The startups we saw at the first Startup Weekend Colombo

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Startup Weekend Colombo ended a few days ago. Looking back, Startup Weekend as a whole has come a long way. It started off as a simple experiment in of Boulder, Colorado. It all began when Andrew Hyde – founder of Startup Weekend, wrote a few blog posts. On the 6th of July 2007, these blog posts brought 88 people to a bicycle shop. They were all here to work on a project over the weekend. And so, the first Startup Weekend began.

The programme at the first Startup Weekend was very similar to the one we see today. On Friday, everyone came, got acquainted and formed teams. On Saturday and Sunday, everyone worked together to build their startup. There’re only two major differences between the first Startup Weekend and the ones we see today.

Scenes from the first Startup Weekend (Image credits: Andrew Hyde)
Scenes from the first Startup Weekend (Image credits: Andrew Hyde)

The first difference was that they didn’t charge tickets. The second was that all the participants only worked towards building one company. So inside a bicycle shop in Boulder Colorado, at one corner were a group of developers, at another the marketers and so on. All of them were working on building a startup around group decision making. When the first Startup Weekend ended, they tried to launch the company but failed.

Nonetheless, Andrew’s experiment was a success. It was a networking experience that connected everyone in an era before social media. Soon after, Startup Weekend would go on to become a global phenomenon. At the time of writing, Startup Weekend has hosted 2,900+ events in over 150 countries!

Startup Weekend Colombo in pictures (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)
Startup Weekend Colombo in pictures (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)

One of the latest events was Startup Weekend Colombo. After 56 hours of hard work, the teams had taken the first steps in building their startups. On Sunday evening, they pitched their startups to a panel of judges. So what were the startups we saw at Startup Weekend Colombo? Here’s the entire list.

Tellon

Many of the startups here need to validate their ideas. But validation is time-consuming and a hassle. You could pay someone to do it, but this opens its own set of problems. You can’t guarantee that you’ll get the right feedback.

The Tellon team giving their pitch at Startup Weekend Colombo (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)
The Tellon team giving their pitch at Startup Weekend Colombo (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)

Tellon wants to make validation easier for startups and guarantee they get accurate feedback. Tellon does this by allowing startups to create questionnaires to help validate their ideas. Afterward, these questionnaires are shared with the people that fit the persona of the target market for a startup.  So what’s the catch? There are multiple packages which startups will have to pay for.

Twinkle Dream

Every couple spends a lot of time and money planning their wedding. Twinkle Dream wants to make that process easier. This is a website that wants to help simplify weddings. To do so it offers 3 things: a guest list, a to-do list, and a budget manager.

Twinkle Dream giving its pitch at Startup Weekend Colombo (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)
Twinkle Dream giving its pitch at Startup Weekend Colombo (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)

Over the weekend, the team had built a simple prototype of their website. So how do they make money? Twinkle Dream has 2 subscriptions packages. One is free which offers limited features. Another is a paid subscription package priced at Rs.5 per couple. Additionally, Twinkle Dream will also feature banner ads.

Unidel

Shipping goods from one place to another is expensive. Yet, people regularly ship themselves from one place to another. We call it traveling and travelers can take stuff with them. Seeing this, Unidel wants to create a community. A community to help deliver packages and they’re building a platform for this community.

Unidel giving its pitch at Startup Weekend Colombo (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)
Unidel giving its pitch at Startup Weekend Colombo (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)

A platform that would help people deliver packages with travelers.  Essentially, it’s an Uber or PickMe for packages. So how does it work? If you’re a traveler then you can enter your starting point, destination, and route. If you’re someone that needs something shipped, then just share where you are and the destination for your package. If the destination for a package, is on the same path as that you’re traveling, then Unidel connects both you and the sender.

So you the traveler pick up the package and deliver it to its destination. You get paid and then move on with your journey. That’s how Unidel works in a nutshell. Initially, the team plans to start daily commuters and small business owners. Over time, they’ll expand their service. But for now, they have a prototype Android application.

ERAMASS

Many startups and small businesses fail due to poor financial planning. According to this team, an accountant would cost Rs. 90,000 for 180 hours. A startup or small business won’t need an accountant for so long nor can they afford one at that price. This is where ERAMASS comes in. It offers accountants for startups at a cheaper price and a shorter duration. These accountants are offered with different packages. One form of packages is those on subscriptions where an accountant handles all your needs for a period of time. But another option ERAMASS offered was accountants working on a single task.

Colombo Coding Camp

While Sri Lanka has many IT graduates, a significant number of them lack coding skills. This startup wants to change that. The Colombo Coding Camp is a 12-week boot camp that teaches people how to code. Its mission is to bridge the skill gap between its students and what employers want.

