TechWire

Tag - Entrepreneurship

iHelmet වෙනුවෙන් ගනිඳු හට ඇමරිකානු ඩොලර් 500,000ක ජයක්!

ගනිඳු නානායක්කාර යනු නව නිර්මාණ ශිල්පියෙකු සහ මෘදුකාංග ඉංජිනේරුවරයෙකි. SLIIT ආයතනයේ ඉගෙනුම ලබා ඇති මහු ආදි ආනන්දීයයෙකු ද වේ. මෙම වසරේ Verizon ආයතනය මගින් පැවැත්වූ Powerful Answers තරඟයේ ප්‍රවාහන අංශයේ දෙවන ස්ථානය ලබාගැනීමට ගනිඳුගේ iHelmet නිර්මාණයට හැකිවූ අතර, ඔහුට හිමිවූ ජයග්‍රාහී ත්‍යාග මුදල ඇමරිකානු ඩොලර් 500,000ක් විය.

Powerful Answers යනු Verizon ආයතනය විසින් සංවිධානය කරනු ලබන තරඟාවලියකි. මෙය ප්‍රධාන අංශ තුනක් (Transportation, Emergency Response සහ Internet of Things) යටතේ පැවැත්වෙන අතර එක් අංශයකින් ජයග්‍රාහකයින් 4 දෙනෙක් තෝරාගනු ලැබේ. ප්‍රථමයාට ඇමරිකානු ඩොලර් 1,000,000ක් ද, දෙවැනියාට ඇමරිකානු ඩොලර් 500,000ක් ද, ඉතිරි දෙදෙනාට ඇමරිකානු ඩොලර් 250,000 බැගින් ද ත්‍යාග මුදල් හිමිවේ. මෙවර මෙම තරඟය සඳහා 1,400කට අධික තරඟකරුවන් සහභාගී වූ අතර අවසන් සම්මාන ප්‍රදානය පසුගිය දෙසැම්බර් 9 වන දා සැන් ෆ්‍රැන්සිස්කෝ නුවරදී පැවැත්වුණි.

iHelmet (intelligentHelmet) සතුව විශේෂාංග ගණනාවක් ඇත. මෙම විශේෂිත හිස්වැස්ම පාලනය කිරීමට ගනිඳු ඉදිරිපත් කරන්නේ Android අයදුමකි. හිස්වැස්මේ ඇති උපාංගය නිරතුරුව සංවේදනය කරගන්නා දත්ත ජංගම දුරකථනයට සම්ප්‍රේෂණය වන්නේ බ්ලූටූත් සංඥා ඇසුරෙනි. ඊට අමතරව හුරුබුහුටි දුරස්ථ-පාලකයක් ද මේ සමග ලැබෙන අතර ස්මාට්ෆෝන් භාවිතය නුපුරුදු අයට එය පහසුවක් වනු ඇත. iPhone පරිශීලකයින් හට ද iHelmet භාවිත කිරීමේ පහසුකම නුදුරු දිනෙකම හඳුන්වාදෙනු ඇතැයි අපි උදක්ම අපේක්‍ෂා කරමු.

iHelmet

සේයාරුව: http://recode.net

මේ උපකරණය හා Android අයදුම සමඟ හිස්වැස්මක මිල $115ක් පමණ වන අතර උපකරණය හා Android අයදුම පමණක් $75ක මුදලකට අලෙවි කිරීමට නියමිතයි.
යතුරුපැදි අනතුරු වලින් නිමක් නැති රටක් වන අපට මෙය ඉතාමත් ප්‍රයෝජනවත් උපාංගයක් වනු ඇත. මෙවන් නව නිර්මාණ ශ්‍රී ලංකාව කොතෙකුත් බිහිවුවද අපගේ අවාසනාවට මෙන් එයින් වෙළඳපලට එක්වන්නේ ඉතාම අතළොස්සකි. මෙයට විවිධ හේතු තිබුණද, රජය සහ මහජනයා මෙම නිමැවුම් වෙත යොමන අඩු අවධානය එයට ප්‍රධාන හේතුවකි. TechWire අපගේ පැතුම කිසියම් අනුග්‍රාහක භවතෙකුගේ මැදිහත්වීමකින් මෙම ප්‍රයෝජනවත් හිස්වැස්ම, සාමාන්‍ය ජනයාට ආර්ථිකමයව පහසුදායක අයුරකින්, වෙළඳ භාණ්ඩයක් ලෙස ඉක්මණින්ම අප අතරට පැමිණේවා කියා ය.

