Home / Special Report/ Startup boot camps inspire young entrepreneurs in Jaffna

Startup boot camps inspire young entrepreneurs in Jaffna


Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Monday, 21 May 2018 00:00


  • Entrepreneurship is the way to expand opportunities in Sri Lanka

By Amanda Gant

Sri Lanka’s supply of entrepreneurs is relatively short, and it’s only hindering the economic growth of the country. Only 2.8% of the Sri Lankan population are business owners (as compared with 10-20% in comparable countries around the world, according to a September Daily FT article). Congruently, 45% of the population earns less than $5 a day according to the World Bank, showing a need for further economic development, including through developing startup companies that will provide employment and innovation, to bring success to the Sri Lankan population.



Entrepreneurship: A true option for Sri Lankans

Luckily, entrepreneurship is now more than ever a realistic option for Sri Lanka. Seth Levine, founder of the Colorado-based VC firm The Foundry Group, shares that the “breaking down of geographic boundaries that (previously) confined entrepreneurial communities” is now making entrepreneurship a viable option for regions outside of the traditional startup hotspots of Silicon Valley. He goes on to explain that, “entrepreneurial communities… thrive best in open environments… when information sharing is free and when entrepreneurs have access to other entrepreneurs.”



Venture Frontier Lanka: A Sri Lankan focus with a global reach

Enter: Venture Frontier Lanka (VFL), a nationwide private-public initiative launched in March 2018 to identify and support entrepreneurs all across Sri Lanka through community-building, trainings, mentorship and eventually seed funding. Since its launch VFL has hosted two startup boot camps (one in Colombo and one in Jaffna), a CEO forum, and a virtual live broadcast about startup ideation that had viewing sites in nine universities and over 1500 views.VFL works on a global and local model, bringing experienced entrepreneurs from both Sri Lanka and also from around the world to share experiences with Sri Lankan startup founders. 

VFL is run independently by a team co-founded by Ovidiu Bujorean, of the US, and Heminda Jayaweera, of Sri Lanka. VFL operates as an independent company registered in Sri Lanka is thankful for initial funding support from Hemas Holdings, LOLC and the Sri Lanka Export Development Board.



A glimpse into Jaffna’s entrepreneurial ecosystem

VFL is truly an initiative for the whole island. In partnership with Yarl IT Hub in Jaffna, VFL organised a boot camp earlier this 5 and 6 May that trained and mentored founders from 19 startups in Jaffna, many of whom had graduated from Yarl IT Hub’s six-month coding school called uki.life. The VFL Startup Boot Camp, hosted at the Yarl IT Hub’s brand new co-working centre, featured design thinking and leadership workshops, one-on-one mentorship, and a pitching session where the three top performers included: 

  • First Place: idea Factory, which is creating a patented plastic bottle recycling machine that will automatically reimburse bottle recyclers with mobile phone credits; 
  • Second Place: Cookoo, a company that will soon showcase gourmet in-home dining experiences in Jaffna that travelers and local foodies alike can book and pay for online; and 
  • Second Place: (Judges could not break the tie in selecting!) Skyline, a local print shop that is going digital and serving the Jaffna and global market by taking advantage of technology to allow customers to create custom orders online.



The need for mentorship and international connections is real

“More than money, I personally need mentorship; connection with someone who has been there and understands the construction industry abroad, who has connections and feels interested in hearing about our product, giving us feedback and making introductions on our behalf,” shared Nithushan Uthayakumar, a national mentor at the VFL boot camp in Jaffna, who is also the founder of BLUE LOTUS 360, an enterprise resources planning software-as-a-service startup.

VFL works to fill this mentorship gap by providing entrepreneurs a platform and structure to form connections with allies overseas. VFL has a network of over 200 mentors from around the globe with whom VFL will match participating Sri Lankan entrepreneurs throughout the programs. VFL global mentors are currently providing three months of mentorship to the top 3 venture founders as identified at both the Colombo and Jaffna startup boot camps held earlier this May.



Join in future Venture Frontier Lanka initiatives

VFL’s next initiative will be a nation-wide entrepreneurial challenge open to startup founders from the entire country. Watch for the official call for applications this June on our Facebook page. They also plan a two-month accelerator at the end of 2018 designed for the top 15 ventures that will feature an innovation house, weekly dedicated mentorship meetings with each startup, global mentor networking dinners with experts from around the globe, as well as access to pitch in front of an investment panel. 

It’s definitely time you get involved with Venture Frontier Lanka and improve yourself and your country’s businesses! VFL is seeking: entrepreneurs who want to start or improve their ventures, experienced business owners who want to advise participating startup founders, and corporations and organisations to partner to grow the entrepreneurial culture in Sri Lanka. Contact info@ovibees for more information and to be added to their list.

(The writer is a developer of startups, having organised entrepreneurship development programs in over 50 countries. She currently serves as a small business loan officer in Washington, DC and a team member of Venture Frontier Lanka. She can be reached at amanda.gant@gmail.com.)

 


Share This Article


DISCLAIMER:

1. All comments will be moderated by the Daily FT Web Editor.

2. Comments that are abusive, obscene, incendiary, defamatory or irrelevant will not be published.

3. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.

4. Kindly use a genuine email ID and provide your name.

5. Spamming the comments section under different user names may result in being blacklisted.

COMMENTS

Today's Columnists

Challenges in preserving and promoting Pakistan’s Buddhist past

Saturday, 20 October 2018

The international media has been portraying Pakistan as a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism, especially after the Americans carried out a surgical strike there to kill international terrorist and fugitive, Osama bin Laden.


Government’s cohabitation stuck in the past or what?

Friday, 19 October 2018

The appointment of career judge Nalin Perera as the new Chief Justice, who has served in the judiciary for over 30 years, provides a snapshot into President Maithripala Sirisena’s thought process, amidst various stories of clashes with his coalitio


Profit before principle: Khashoggi and US-Saudi relations

Friday, 19 October 2018

The mysterious disappearance of a Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, from inside the Saudi Embassy complex in Turkey on 2 October and an array of circumstantial evidence surrounding his disappearance lead one to suspect that Jamal was possibly abduct


When shame and honour take the hypocritical centre stage

Friday, 19 October 2018

As human beings, we experience a gamut of emotions. These help individuals to express themselves, and authorities to exercise control over entire societies. The most common feelings engendered by our race span a spectrum from guilt and shame to fear.


Columnists More