By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
- Annual competition by Blue Ocean Ventures and the Indian Angel Network has so far triggered Rs. 200 m funding and 12 start ups
The third edition of the Venture Engine has been kicked off giving a fresh opportunity for budding entrepreneurs.
Venture Engine, which is run, mentored and filtered by Lankan Angel Network (LAN), the Sri Lanka’s first alliance of angel investors.
Over its brief two year duration, the project has served as a springboard for 12 businesses, garnering Rs. 200 million in investment collectively, the organisers said this week in launching the Venture Engine 2014 edition. Endorsing the event are Expolanka and Orion City as platinum sponsors and Dialog Axiata as gold sponsors.
With the intention of fostering entrepreneurship in the country, Venture Engine 2014 is open to owners of start-up businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs. In addition to a good business plan, submission requirements include uniqueness of product and service, marketability of product or service offered, and good financial forecast. Alongside these requirements, the competition will be looking for entrepreneurs with the willingness to take risks, marketing, negotiation and selling skills, financial know-how and self motivation.
Applications are open until 26 May after which a rigorous selection process will ensue.
A panel of potential local and overseas investors will review business plans of applicants and select a minimum of 20 applications to move on to the second pitch round. The shortlisted candidates will be provided with valuable critique and insight to improve their plans.
The top applicants will benefit from valuable opportunities to enrich their business plans through a series of workshops and one-to-one mentoring sessions with successful local and international investors. These entrepreneurs will make a final pitch to a panel of local and international investors with the most exceptional business plans announced at the finale which is scheduled for 3 July.
Blue Ocean Ventures Co-Founder Prajeeth Balasubramaniam said that aspiring entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka are noted to typically face challenges in the areas of massive evangelisation of entrepreneurship, building entrepreneurial capabilities at scale, and enhancing availability of early stage capital and support.
"Information on the program, previous years’ events, and past participants are available on the project website www.ventureengine.lk. Application process information and resources are also available on the website with entries accepted on email@example.com. Further assistance will be provided on contacting firstname.lastname@example.org."
“The competition aims at creating a platform for entrepreneurs to accelerate their businesses to the next level via access to potential investors and development of stronger business plans. In turn they will be able to scale the start-up ecosystem by creating direct and indirect jobs while uplifting the position of Sri Lanka as one of the most innovative countries in the world,” he said.
According to him a salient feature of Venture Engine is that the entrepreneur is granted the opportunity to pitch directly to the investors. “The selected candidates are mentored by LAN and IAN, and there is no ceiling on funds made available through the angel group. Thus any fundable start-up in the top ten has a good opportunity to gain the required investment to set up and expand their company,” Balasubramaniam added.
“We were charting new territory in 2012 when we launched the first Venture Engine program. With foreign investors eager to capitalise on post war growth and budding entrepreneurs looking to spread their wings, the need for an effective startup ecosystem was identified. Over the last two years we have witnessed an impressive display of talent and drive, reinforcing our decision to launch Venture Engine in Sri Lanka,” Balasubramaniam said.
“The success of startups from the last two events has seen our investor base expanding. Sustainability is key and Venture Engine’s role effectively extends beyond the immediate capital infusion. Our team of mentors continue to provide insight and guidance after the new ventures are underway,” he added.
Indian Angel Network President Padmaja Ruparel said: “Venture Engine is a unique initiative. It has inspired entrepreneurship and also driven angel investing in Sri Lanka. Year on year, it has brought critical money and mentoring to young Sri Lankan entrepreneurs. IAN is proud to have helped found Lankan Angel Network, partnered VE and brought in investors from around the world to the island nation.”
At the launch the following statements from partners of Venture Engine 2014 were released.
Expolanka Holdings Plc Group CEO Hanif Yusoof said: “From simple beginnings as a small fruit and vegetable exporter in Dam Street, Expolanka has risen to a diversified conglomerate ranked amongst the top ten business entities in Sri Lanka with a global footprint across 18 countries. Entrepreneurship is the cornerstone upon which our success is built and we understand the challenges of venturing out on new territory. We see immense value in the exposure and guidance VE provides its participants and its cascading effect on the economy.”
Orion City CEO/Director Jeevan Gnanam said: “Innovation and entrepreneurship are such fundamental principles of the IT industry that the terms have almost become synonymous. The most significant technological advancements have been brought about by entrepreneurs with marketable ideas and unwavering drive. Without platforms such as VE, we run the costly risk of these ideas never reaching realization. Orion City, once a startup itself, understands this need and is committed to developing the Sri Lankan IT sector. Furthering this goal, we are excited to announce the launch of Orion Nest, a dedicated facility for start-ups.”
Dialog Axiata PLC Group Chief Executive Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya said: “The Venture Engine amply demonstrates the value creation potential of a synergistic platform which brings together Innovation, Risk Capital and Domain Expertise. World over, Venture capital has proven to be an essential ingredient in driving innovation and national competitiveness. Dialog is privileged to be a partner in the Venture Engine competition for the third successive year and it is particularly rewarding to note that within a short space of two years, the Venture Engine program has succeeded in seeding several business ventures which are globally competitive.”