With the objective of taking local start-ups to commercial level and thereon to the global market, the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Forum of Sri Lanka Association for Software Services Companies (SLASSCOM) kicked off an ambitious agenda, with the main highlight being a programme to mentor and uplift local start-ups.
“Sri Lanka has immense talent and creativity – there are so many innovators out there, but not all of them become entrepreneurs – that’s the gap we are trying to bridge,” says Entrepreneurship and Innovation Forum Board Lead and Board Member Anura De Alwis.
He notes: “There are a lot of good initiatives out there to support, facilitate and mentor budding start-ups, but most of these are neither continuous nor consistent. We wanted to create sustainability in this support ecosystem that will power start-ups to be enterprises.”
The forum is focused on creating a three-way impact: to build a product based and outward focused industry; to create a society with a conducive environment for peer learning and acknowledgement of failing fast, and to expose start-ups to the international network to become successful enterprises thus contributing to the economy and industry export goal.
The programme will start with 25 start-ups this year, including the six winners of the Oslo Innovation Week Accelerate 2020 who showcased their innovations at the Oslo Innovation Week 2020 Top 100 pitches, six innovators from Cutting Edge 2020 hosted by Informatics Institute of Technology (IIT) and nine from IEEE Innovation Nation Sri Lanka.
“We are assessing them on what they need mentoring on, and then we will assign a mentor for each innovator for a year,” explains De Alwis, highlighting that there are several volunteer mentors helping out with the programme this year.
To make the mentoring programme a sustainable one, the forum is keen on operationalizing the system, having paid mentors and streamlining the mentoring mechanism from next year onwards.
Headed by De Alwis, the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Forum is powered by a promising team of professionals with experience and expertise in innovation, entrepreneurship and start-ups: Mr. Priyantha Bethmage, Ms. Charindra Wijemanne, Mr. Suren Nanayakkara, Ms. Romani Rupasinghe, Mr. Chathuranga Manamendra, Mr. Rajitha Kuruppumulle, Mr. Uditha Wijesundara, Ms. Achini Meekanda Wattage, Dr. Windhya Rankothge, Mr. Upendra Peiris and Mr. Sisira Kumara.
“Our team is made up of people with the right attitude and mindset to foster the start-up ecosystem,” avers De Alwis, “their experience and toughness in being successful enterprising professionals and their capability of mentoring make them a force to be reckoned with. The team has a good balance of gender, specialization, exposure as well as industry experience including e-commerce, learning & development, software & solutions, media, cloud computing, smart products, iOT and stock brokerage to name some.
The Entrepreneurship and Innovation Forum is driven by four key strategies: foster and nurture start-ups to become successful at international level; strengthen and create a cohesive ecosystem to support the start-up lifecycle; position Sri Lanka as a high skilled, low risk trial hub, and transform young disruptors to become successful entrepreneurs. To achieve these, it will collaboratively work with all of SLASSCOM’s forums at national and regional level, to ensure that the mechanism of Start Up Sri Lanka is smooth functioning.
With its work on schedule, the forum is also focusing on several key activities for the months leading to December, including the launch of the Start Up Sri Lanka website, as well as the assessments for innovators coming in from Cutting Edge 2020 and IEEE Innovation Nation Sri Lanka.
“By June 2021, we want to fully operationalize Start Up Sri Lanka which will be the accelerator to kick off Sri Lanka’s start-up ecosystem,.” concluded De Alwis.