Powerful Answers Awards 2015 තරඟයේ ජයග්‍රාහකයන් පහත පරිදිය.

$1,000,000 – Bounce Imaging

$500,000 – EmergenSee®

$250,000 – Disaster Mesh, Lifeguard Drone

$1,000,000 – Zizmos Technology

$500,000 – CityTaps

$250,000 – Owlet, Smart Barn

$1,000,000 – Pogo

$500,000 – iHelmet

$250,000 – i4drive, Swiftmile

What does it cost to run a startup?

In this day and age, the advancement of communication and the internet have opened up a large number of  business opportunities for startups. You tend to hear the success stories of the startups with their break though product and then selling them for an insane amount of money to the big giants like Google, Amazon and Apple. In the backdrop of the successful startups are a lot of failed startups as well which for obvious reasons, we do not hear about. Even though there is a high rate of failure, the chance to make a life changing product as well as being able to work for yourself has made starting a startup still very tempting.

Of course there is the cost involved with putting up a startup, and the guys and Staff.com have put up an infographic displaying what it would cost in various parts of the world. The value will be about $40,000 to $50,000 in Sri Lanka which is comparatively low. However since the market in Sri Lanka is low, it is advised to target a foreign market for your product. Infographic credits to Staff.com

Cost_For_Startup

Idea Bash 2014 – Live

Welcome to the live blog of Idea Bash 2014

Venture Engine – Ideamart Startup Competition 2014

Over the past couple of years Ideamart, the developer platform powered by Dialog Axiata, has enabled the creation of thousands of apps, by hundreds of developers and content providers. Most of these apps are SMS and USSD based apps using telco APIs exposed by Dialog. Developers who have utilized this platform successfully are getting good returns and has resulted in the emergence of several entrepreneurs.

With aims of taking these entrepreneurs to the next level, Ideamart has partnered with Venture Engine to bring Venture Engine – Ideamart Startup Competion. This competition will provide developers with high potential Ideamart apps a chance to obtain funding to transform that idea to a successful startup. This is a valuable rare opportunity, and hopefully the developer community will take full advantage of it. Ideas should be submitted by the 20th of April. No time to lose!!

For more information on the competition click here.

To learn more about Ideamart, visit www.ideamart.lk

Venture Engine Ideamart

An interview with the founders of Arangaya Apps

Note from the Editor:  Arangaya Apps is a Mobile Application Development company which was founded in 2009 by 2 Sri Lankans, Chamira Fernando and Shenal Murray. During these few years Arangaya Apps has become one of the leading iOS app developers in the Sri Lankan market and are the creators of popular apps such as SL Radio, SL Paper, SL Dictionary, iSinglish, and SL Chat.

We got a chance to have an interesting chat with the founders on their journey, their motivation and the future plans of Arangaya Apps.

What is Arangaya Apps? What is the objective behind it?

Well this is how it started. Since I was away from home (Sri Lanka) I wanted to keep in touch with Sri Lanka all the time. I wanted to read local newspapers, to listen to local radio. So when I got my iPhone, I thought of doing a SL newspaper app in order to read the local paper. Then I wanted others to read newspaper on their own devices. So in 2010 I thought of doing the SL paper app for all Sri Lankans. That’s how we started, to enable Sri Lankans to know what’s happening at home. That’s the whole intention, because I know personally that being away from home is not easy and being in touch helps a lot.

SL Paper

After that we released SLRadio which became a big hit in the iOS market. Once that happens, you know once you do thing right other ideas would also start to work out. Then we thought of doing SL Dictionary followed by iSinglish which is a phonetic Sinhala editor. Recently we launched SL chat, for users to chat in Sinhala.

Who are the people behind Arangaya Apps?

At the moment there is, Myself (Chamira), and Shenal. I (Chamira) work on the iOS development. Shenal is our creative designer.

