And then there were 15: The Startups of John Keells X 2019 Pre Accelerator


When we last looked at the John Keells X Open Innovation Challenge, a total of 15 startups had been selected to proceed to the pre-accelerator stage in 2019. The startups would be guided in building and refining their MVP via workshops, webinars and meetups. The startups would also stand a chance to obtain Rs. 2.5 Million in funding, with up to Rs. 50 Million later on as follow on investments.

Even though we listed the startups, you may be wondering what exactly these startups do. Well, that’s what we’re here to talk about. These are the 15 startups that are part of the John Keells X 2019 Pre-Accelerator.


john keells x

Starting off, we have BringMe. This is a mobile app which you can use to order groceries to your doorstep. The groceries are selected by a trained team at BringMe to make sure you get exactly what you ordered. The company also promises delivery to your address within two hours or at a time selected by the customer. The service is already operational in most areas within Colombo with more areas to be added soon.


Aiming to make your hotel experience more memorable, iStay is a “modern mobile concierge”. The platform helps hotels promote their services effectively to their inhouse guests, in turn enhancing guest experience. Once you have checked into a hotel, you can check out what the hotel has to offer. This includes booking activities, experiences, ordering food, and reporting issues with your room as well amongst other features.The app is available for both Android and iOS

john keells x describes themselves as an online shopping platform selling premium products. The product categories range from electronics to music and home audio, to gadgets, perfumes, smartphones, books, and fashion as well. They accept payments for Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. Products sold through the platform also come with a warranty where applicable. They also have efficient home delivery as well.

Global Tutor

john keells x

Global Tutor offers a number of courses and Tuition Classes for children and adult learners. We looked at their platform back in 2014 and were by no means impressed. Since then, however, the platform has grown in leaps and bounds. All courses are conducted via a lively & interactive virtual platform so it’s like actually being at the class.


Ananke is a startup that aims to make implementing the Internet of Things (IoT) hassle-free. To that extent, they’ve developed an IoT platform to allow developers to design IoT based systems. They also have an app store where developers can publish their IoT software and earn revenue from it. The team shared with us that they’ll have a revenue split of 30% to 70% between their platform and developers.


john keells x

Have you ever had a problem in picking a gift? Well, that’s where GiftUp comes in. Simply download their mobile app, select a gift or deal voucher, write a special message, enter the phone number of the recipient and you’re good to go. GiftUp currently has a number of merchants on board including Yamaha Music Center, Hameedia and Mogo Super. If you want to be a part of GiftUp, you can also join as a Merchant.


New to Sri Lanka and unsure where to go? This is where GuideMe comes into the picture. It is a real time travel app guide that was accepted into this year’s John Keells X Open Innovation Challenge. It gives you a list of the best places to see and activities to take part in without leaving a hole in your wallet. Aimed at promoting small and medium businesses, GuideMe is currently on the Google Play Store with plans for a Web platform and an iOS app in the works as well.


john keells x

PlanMash is a startup that aims to utilize technology to make the process of planning weddings stress-free. The team uses a custom machine learning algorithm that analyzes and shows you your perfect wedding image board. In addition, PlanMash can also connect you with some of the best talent in the wedding industry. They would be able to show you the most suited wedding vendors along with your preferred design for the location along with the budget as well. Everything from photographers, florists, and dress and suit designers, all in one place. They can also offer discounts as well.

john keells x

Another startup that was accepted into John Keells X this year is Viduhala. This startup is one that offers an eLearning Solutions using gamification, micro learning and activity based learning. To that extent, their product is fashioned around delivering digital content to school children. Their primary product, Punchi Pahe Hapan is a mobile app aimed for students from Grades 3-5. Sigithi Hapan would be aimed at Grades 1,2 3 and Kindergarten. The 3rd product is aimed at O/L students for Science subjects. The product would also incorporate AR and VR to show diagrams and depictions related to the subject.


john keells x

Another eLearning platform accepted into the John Keells X Open Innovation Challenge, AcademiaLK offers an online live classroom experience with content.  They have also listed a number of past papers and marking schemes for students. This is to give students an insight into how they should structure their answers. In addition, the website also contains a number of puzzles, anagrams, and ciphers that can be solved. The platform includes a blog that keeps track of all the latest happenings from around the world.


john keells x

fiXar is an online website that will help you find a repairman (‘FiXaR’) for your domestic requirements. They provide services of plumbers, electricians, caretakers, and others as well. The interface offers a quick and easy way to search for a service. You can even call them on their hotline if the need is extremely urgent. The team is currently working to automate the process of accepting requests and sending servicemen, rather than having it go through a call center.

Blue Lotus 360

And then there were 15: The Startups of John Keells X 2019 Pre Accelerator 4
The Blue Lotus 360 team

We covered the story of Blue Lotus 360 in depth a while ago. In case you missed it, Blue Lotus 360 is an ERP Platform catered towards small and medium enterprises as well as large companies as well. Their specialty is that the ERP system is geared towards those in the construction industry. You can learn more about them by clicking here.


John Keells X Open Innovation Challenge

This is a startup accepted into the John Keells X Open Innovation Challenge that believes many of the assets in the logistics industry can be put to better use. As such, it aims to build an app that would allow clients and service providers to share assets through aggregation. Through this vShip aims to help increase efficiency and drive down the costs of shipping products. Currently, the founders expect the app to launch in June 2019.


An acronym for Service Type Autonomous AI Based Robotic platform, STAAR is a startup that aims to build robots here in Sri Lanka. The startup’s current goal is to build autonomous customizable service bots for various services. This includes housekeeping, greeting guests, delivering food and baggage etc. But it doesn’t aim to limit itself just to the service industry. These robots would be designed to be modular. As such, they could be modified to serve in a variety of industries.

John Keells X Open Innovation Challenge

Builderbuy is an online marketplace for building materials and home improvement. You can search for the required products, connect with the suppliers and purchase the materials. Once done, you can arrange a pickup or have the items delivered to your doorstep. In addition, you can message suppliers to negotiate prices and request for quotations, etc.

And there you have it

These are the 15 startups that are in the pre-accelerator phase of the John Keells X Open Innovation Challenge 2019. As we mentioned in the beginning, the startups would work on validating their products and customers. At the same time, they would also be fine tuning their product for launch after Demo Day in June.

They would also have to go through a number of checkpoints to ensure that they’re on the right track. The fruits of their labor will be seen on Demo day when these startups make their final pitch to the judges. Till then, may the odds be ever in their favor.


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