Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy: Going For The Gold

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Following the excitement of Day One of Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy, we saw 11 ideas get selected to be worked on for the rest of the days. Once each of the 11 teams had the necessary members in each team, work kicked off into the wee hours of the night. These guys were really enthusiastic and gave it their all. Saturday morning more fondly referred to as Day 02 of Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy dawned bright, early and slightly chilly as well.

Day 02 – Validating your Ideas

Day 02 of Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy was all about customer validation. Here, the teams would go out and talk with real-world people to see the feasibility of their ideas. Before heading off for customer validation, Anurag Maloo, Regional Manager of Techstars was up to talk about validating your idea.

Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy
Anurag Maloo – Regional Manager, Techstars addressing the participants about validation

Anurag spoke about developing an MVP or minimum viable product. This would be a running version of your product that has all the same functions and usability options of the finished product but at a basic level, so that you have a product that has the bare minimum so you can demo it to customers and investors.

Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy
Discussing validation with the participants

Anurag went on to explain that the main reason businesses fail is that they carry out improper methods of validation. He emphasized that the use of online forms such as Google Forms and Survey Monkey should be prohibited. Why? Because people can lie to you when using an online form, thereby messing up your validation.

In fact, Anurag actually made all the participants take an oath called “The Founders Oath”. Here they solemnly swore to stay away from and not use online forms.

Mentors meet teams, teams meet your mentors

Following that, Anurag introduced the panel of Mentors for Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy. The mentors could be assigned according to which team needed them and in addition, the mentors also rotated between teams to make sure they were all headed in the right direction. In addition, the mentors also helped the team prepare mock interviews so that they can go out and validate their products.

Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy
The mentors for Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy

Painting your startup canvas

Following lunch, we had Ahamed Nishadh, former Project Officer, and Project Coordinator at ICTA talking to the participants about the Startup Canvas. This is a one-page business planning tool that helps you deconstruct your idea into its key assumptions using 9 basic building blocks.

Techstars Startup Weekend KandyAhamed Nishadh
Ahamed Nishadh speaking to the participants.

Ahamed went on to explain each of the 9 blocks in the startup canvas and gave examples for each block. The teams filled out each of the 9 blocks with sticky notes that had been given to them so that anyone looking at a team’s startup canvas knew exactly what they were doing. Once this was done, the teams went off to carry out their customer validation.

Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy
An example of the startup canvas (Image Credits: The Happy Startup School)

With the return of the teams and a checkup of how they were progressing, Day 02 of Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy came to a close. Day 03 would be the grand finale where the now 7 final teams would make their pitches to a panel of judges. The best team would be crowned the winner of Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy.

It all comes down to Day 03

This was it. The day that we were all waiting for. This was Day 03 of Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy. The teams were once again gathered in the hall to finish off their products and also their presentations that they would pitch to the judges. Following a round of mock pitches to the mentors to make sure everything was in place, the final pitches of Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy kicked off.

Techstars Startup Weekend KandyAhamed Nishadh
The teams making their mock pitches to the mentors.

Each team would have 5 minutes to make their pitch. This would be followed by a 3-minute Q&A session. Anurag was once again on stage to emphasize that teams should stick to their allocated time limit or their presentations would be cut short. The stakes were certainly high and the hall was alive with enthusiasm and buzzing with anticipation as the teams moved forward to make their presentations.

Rock out in your dream clothes with Rent-n-Rock

This is a platform where you could out that expensive dress you can’t afford to buy for around 1/10 of the price you would pay to purchase it. Their primary market is those who have to attend a number of events and don’t want to wear the same clothes twice, and don’t have the cash to splash.

Techstars Startup Weekend KandyAhamed Nishadh
Rent-N-Rock making their final pitch

They would have no inventory, but rather merchants would connect with those who want to rent out designer suits and dresses. If you have clothes that you rarely wear, you can join and be a part of the platform as well, to get some additional income

With regard to size alterations, you can make a request based on your size. With regard to returning clothes, they would partner with insurance partners to step up.

Finding the perfect ad space with AdMan.lk

This is an algorithm based media advertising platform. The purpose of the platform is to identify the perfect place for you to set up your advertisement so that you can reach the maximum audience possible. The platform would take into account a number of details and then notify you about where you can advertise.

Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy
Team AdMan making their final pitch

Find-a-sponsor wants to help you, well, find a sponsor

This is a platform to help people to look for sponsors. The team started off by saying that people just want companies to sponsor them. But the problem pops up when events have to be rescheduled because there are no sponsors, or when companies willing to sponsor are not approached with the correct event.

Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy
Find-A-Sponsor making their final pitch

Thus, Find-a-sponsor would be the one-stop hub to manage all this. Companies can lookup potential events to sponsor and people looking for sponsors can post on the platform and look for sponsors. They maintain an active database and exchange platform to matchmake corporates and events. In terms of revenue, it would be an annual subscription.

