Tiny Tasks

Have you ever needed someone to fix something but couldn’t because there was no one to fix it? Well, that’s where Tiny Tasks come in to get the job done (no pin intended). Put simply, this is a one-stop online market place for Business to Business B2B and Business to Client platforms. The platform would be a web and mobile app to connect customers to vendors with specialized skills such as electricians, plumbers and lawn/gardeners. The biggest challenge is to find the correct person to the correct task. There are also safety and security risks when letting strangers into your house. This would be overcome with the application of verified vendors. The team would also implement an insurance policy to ensure that your items are safe from unruly vendors.

Startup Weekend Negombo
Tiny Tasks being presented to the Judges
Image Credits: Udara Sampath Bandara

In terms of a revenue model, they would implement both a one-time payment and a subscription fee. The one-time payment would be useful if you need to repair something only once. If you find yourself in regular need of an electrician or plumber or, more commonly a gardener, you can apply for a subscription basis. This would additionally lead to more benefits such as discounted rates.

Never be late for a bus with “Finder”

People miss the bus or get stressed waiting for a bus. Solution is to track the real time location of the bus and then provide the exact ETA to the customer so they would know exactly what time the bus would appear at their current location.

Startup Weekend Negombo
Tiny Tasks being presented to the Judges
Image Credits: Udara Sampath Bandara

Aimed at long distance travelers, daily workers and university students. They would send promotions SMS via Ideamart and social media. In terms of competition, whereas similar apps only show start and end location, Finder would provide these plus an accurate location of where the bus is. They would encourage bus drivers to use the app and report their location. A question was asked about how the bus owner would feel about providing smartphones for their drivers.

Queue Less by team ScanLabs wants to make shopping easier

Picture yourself heading home and fighting a giant queue at Food City to get the supplies you need to make a filling dinner when you get home. The wait is frustrating and this team wants to eliminate the queue and let you quickly purchase your groceries. All you need to do is simply scan the barcodes on items to add items to a virtual shopping card. Once you get to the cashier, the data in your virtual cart is transferred to a self-checkout terminal via NFC. There you can pay for your items and leave the supermarket.

Startup Weekend Negombo
Queue Less by team ScanLabs being presented to the Judges
Image Credits: Udara Sampath Bandara

Think of this as Amazon Go on your phone. But is it something people want? The team has spoken with market managers and customers who said that this is time saving technology but the automation would cost jobs of employees like cashier. Their main focus is to now develop the platform so that they can approach supermarkets with confidence.

So how do they make money? 1% of all transactions over Rs.500. During the Q&A system, the judges asked how the team planned to obtain the data from supermarkets of inventory and prices because the supermarkets have complex systems. Furthermore, the judges also stated that asking for 1% of all transactions is very high as the margins are very thin in the world of retail.

Pursue your dreams with Dream catcher

As the team walked on stage, we also found out that one of our co-founders (a certain Mr. Jebaraj) was also part of the team. We immediately questioned when our company expanded. Nevertheless we were quite excited to see what the idae was. Basically, if you have a dream of going to the Maldives, this app wants to help you save money to achieve that dream. Think of Dream Catcher as a virtual piggy bank that helps you save money to achieve your dream. It works by linking their users with merchants. You can set a plan to achieve these dreams either daily, weekly, or monthly.

Startup Weekend Negombo
Dream Catcher being presented to the Judges
Image Credits: Udara Sampath Bandara

Once you’ve set a plan, then the app would show your progress on achieving this dream. After you’ve set a plan, the merchants would get leads informing that you are saving up for their products. They would pay per lead and can integrate it into their existing sales platforms.

Swapping skills for bills with Hobo traveler

This is an app that links travelers with hosting partners offering food and lodging in exchange for work. As a traveler, you can share your CV alongside your descriptions in your profile. From the hosts side, the host would share the job with the skills required, and the number of days the jobs would take. From the traveler’s side, the traveler selects a location and their skills to find appropriate hosts and their jobs. Similarly, hosts would also see, which travelers are interested in their job. If both agree, then they would both take things forward. They would charge $10 form the travelers and $20 from the hosts.

Startup Weekend Negombo
Hobo Traveler being presented to the Judges
Image Credits: Udara Sampath Bandara

Saving your mobile data with I-Fi

Your data package expiring and losing your connectivity. This team wants to help you save your data by giving you access to the mobile hotspots of others. Their app would allow both laptops and mobiles access to hotspots. During the prototype we saw that the app listed both paid mobile hotspots and free hotspots. The owners of mobile hotspots would be able to earn money by selling their data. However, the team wasn’t clear as to how a customer would be paying for the data. Access to this hotspot will be limited for a certain data limit.

