After seven weeks of intense brainstorming guided by international and local trainers and mentors, seven prospective Sri Lankan startups pitched their ideas and business plans to a panel of investors in Colombo recently, bringing to a close the 2015 MIT Global Startup Lab (GSL) Sri Lanka programme supported by top apparel exporter Brandix and enterprise middleware specialist WSO2.
Innovative adaptation of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for refined and more targeted products and services took centre stage, as the startups sought funding to commercialise ideas that could stimulate lifestyles, facilitate e-commerce and banking, assist and expedite recruitment and enhance education.
Conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in association with Brandix and WSO2, the MIT-GSL programme is designed to help identify, develop and commercialise successful technology-based enterprises.
The seven startups that pitched for funding at the 'Demo Day' were 'Viral' - a location-based social network that tells users what's happening in their neighbourhoods; 'Syna' - a Unified Payment Gateway for SMEs to engage in e-commerce; 'Prime HR' - an intelligent application process for an inbound recruitment platform; 'Pay Media' - a payment kiosk that serves as an unmanned bank; 'HandPiq' - a specialised search engine based on an instant messaging user interface; 'Captiosus' - an online micro tutoring platform branded 'Siplo' for GCE (A/L) students and those awaiting university admission; and 'ARton' - an app for interactive learning using augmented reality and 3D modelling.
The panel of prospective investors to which these ideas were pitched comprised of Jeevan Gnanam, CEO of Orion City; investor and mentor Fayaz Hudah, Founder of 'spiralation' tech accelerator; Anarkali Moonesinghe, Deputy CEO of CIMB Investment Bank; Shehara De Silva, Founder of IDEAHA Institute of Social Design; Madu Ratnayake, Head of Digital, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Virtusa and Girish Anand Sobti, entrepreneur and investor.
"This was a committed and focused group that had the courage to visualise a new business and was then intensively coached on what it might take to realise its vision," panellist Girish Anand Sobti said.
A spokesperson for the MIT team of instructors added: "GSL Sri Lanka 2015 has been a fulfilling and enriching experience for all of us. Several of our teams were approached for investment and mentorship opportunities from angel investors and successful entrepreneurs on the Demo Day. The feedback for the programme curriculum from our students has been very encouraging. We received tremendous support from our sponsors and local startup community during the entire duration of the programme. The enthusiasm to grow the entrepreneurship ecosystem by universities and corporates alike makes us hopeful that Sri Lanka's entrepreneurial ecosystem will develop rapidly in the next few years."
As a co-sponsor of the MIT-GSL Sri Lanka programme for the second successive year, Brandix provided programmatic support in addition to mentorship and domain expertise to the startup teams. WSO2, the open source technology company, provided guidance and insights in the technology and IT domain, and made available its training room at the WSO2 head office for the GSL classroom in addition to helping host the Demo Day.
The first MIT-GSL Sri Lanka programme supported by Brandix last year resulted in eight possible startups of which four teams found funding for commercialisation of their proposals.