Helping silent victims out with Voice Out

What was initially a platform for those with mental health issues to speak about their problems now too the form of an AI Chatbot to take care of harassment in the office. Voice Out is essentially a tool that employees can use to submit reports of harassment or violence in the workplace.

Once submitted, the platform would generate reports about how employees in a company are feeling so that the HR department of the company can go through and see how their employees are feeling.

Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy
Team Voice Out making their final pitch

One note of the judges was that someone can falsely report another employee. The team’s response was that if anyone spams, it will be up to the HR manager to decide if the complaint is accurate or not.

GreezMonkey wants to Greez your car

The team here at Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy have identified the problem of users getting cheated on when they need to report their vehicles. As such, they came up with a mobile app combined with an OBD Bluetooth adapter.

Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy
Team Greezmonkey making their final pitch

This would essentially keep tabs on your vehicle, see if it was operational or not, and predict future car repairs. It would also give tips on how to keep the vehicle running smoothly. Their app has 2 aspects, B2B and B2C, and their initial market would be the Colombo district.

The team would simply develop the app for the device since the device already exists. But rather than giving users data that they may not understand, the app would simply state if the vehicle is runnable or not.

Say hello to HelloTask

Next came HelloTask, an on-demand skills services platform connecting users looking for a skill/service with the right provider. Showcasing a sleek UI design, they stated they would be a hit in the market as per their validation process. They had apparently validated with a number of people that they would be willing to pay a fair price for the desired service on time. Hello Task aims to provide high accessibility in real time, and thus stay ahead of their market competitors.

Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy
Team Hello Task making their final pitch

The judge’s questions ranged from if a normal carpenter would have a smartphone, to validating a worker’s skills and also their revenue generation, which would be a fixed consultation fee.

FixIt coming up last to fix all your problems

Last up to deliver their pitch was FixIt. This is a platform that aims to connect mechanics nearby to a customer in distress, in real time. They aim to provide video conferencing between customer and mechanic for the first time in Sri Lanka. Their planned market consists of mechanics, vehicle owners, and insurance companies, with advantages for all three.

While they do have competitors in the market like AA Ceylon and breakdown.lk they aim to provide more features like video conferencing to keep the competitive edge. Revenue would be generated through subscriptions.

Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy
team Fix It making their final pitch

The judges questioned the motives for users to join the platform, for which the team replied cost-effectiveness would be a major factor. On the mechanic’s side, they would generate more customers in a wider circle, instead of the same regulars every day. When the question of why customers would use Fix It when insurance companies would do the same service, it was pointed out that third-party insurance holders, for example, would not have that luxury.

Here’s what everyone thought of the last 54 hours

With that, the pitching was done, and the judges went into a huddle to discuss amongst themselves to select the winners of startup weekend Kandy. Meanwhile, the participants socialized and tried not to sneaks looks at the judges’ table.

Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy
The judges tallying the final scores

Once the judges decided, everyone assembled again and Anurag asked for the participants’ comments on Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy. Udara, one of the participants, said while he was researching on his product, he was so focused on the product itself, that he hadn’t considered the business aspect of it. That was what he realized at Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy.

Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy
A guest sharing experiences of Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy

Another said that all good things happen outside the comfort zone, and this was more of a transformation than an education. Dr. Dayan Rajapakshe of the judging panel stated that in IT education, they do not pitch undergraduate projects, and he would definitely be considering implementing this in future. There were even two foreign attendees who shared their views commenting that the problems being solved here were similar to those prevalent in their home countries almost 8,000km away.

Anurag then went on to thank everyone who supported Startup Weekend Kandy, personally thanking the judges, mentors, organizers, and media and presenting them tokens of gratitude.

Finally, the moment arrives

Throughout all of this, the participant area was pretty silent. Anticipation was building, and they couldn’t wait to see who won. After all the thanks were done, Anurag took to the stage once again, to deliver the most awaited words of the last 54 hours. It was finally time to announce the winners of Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy.

  • Honorable mention: Team FixIt
  • 2nd Runners-up: Team AdMan.lk
  • 1st Runners-up: Team Find me a Sponsor
  • Winners: Team Rent N Rock
Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy
The Winners of Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy: Team Rent-N-Rock

Techstars Startup Weekend Kandy came to an end

With cheers and congratulations all around, the winning teams went up front to receive their certificates. Team Rent-n-Rock would receive free mentoring sessions from StartupX Foundry as well as free office space for one-month courtesy of Business Hubs.

They also happily stated that the idea they had was at the back of their minds for some time and that they plan to go live by September this year. And with that, 54 hours wrapped up, with everyone heading home a changed person, not for worse, but for better.

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