Startup Weekend Negombo
iFi being presented to the Judges
Image Credits: Udara Sampath Bandara

Keeping drivers and passengers safe with Vehicle Masters

Formerly used to measure humidity and wetness of the road, the team has identified that a majority of vehicle accidents are caused by negligence of the driver. A Passenger has no clue of driving capability of the driver. A mobile device will track the speed and location of the vehicle. It will also take feeds from dashcam and driver assistance. enable the passenger to see if the driver is indeed driving safely. There is also a rating system to rate drivers according to their safety. As of 2016, bikes and lorries are vehicles with the highest number of accidents.

Startup Weekend Negombo
Vehicle Master being presented to the Judges
Image Credits: Udara Sampath Bandara

They claim that they have no competition as no one else offers this service. Their business model is the device plus a subscription fee. The demo system shows the current speed, recommended speed and the driver rating which decreases if the current speed exceeds the recommended speed. One comment from the judges was that Uber has a rating system themselves. They would analyze dashcam footage to rate the safety of the driver.

Finding that elusive product with Click and Pick

Think of it as Shazam for Shopping. Assume you want to identify a product that is not so common. See a dress that you really love? Well, with Click & Pick, you can simply click a picture and it will identify the product. The app makes use of Google’s Cloud Vision API and deep learning. The algorithm is not perfect as images that are captured must have their background erased in order to be properly identifiable by the API. They would provide a POS and Inventory system if they are to fully implement it, else it is a subscription fee along with advertising and boosting. They have issues such as data entry and DB management, and also run the risk of 3rd parties using their data for comparisons and data searching.

Startup Weekend Negombo
Click and Pick being presented to the Judges
Image Credits: Udara Sampath Bandara

The team aimed their platform at electronics first as they are easily identifiable. This would be followed by houses as apparently people see a house and want to know how much it is. According to the judges, electronics was not the smartest as even though the outside is the same, the internal changes. Rather, scanning Jewellery or clothing would be better.

That brought an end to the presentations

While the judges pooled in their collective views and opinions to calculate the final scores and pick the top 3 winners, we had Michael Moonesinghe talking to us about Entrepreneurism. Michael is the founder and CEO of Glover Daniels International, the force behind Business Hubs Sri Lanka. In addition, he’s also an active force behind the EPFS community.

Michael then spoke to the audience about Entrepreneurs and how they must be willing to be misunderstood for long period of time.

“I’m 56, have founded multiple companies and my mother still asks me when I’m going to get a proper job?”  – Michael Moonesinghe

In addition, Michael also imparted some words of wisdom such as seeing potential opportunities before other people see it and to also be prepared to do whatever is necessary to make your vision become a reality. He further emphasized that one must have commitment, drive and energy, organizational skills, a positive can-do attitude, and excellent communication skills. If you think working at a startup is easy, think again. You work equally hard, if not harder for a startup rather than a large corporate. In conclusion, Michael emphasized that Whatever we do, we should do it with passion and be amazing.

And the Winner of Startup Weekend Negombo is…

It was the moment we were all eagerly waiting for. 54-hours of non-stop effort had led to this moment in time. It was the final crowning of the winners of Startup Weekend Negombo.

  • 1st Place – Hobo Traveler
  • 1st Runner Up – Dream Catcher
  • 2nd Runners Up – Tiny Tasks and iFi (tied)
Startup Weekend Negombo
Meet The Winners of Startup Weekend Negombo: The Hobo Traveler
Image Credits: Udara Sampath Bandara

In addition to coming in first place, Hobo Traveler was also nominated as the Crowd Favorite.  Once the winners had been announced, Anurag was once again on stage to congratulate the teams that took part in Startup Weekend Negombo and also encouraged them to go forward with their ideas and to take part in the upcoming Startup Weekend programs. He also gave a brief description about the other initiatives by TechStars and thanked the sponsors that made Startup Weekend Negombo.

After the award ceremony, Chandika Jayasundara was on stage to share his thoughts and experience about Startup Weekend Negombo. You learn a lot and you get to work with a lot of people. You also get a band new set of skills you didn’t know you had.

Startup Weekend Negombo
Chandika Jayasundara sharing his thoughts on Startup Weekend Negombo

With that, Startup Weekend Negombo officially came to an end. All that was left to do was to enjoy the after party. What happened there? Well, that’s a story for another day.

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