Fifty-six hours. An entire weekend. From Friday evening to Sunday night, the Dialog Auditorium was occupied by designers, developers, students, business analysts and so many more. The one thing they had in common? They wanted to know how to build a startup. Welcome to Techstars Startup Weekend Colombo.
Friday night: The fun begins
The first day of any Techstars Startup Weekend is all about breaking the ice. This is where the many participants are introduced to everyone else and make friends. At the same time, it’s also about killing any nervousness or fear about entrepreneurship.
This happens through a series of games. The most popular one is half-baked. This is where participants are split up, form teams, select four words, come up with a business idea, and then pitch it to the audience.
Towards the end of Friday night, the participants then pitch the actual startup ideas they have. And then the participants themselves vote for the top 10 ideas. These top ideas are the one that they will form teams for and work over the weekend.
Saturday morning: Getting hands dirty
After the teams were formed on Friday night, it was time to get work. Following breakfast, the teams began working on their startup ideas on Saturday morning. This was with the support of their mentors, which were experienced entrepreneurs that help make the ideas viable.
Following lunch, the teams had begun the process of validating their startup ideas. In other words, they went out to speak to people and identify if they would be willing to pay for their startup idea. Towards the evening, the teams returned to the hall. Once they did, there were two sessions aimed at helping them.
The first of these sessions was a speech by Yusra Aziz-Eliyas – Founder of Podi Jobs who shared her entrepreneurial journey. Afterward, we saw Indulekha Nanayakkara – Co-manager of GBG Colombo introduce the concept of Growth Hacking to the participants. Once the sessions ended, so too did the second day of Techstars Startup Weekend Colombo, after a reflection of everything that unfolded until then.
Sunday evening: The ideas shine
Sunday is the final day and the biggest day of any Techstars Startup Weekend. For this is the day when the teams add the finishing touches and then pitch to a panel of judges. With that being said, these are the ideas we saw at Techstars Startup Weekend Colombo 2018.
The first startup we saw at Techstars Startup Weekend Colombo was one that wanted to reduce the amount of traffic on the streets. They aimed to do this by exploring the concept of carpooling. Thus, they built an app for this purpose. While pursuing a social cause, the judges found the cost structure questionable as the team hadn’t considered making the platform profitable for drivers.
The next startup we saw at Techstars Startup Weekend Colombo wanted to fight cyberbullying. To that end, the team had designed a keyboard app. This app would analyze what you were typing. But just before you sent a message, it would alert you if the message has a negative tone.
After the alert, it would also offer suggestions on how you can make it sound more positive. While the judges commended the team for selecting a serious problem, they had one burning question, which was, “How do you get the bullies to install this app?”
Food wastage is a global problem and this team wanted to change that. TrackIT is a system utilizing blockchain designed for supermarkets. It keeps a record of the expiry dates of food items. With this data, it alerts managers when their food is close to being expired. Why supermarkets though? Because according to their research, the biggest culprits of food wastage are supermarkets.
“Children are naturally creative,” was the premise of this team’s idea at Techstars Startup Weekend Colombo. Acapella was a platform that aimed to help children with cancer. It aimed to do so by taking designs by children and printing them on T-shirts. It would then give a large percentage of the profits to these children.
We at ReadMe are guilty of spending far too much time in front of our screens. This isn’t healthy and this team wanted to make sure that people like us got the help we needed. As such, this team built an app that your eyes get the rest they need. It works by having you set a time for a break and then uses your front camera to ensure you stick to that break. However, the team admitted that this does raise a privacy issue.
If there’s one set of people that would sacrifice anything to predict the future, it would be marketers. And this team wants to make it possible. Foresight is a system that regularly analyzes posts on social media platforms. It then highlights, which keywords and trends are on the rise. Thus helping marketers capitalize on them. While the team made a strong pitch, the judges wondered how it was different from existing tools like Google Trends.
We’d rather see our friends than celebrities in our ads. This was the premise of the idea pursued by this team at Techstars Startup Weekend Colombo. With your permission, their system would take the pictures of yourself and your friends. It would then customize these ads you see online with their faces. Arguably, Lion had the most interactive pitch we saw. However, this idea would likely raise a lot of concerns in the wrong hands even if permission was sought.
Match 4 Success
The final pitch we saw at Techstars Startup Weekend Colombo was by Match 4 Success. This team came up with an idea to help you make business connections who are located nearby. Think of it as a marriage between Linkedin and Tinder. But how would they make money? Through advertisements and subscriptions, which help you rank higher.
The winners of Techstars Startup Weekend Colombo
With the pitches done, it was time for the judges to decide the winners. As we waited for the results, we saw Sharanyan Sharma – Founder of ExtremeSEO share his story. Additionally, he also announced his latest venture: Hub.lk. Once the speech ended, the judges returned with the results.
And the winners of Techstars Startup Weekend Colombo 2018 are as follows. Need of The Hour: Ed Board. 3rd Place: Lion. 2nd place: Acapella. 1st place: I-fresh. With the winners announced, Techstars Startup Weekend Colombo 2018 came to an end with a traditional group photo.
However, this isn’t the only Techstars Startup Weekend on the Sri Lankan calendar. Techstars Startup Weekend Batticaloa is happening in June.