Arangaya Founders

How did you guys get together to form Arangaya Apps? What motivated you to take it forward?

Actually at that time I studied is Singapore and Shenal was also in Singapore. We met in one of the social events for Sri Lankans. Shenal is good designer and a really humble guy, so I asked him whether he wants to join with me on this task, and he agreed.

One day, we met up at McDonalds and decided that we are going to work on this common objective. We all are having full time jobs, so this started as a kind of a hobby, something to do when you have free time. However with time it gradually turned out to be much more.

It was quite pleasing when we received good feedback from users for our initial apps like SL Radio. That plus the fact that our apps were at to the top in the Apple app store really motivated us.

Where did the name Arangaya originate from?

Arangaya is actually an endemic bird to Sri Lanka. We wanted to have a name that would be unique and related to Sri Lanka. Arangaya also sounds good for a company name.

What is your flagship product?

Definitely it’s the SLRadio app. You can check the number of downloads, we have over 150,000+ downloads. We are pretty happy and proud of that product. None of the other SL apps have this many downloads.

SL Radio

How do you run your organization?

Communication is a bit of hassle, but Shenal sleeps in odd hours so communicating with him is not a problem. However with so many communication mediums available nowadays, we somehow manage. I (Chamira) take the role of the Project Manager and take the responsibility on driving the project.

At Arangaya apps, we give a lot of emphasis on the design quality of the app.

Design prospective is one of our main concerns. We have seen some Sri Lankan apps in the appstore lacking a good designs. We make sure our apps are high quality in terms of the design and ultimate user experience.

How do you manage to put time in to Arangaya while working full time?

Actually I work for another app development company in Norway. After work there is some free time. However when I was in Singapore it was really tough, but when you have the motivation you can do thing even when it gets difficult. Due to this we don’t go out much. That is a sacrifice we have to make at these initial stages.

How many iOS/Android apps do you have?

In iOS we have 15 apps. And some of the apps are not in the store right now since they are seasonal. Like the one we did for the T20 cup, for ball by ball commentary. We currently do not have any Android apps, but they are in the pipeline.

Arangaya Products

What is your revenue model? Is Arangaya Apps still a hobby?

It is a business now. Revenue is mainly from downloads and mobile advertisements. SL Radio has ads on it, and we get revenue from that. There are advertisement free premium versions of some of our applications which brings revenue per download. SL Radio and SL Dictionary are the main apps that bring us money.

Do you develop apps for 3rd Party clients? Will that be your future target?

We have done apps for 3rd parties in Norway and Singapore. We want to do products for Sri Lanka and we want to have a development company in Sri Lanka soon. By the time we move back to Sri Lanka we would have our own company.

Although we will put some time for 3rd Party Apps, we want to make the full package of apps for Sri Lankans. So we will continue to create great apps for Sri Lankans.

Are you looking at making apps for the world market?

Yes we have a plan to go Global. Currently we have apps for the Norwegian market. We want to expand our products to markets in US, UK, Japan and Australia where there is a huge potential.

grammar_police

Is your team hiring?

Yes, if there are any young developers or designers, who want to excel in this area, and if you have the right attitude and willing to work hard, contact us on support@arangaya.com . You have a chance to do cool stuff and be part of something Special.

What is your message to budding entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka?

We will summarise our message to young entrepreneurs in three words!

Passion –  In order to succeed in your career you must have deep passion! Passion is your energy, It drives you where you want to be. Find your passion!

Confidence – The whole would against you and your ideas, they think you are crazy and unrealistic but trust yourself have confidence on what you do!

Commitment – Having passion and confidence wouldn’t take you where you want to be! It is ultimate commitment which would take you where you want to be.  Give your full commitment! Its not easy! There would be so many occasions you feel like giving up. Never ever give up! Your hard work will be paid off.

“Arangaya Apps”  is a result of Passion, Confidence and Commitment!

MIT – GLOBAL STARTUP LABS 2013 – SRI LANKA

For the 3rd consecutive year Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Global startup labs (Formally known as AITI) successfully carried out their annual student entrepreneurship program which spanned for 7 weeks in corporation with the University of Moratuwa – Sri Lanka. This is a program to assist cultivating the next generation of entrepreneurs in emerging regions.

