Only 4% of Sri Lankan startups have female founders, according to the “Start Up Sri Lanka 2015” report. To aid in bridging this gap, Lankan Angel Network and Ideamart recently presented the #IAMHER Startup Spotlight.
Kicking off with a panel made up of well-respected industry leaders like Linda Speldewinde, Founder of AOD Colombo and Fashionmarket.lk, Indira Malwatte, Chairperson of Sri Lanka’s Export Development Board, Chitranganie Mubarak, former Chairperson of Sri Lanka’s ICT Agency, Anoji De Silva, Partner at Ernst & Young and Lakmini Wijesundara, Co Founder and CEO of Iron One Technologies, the introductory session of this half-day program focused on the common challenges faced by women entrepreneurs. The audience, comprising female founders of startups, as well as other women entrepreneurs, also received valuable advice on how they could overcome issues and thrive in the local marketplace.
Geared towards building and supporting a gender balanced startup ecosystem, #IAMHER is an initiative by the Lankan Angel Network, Sri Lankan’s largest network of angel investors, and Ideamart, a web-based platform where anyone can utilise telco APIs to create their own services and make it a revenue generating tool. It is the aim of the #IAMHER initiative to foster and give due recognition to women led ventures, while at the same time increasing the participation of female angel investors in the startup ecosystem.
Endorsing the #IAMHER initiative, Linda Speldewinde noted that stories of strong and impactful women entrepreneurs were positive messages that were particularly important today. Women must take the initiative and inspire each other, striving to become change makers instead of being portrayed as victims.
Further, Speldewinde is a patron of the Lankan Angel Network, which also features other highly-respected women leaders as members, including Padmaja Ruparel, President of Indian Angel Network; Anarkali Moonesinghe, CEO Sri Lanka of CIMB Investment Bank, Shehara Jayawardana, Group Joint Managing Director of McLarens Group and Tamara Dunne, Project Director at Unity Group (Singapore).
Since its launch in 2012, the Lankan Angel Network has grown to encompass 25 startups, with over Rs. 2 billion invested. Several of these startups have dynamic women as founders or members of the founding team, such as Nithya, MyWish, Endemic, PUSH, House of Lonali, Saraii Village, Zigzag and Glitteray. Additionally, women-led startups like Quebee Den, PlushBox, Skrumptious and PregBuddy have also been promoted and mentored as part of Venture Engine, which is another strategic initiative of the Lanka Angel Network. The Lankan Angel Network continues to encourage women investors, mentors and entrepreneurs to join in and actively participate in its many initiatives. Visit www.lankanangelnetwork.com for more information on the Lankan Angel Network and how to apply for membership or submit a startup business plan. The #IAMHER Startup Spotlight was sponsored by Glitteray, in collaboration with IEEE Women in Engineering Informatics Institute of Technology Affinity Chapter. The gifting partner for the event was PlushBox, the digital content partner was Roar, and the beverages partner was Kuvings, from Promo Lanka Marketing.
Speaking at the event, Indira Malwatte brought in both public- and private-sector viewpoints, urging the assembled audience of young women entrepreneurs to be professional, pursue their dreams, and never let being women become a barrier.
Adding to this, Chitranganie Mubarak commented that getting more women involved in the workplace made sense from an economic perspective, going on to indicate that studies show that when more women are included in decision making roles there was a 15% value addition.
The #IAMHER Startup Spotlight concluded with a competition for women-led startups, which was judged by a distinguished panel featuring Sulochana Segera, Founder and Chairperson of Women in Management; Rekha Weerasooriya, General Manager, Customer Experience Management, Dialog Axiata PLC; Rayhana Iyne, Founder and CEO of Glitteray; and Lankan Angel Network Board Members Adil Mansoor, CEO of PromoLanka Holdings, and Arj Wignaraja, Founder of Stax Inc and Remote Sensing Metrics. The winner of this competition was Shaheeqa Siraj (Store-Kit), while the first runner-up was Pulani Ranasinghe (Elearni) and the second runners-up were Team Codettes (Guardian). Also participating, Team Amazon (Automated Voting System) and Team Unwonted Coders (KAMA). These five women-led startups were sourced from a talent pool of 35 applicants. Winners will be mentored by the Lankan Angel Network to take part in the next Venture Engine program.