Colombo Coding Camp giving their pitch at Startup Weekend Colombo (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)
Colombo Coding Camp giving their pitch at Startup Weekend Colombo (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)

To do so, the Colombo Booting Camp first looks at what software companies are using. It then allows its students to learn how to build real products that companies want. During the 1st year, much of the boot camp will be at a physical work space. But after the 2nd year, they’ll slowly transition to a virtual environment. The team stated that they already have four companies signed up and ready to work with them.

Salonify

Salonify is a platform that wants to simplify salon bookings for everyone. Like a coin, there are two sides to Salonify. The first is a simply saloon booking system. It allows you to select a saloon, the service you want (a haircut, hair dyeing, etc.) and your payment method. The other side of Salonify is called Liveseat. Liveseat allows you to get a haircut instantly. It does this by taking your location and placing an appointment at the nearest hair salon.

Salonify giving its pitch at Startup Weekend Colombo (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)
Salonify giving its pitch at Startup Weekend Colombo (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)

The core customer base for Salonify is women between the ages of 16 and 30. It charges a Rs. 100 fee for bookings and takes a 20% commission on appointments. Additionally, they also plan on selling big data services to salons. But that’s only in their second year. Salonify plans to operate for free during their first year.

Save Lives

If there was an award for most memorable pitch, we’d have given it to this team. They opened with a person falling off and injuring his leg as he took the stage. People rushed to the stage and helped move him to a safe place. And then, his teammate takes the stage to say, “This is the problem we have in Sri Lanka.” An ambulance will take forever and a person with a leg injury shouldn’t have been moved.

Save Lives giving their passionate pitch at Startup Weekend Colombo (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)
Save Lives giving their passionate pitch at Startup Weekend Colombo (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)

This is where Save Lives comes in. This is an app that helps connect people with the closest ambulance. It also offers important first aid advice that can be administered until an ambulance arrives. To get a public ambulance is free but they charge Rs. 500 to book private ambulances. Like Uber and PickMe, they have different apps for both drivers and normal users.

The judges loved their pitch. However, the judges questioned how the team would get people to install and use the app. typically, a person would only consider using such an app when they’re already in danger. But by then it’s likely too late. The team’s response was that they’d work on educating the masses.

Wedding book

What’s the perfect wedding gift for a couple? If you ask our co-founder Enosh, it would have been an iPod. Enosh was lucky and got an iPod. Many other couples, on the other hand, get multiple rice cookers, multiple ovens, and other useless junk. This startup wants to help solve this issue by creating a wish list for weddings. A couple adds what they want to the wishlist. Afterward, everyone attending can select the items they’ll be getting from the list. Merchants can also put their products on the platform to advertise. Once the pitch was done, we had to question how serious the initial problem was. The judges too pointed out some important challenges the team will have to conquer.

Quick Change

Quick Change is an app that helps you save your change. It also allows you to transfer your change or donate it to charity. With each transaction, Quick Change charges a 2% service fee. Additionally, it seems to convert your currency automatically when you travel.

Quick Change giving its mock pitch at Startup Weekend Colombo (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)
Quick Change giving its mock pitch at Startup Weekend Colombo (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)

A great concept but at the end of the pitch the question on our minds was: how do you store your change digitally? Would you deposit it like you would cash at a bank? We don’t know. The judges also went on to say that the team needs to seriously look at the Central Bank regulations. Nonetheless, the team was extremely confident about their app being a success.

Walking School

Walking School giving their mock pitch at Startup Weekend Colombo (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)
Walking School giving their mock pitch at Startup Weekend Colombo (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)

Students across the island face exams. Some pass and some fail. This team wants to help the latter. Walking School wants to ensure access to education anywhere, at any time. Local education to be precise. Initially, they’ll be mainly focusing on O/L maths. But over time they’ll expand to cover other subjects. The team’s main target market is O/L students, A/L students, and vocational training students. Walking School is already live at s64.info.lk.

CCArt

Arguably, this was the startup with the simplest pitch we saw at Startup Weekend Colombo. CCArt is a platform for local designers. It allows them to get work as well as showcase their portfolios. In a nutshell, CCArt is eBay meets Behance for designers. To ensure designers don’t get screwed over, CCArt ensures all transactions go through them. However, the only security measure they have in place is a log.

CookGym

It’s a proven fact that many of us don’t eat healthily. If you’re one of the few people that do eat healthy, then CookGym has nothing to offer you. But if you are unhealthy eaters like us, then you should pay attention to CookGym. This is an app that tells you how many calories you gained with the meal you just had. The team showed us a demo where a team member showed us how many calories was in the kiribath he had in the morning.