During these seven weeks, 24 Sri Lankan top undergraduates were teamed as five companies to develop startups based on a mobile or web application with careful guidance of four MIT instructors AkankshaAmber, Dhaval, Valerie, industry professionals and mentors in Sri Lanka as well as alumni of previous GSL classes. Program curriculum consisted of not only technical coding but touching every crucial subject and skill areas essential for these budding entrepreneurs from market research and business law to finance and presentation skills.

There were industry visits where these students had the opportunity to meet the innovative brains behind the successful startups such as Millennium IT and Anything.lk. Furthermore the students participated in a weekend long hackathon sponsored by Google – Sri Lanka. Also they pitched their products twice before Launch Day to investors and consultants.

Marking the end of this year’s program, the ‘Launch Day – the culminating event’ was held last week (1st August 2013) at The Kingsbury- Colombo with a gathering of industry professionals, and leading entrepreneurs.

It was a four hour event auspiciously commenced with lighting of the oil lamp by the honored guests followed by welcome note by Amber Houghstow – MIT.

MIT_Startup_Labs1

Opening key note was given by Dr. Harsha de Silva – Consultant Lead Economist mentioning the value of this program to Sri Lanka.

MIT_Startup_Labs2

All five startups were presented to the audience with a judging panel comprised of 8 industry professionals.

  • Rohan Jayaweera, Sri Lanka Country consultant, Google Asia
  • Udena Wickremaesooriya, Member board of Brandix
  • Anthony Rodrigo, Group CIO, Dialog
  • Prabath Gamage, GM, Product Development and Customer Solutions
  • Prajeeth Balasubramaniam, Founding partner at Lankan Angel Network
  • Dumindra Ratnayake, CEO, Etisalat
  • Nissanka Weerasekera, Partner, Aureos Capital
  • Kasturi Wilson, MD at Hemas Holdings PLC

Team presentations were highly professional and the manner the students presented them was extremely amazing.

Refreshment and networking break was carried out where the gathering was given the opportunity to see live demos of the products and to meet these budding entrepreneurs personally. In the meantime, the gathering was requested to vote for the audience choice award by filling an online form.

Then the session commenced with a speech from Professor Ananda Jayawardhana – Vice Chancellor University of Moratuwa, followed by a few tokens of appreciation to the MIT Team.

Madu Ratnayake – Director & Vice Chairman of SLASSCOM, addressed the gathering on GSL – path ahead in Sri Lanka emphasizing how the Sri Lankan community has been teamed up to take this initiative forward in upcoming years

The most awaited moment, the ‘Awards and Recognition’ session started with SLASSCOM entrepreneur awards presented as follows by Madu Ratnayake

2nd Runners up – Team WhiteRay for product Careless Droid

1st Runners up -Team BeeHex for product ClicknPick

The Winner – Team HawkEYE for product youth-Jobs.lk

There were three more awards from the launch day co-sponsors Dialog, Etisalat and Mobitel as follows

Dialog Technical Innovation award – Team WhiteRay for product Careless Droid

Mobitel Audience Choice Award – Team WhiteRay for product Careless Droid

Etisalat Social Impact Award – Team HawkEYE for product youth-Jobs.lk

That concluded the MIT GSL 2013 launch day and it is the day these students launch into becoming entrepreneurs. Congratulations to the winners of the MIT GSL 2013 and wish you all the best for all five teams for a successful business in the future.

Do take a look at the new startups and their respective projects  for MIT GSL – Sri Lanka 2013 which are listed below.

VMart.lk by team AquaVision

VMart is a new online platform where any budding entrepreneur can easily set up an online business within 5 to 10 minutes. In that time, any interested seller can sign up, create their own profile, customize and personalize their storefront, upload their first product images and descriptions, and begin receiving online orders.

ClicknPick by team BeeHex Technologies

With the array of its remarkable features of referrals, profile building and gamification ClickNPick is a web application with an Android mobile component which provides a two-way platform for the tutors and students. Tutors can post their expertise whilst interested parents or students can view these details and together with the review/rating scheme, can easily select the best suited for their needs and locations.

