Uber Springboard: Sri Lankan start-ups set to soar with mentorship program

Monday, 13 May 2024 00:05 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


From left: US Embassy Economic Officer Andrew Shinn, Uber Delivery General Manager Varun Wijewardane, Kreader Founder Heshan J. Peiris, Ministry of Technology Secretary Dr. Dharmasri Kumaratunge, ManKiwwa Founder Shohan Kalusuriya, ICTA Head of Startup Engagement Abith Latiff on behalf of Megic Inc. Founder Yashen Ariyathilaka, Uber South Asia Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs Sanjay Chadha, and Uber Mobility – Sri Lanka Country Manager Kaushalya Gunaratne – Pix by Lasantha Kumara 

Technology Ministry Secretary Dr. Dharmasiri Kumaratunge


Uber, the global ride hailing and food and grocery delivery platform, recently hosted “Uber Springboard” – an initiative to encourage Sri Lankan start-ups to strengthen the country’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

With support from the Ministry of Technology, Government of Sri Lanka, Uber has selected three start-ups from a tech start-up competition that are set to travel to Uber’s centre of excellence in India for a mentorship program. 

As part of DIGIECON 2030, Uber’s tech leaders interacted with 26 Sri Lankan start-ups and provided feedback and guidance. After a rigorous evaluation process, the jury of Uber Springboard has selected three start-ups for further mentorship which includes KReader, ManKiwwa, and Megic. 

KReader | Founder: Heshan J. Peiris

The start-up offers a subscription-based digital reading framework for local languages in Sri Lanka. It provides eBooks, Audiobooks, AI-based Text to Speech with Emotions, and Text to Sign Language for personalised and inclusive reading experiences. 

ManKiwwa | Founder: Shohan Kalusuriya

This venture offers a transformative platform that bridges the gap between citizens and government authorities, empowering citizens to report civic issues seamlessly. 

Megic | Founder: Yashen Ariyathilaka

Founded by 16-year-old Yashen, this start-up is an innovative AI-driven EdTech platform personalised for maths learning in Sri Lanka that aims to democratise access to quality education. 

At the showcase event in Colombo, the start-up founders shared their story with Ministry of Technology Secretary Dharmasri Kumaratunge, who was the Guest of Honour for the event. US Embassy Economic Officer Andrew Shinn, and Information & Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), Associate Chief Digital Economy Officer Sachindra Samaratne also lent support to the initiative. 

Commenting on the initiative, State Minister of Technology Kanaka Herath said, “I want to applaud Uber for their outstanding efforts in recognising startups in Sri Lanka. As a global technology leader that began as a startup themselves, Uber’s commitment to nurturing Sri Lankan innovation is truly commendable. I am also deeply grateful to the Government of Telangana for extending a special invitation to these startups to attend the Telangana Global AI Summit. This exposure to cutting-edge knowledge will be invaluable. Congratulations to the selected startups – KReader Ltd., ManKiwwa by Deegenics Ltd., and Megic Inc. I wish you the utmost success in maximising the opportunities provided by the Government of Telangana and Uber.”

Speaking on the occasion, Uber Delivery – Sri Lanka General Manager Varun Wijewardene said, “At Uber, we recognise the value of continued innovation and its potential to inspire positive change. Through this initiative, we want to provide Sri Lankan start-ups expert mentorship, guidance, and international exposure, that equips them to plan ahead and build a strong foundation for their ventures. We thank the Ministry of Technology for their partnership, and stand proud to support the next generation of entrepreneurs in the country.”

Sharing her views on the initiative, Uber Mobility – Sri Lanka Country Manager Kaushalya Gunaratne said, “Uber has been at the forefront of innovation and has been leading by example for over a decade with several industry firsts to its name. Budding start-ups that have the hunger and drive to inspire change will benefit immensely through the mentorship received at Uber’s Tech Center of Excellence in Hyderabad, India. We hope this will be a beginning to a thriving start-up ecosystem in Sri Lanka.”

Uber continues to stay committed to start-ups in Sri Lanka. The company hosted the Uber Entrepreneurship Challenge a couple of years ago. As Uber continues to expand its footprint in the country, initiatives like Uber Springboard serve as a testament to the company’s commitment to fostering entrepreneurship and empowering local talent.