Cook Gym giving their pitch at Startup Weekend Colombo (Image credits: Lahiru Perera)
Cook Gym giving their pitch at Startup Weekend Colombo (Image credits: Lahiru Perera)

A very handy feature for those of us losing weight. However, this is only one side of CookGym. The app also lets you know what you can cook based on the ingredients you already have. Naturally, the app will tell you how many calories you’ll gain. The team claimed to have an algorithm recipes for 8500 key ingredients. CookGym would be free for the initial 6 months, to improve their algorithm. Afterward, they’d charge Rs. 1000 per month.

Pepper Spray

Pepper Spray wants to make the streets safer. Harassment is something that happens on a regular basis and is underreported globally. This epidemic was what inspired the team to build Pepper Spray. The team spoke with Sarath Perera – OIC at Maradana Police Station when validating their idea. They learned that each area has its own specific set of problems.

For example, Maradana Railway Station is famous for pickpockets, Maligawatte for robberies and abuse, Kabiligollawa for sexual abuse and the list disturbingly goes on. What Pepper Spray wants to do is get reports from these areas to notify others of the dangers. However, people typically don’t share such reports as they are scared, embarrassed or simply because it’s a hassle. What Pepper Spray offers is an anonymous platform, people can use to make such reports anonymously, anywhere at any time.

The team showed a simple web app as their demo during their pitch at Startup Weekend Colombo. Initially, the team would seek to fund through grants. As time passes, they will look at selling big data services and adding heat maps.

Know Your Ride

Know Your Ride wants to help you better understand the state of your vehicle. The team pointed out that typically, the ECU doesn’t provide information we can easily understand. It’s also another challenge to predict when parts of your vehicle will fail. As such, Know your Ride has a dongle that could overcome both problems.

Know Your Ride giving their pitch at Startup Weekend Colombo (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)
Know Your Ride giving their pitch at Startup Weekend Colombo (Image credits: Malshan Gunawardane)

The dongle reads data from the ECU and sends it to a cloud platform. In the cloud, this data is analyzed along with your driving behavior. This allows the system to tell you what the state of your vehicle is and predict when any components may fail. Initially, the team is aiming at South East Asian drivers. In time, Know Your Ride hopes to offer fleet management services as well.

The pitching ends

Once the pitches ended, it was time for the judges to tally their results. And so the judges retreated outside the hall. Meanwhile, Andrew took the stage once again. He congratulated the teams for making it this far. Looking at global statistics, he shared the 12% of all Startup Weekend participants continue to work on their startups after the weekend. He concluded his speech by reminding everyone that it’s okay to fail.

“You will fail and that’s okay” – Andrew Hyde

Following Andrew’s final speech, we all took a short break while the judges tallied the results. After a while, the judges returned and everyone took their seats once again. However, before the judges shared the results, some of the judges had a few thoughts to share.

Shakya Lahiru Pathmalal – CEO of Takas shared that when he first made a pitch to investors, he had zero industry knowledge. He congratulated everyone at Startup Weekend Colombo for having a better pitch than he did. He went on to say that he didn’t win his first competition, but he still found success, irrespective of the results.

Shahani Markus – founder of Emojot also took the stage to share her thoughts. She found it amazing to see that startup events like those seen in Silicon Valley were coming to Sri Lanka. More importantly, she praised the participants for pitching ideas that were of the same quality as those found in Silicon Valley. Shahani’s only wish was for these events to have been there when she started out.

So who won Startup Weekend Colombo?

Three days of constant hard work. It all came down to this. The judges had shared their feedback. And now it was time to announce the winners. With a drumroll, the winners of the first Startup Weekend Colombo were:

  • 3rd place: Colombo Coding Camp
  • 2nd place: Unidel
  • 1st place: Pepper Spray

And with those announcements, the hall was filled with an air of celebration and relief. Three days of constant hard work had come to an end. All the participants had won by taking the hard but necessary first steps to building their startups. With that, the first Startup Weekend Colombo came to a successful end.

The humans of Startup Weekend Colombo (Image credits: Lahiru Perera)
The humans of Startup Weekend Colombo (Image credits: Lahiru Perera)

1 COMMENT

  1. What a great initiative and an avenue for Sri Lanka’s very talented youth and workforce to express their creativity over a project that solves a problem. Entrepreneurship exist because some of the world’s problems need new solutions. Commendable. I cannot wait to join one myself! Please keep me posted on when the next one is especially in the timeframe of July – September when I visit Sri Lanka.

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