Venture Frontier Lanka arrives & the state of Sri Lankan startups


“We pride ourselves on being known for innovation, yet we are 90 out of 100 in the innovation index,” says Heminda Jayaweera – the cofounder of Venture Frontier Lanka. In his opinion, while Sri Lanka has technical talent, there is a piece that’s missing. That missing piece is a long-term incubator for startups, which Venture Frontier Lanka aims to be.

What is Venture Frontier Lanka?

Venture Frontier Lanka describes itself as, “the first entrepreneurship platform focused on the development of the complete startup lifecycle.” Its goal is to identify and nurture promising early-stage entrepreneurs. It then aims to offer practical training and mentorship in venture development. Finally, it would provide seed funding.
To do this, Venture Frontier Lanka utilizes a Public-Private-Donor (PPD) Partnership structure. This means working with key public and private stakeholders. In other words, work in partnership with the government, the private sector, and international donors to help entrepreneurs.

So what sectors is Venture Frontier Lanka interested in? Currently its interested in startups that operate in five sectors. These five sectors are tourism & leisure, agriculture, ICT, education, and healthcare.

The state of entrepreneurship in Sri Lanka

Speaking at the launch of Venture Frontier Lanka, Indi Samarajiva – Founder of Yamu said, “I’ve been in the Sri Lankan startup community for almost 6 years now and I’m a bit jaded. Aside from startups being difficult anywhere, Sri Lanka is especially horrible, for a few reasons.”

Indi Samarajiva - Founder of YAMU speaking at the Venture Frontier Lanka launch
Indi Samarajiva – Founder of YAMU

The first of these reasons he highlights is the lack of talent. The local education system doesn’t produce entrepreneurs. Nor does our immigration policy attract the best global talent. Secondly, there is very little investment money and few reasons for investors to put more money. Thirdly, the Sri Lankan market is so small that cities in India are larger. And finally, with the internet, startups are now competing globally.

“Starting a startup is nuts. You either have to be dumb enough to not think about all these disadvantages or crazy enough to not care.” – Indi Samarajiva

Indi went onto say that in good faith he couldn’t recommend the life of a startup founder. But he had faith and if anyone was still insistent on giving it a shot, the jaded founders like himself and the folks at Venture Frontiers will try to help you.

Meanwhile, Dr. Harsha De Silva – State Minister of Twitter Deputy Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs, speaking at the launch of Venture Frontier Lanka shared, “To achieve prosperity as a country, we have to create jobs that pay well. This requires entrepreneurs and startups. They are the true engines of growth.”

Dr. Harsha De Silva speaking at the Venture Frontier Lanka launch
Dr. Harsha De Silva – Deputy Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs

But he admits the challenges that entrepreneurs face, which Indi highlighted. Dr. Harsha went onto say, “Those who need funds from the banks hardly get it.” The startup model requires banks to adopt different funding models. He went onto share that the government is working on reforms, which includes education reforms to make Sri Lanka more business-friendly.

Why is Venture Frontier Lanka here and how can they help?

Ovidiu Bujorean – CEO of Venture Frontier Lanka shared that they were in Sri Lanka for two reasons. These reasons are strong technical talent and many passionate entrepreneurs. He went onto say that the Sri Lankan market isn’t big compared to other countries in the region. Yet, the same applies to Israel, which Ovidiu shares have startups that think global from Day 01.

Ovidiu Bujorean – CEO of Venture Frontier Lanka speaking at the launch
Ovidiu Bujorean – CEO of Venture Frontier Lanka

Currently, Venture Frontier Lanka is conducting a series of events across the country. You can find the list of events here to catch them. If you want to get in touch with them directly, then click here.