For more information please visit www.clicknpick.lk

Modarue by team Zkylark

With ModaRue, the user can find all the new exclusive fashion releases and offers, they can get style recommendations according to their style preferences and also reserve items for a time period until they visit a particular shop. ModaRue also has a designer corner where fashion designers have their own profiles and can reveal their unique talents.

For more information please visit www. modarue.com

CarelessDroid by team WhiteRAY

Phone misplacement and theft has become a growing issue in the society. WhiteRAY solves this problem with “CarelessDROID”: an Android application which allows you to connect to your phone via SMS. It doesn’t require Wi-Fi or internet connection. The phone owner can send an SMS from any other phone to recover their data or facilitate phone finding.

For more information please visit Google Play Carelessdroid 

YouthJobs.lk by team HawkEYE

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Meetup with Bhasha CEO : Dhanika Perera

 Techwire had the privilege of meeting up with founder and CEO of Bhasha, Dhanika Perera at their recently opened office in Kalutara.  We were able to discuss on his company, their innovative products, and his journey on the entrepreneurship path.

Tell us about Bhasha?

Bhasha Lanka (Pvt) Ltd can be introduced as a Sri Lankan based software development company dedicated for local language software solutions. It was founded by myself in 2011 as a virtual company with no physical office. But today we are a reputed company with number of award-winning products and potential client base.

The story of Bhasha begins when I was in the University. I developed a Sinhala/Tamil supported mobile web browser for my university 3rd year project, innovating a new technology to render complex scripts on mobile screens. It was awarded the mBillionth South Asian award and due to that the demand was coming from the industry Telcos. They wanted to launch it as a product for their subscribers & that’s where I decided to found a startup to do the deal. Actually, that award was the turning point.

Then I started a virtual company just me being the only employee working from home using my laptop. Later three of my colleagues also joined, they are now the directors of the company at the moment. We’ve developed number of innovative products in local language area. We’ve won several awards globally & nationally; The South Asian award in 2011, Four e-Swabhimani Awards in both 2011 and 2012 and National Best Quality Software award in 2012. The recognition gained from those awards has really helped us to boost the company where it is now today.

Bhasha Office

After two years later from its inception, we are in a brand new office with many products in our product suit and a decent client base. Now we are in the process of hiring the best people to work at Bhasha. As an entrepreneur, I think this is the real beginning of the company. Path to success from here is not coming in any map, so I’m hoping to find it in my own way!

When you had an opportunity to get a good job at a decent pay, why did you throw that away?

I’m really passionate about the area that we are working on since the school age. For example, I did a Sinhala based biological encyclopedia for human anatomy as my A/L project. That passion has encouraged me to do something new in that area. I choose to work on my passion in my way as there was no company dedicated to work in this area.

Dhanika

Also, I consider myself as a multi-skilled person. I’m a good developer, designer, speaker, leader, voice over artist, localization professional and technical translator. If I joined a company, I could have become a software engineer; limiting my talents to a certain area only.

The other reason why many find it difficult to make this decision is because of the risk of failing. In my case, even before I pass out from the university I was already working in the area and had products and links with the industry. So, I was fairly confident this would work.

But I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve also selected to work in a company and even signed the contracts just few months before I pass out. When all of the 100 students in CSE making their decisions to be employees in reputed companies, I also decided that I’m going to work in a company for full time and work for Bhasha for part time. Soon, I realized that if I go in that path, I would not do any of those properly. Today, I think it was a weak decision which I’ve managed to correct before it went wrong.

 

What are your products, in which domain and what is the client base?

We do have both B2C products & B2B products.

Our flagship product is SETT browser for Android. It was the first and only mobile web browser that can used to view Sinhala and Tamil web sites on Android mobile devices. SETT browser is free for users of Dialog and Etisalat and we are working with Mobitel also. Sri Lankans outside of Sri Lanka can use the SETT browser freely with ad support.

SETT browser is also available for Indic languages like Hindi, Bengali, Marti and Gujarati as well. SETT was the first browser to support even Hindi at that time. We have won three awards for SETT.

SETT browser

We also have an award-winning web product called SETTdeco which provides device independent rendering service for Sinhala and Tamil. It enables any user to read Sinhala and Tamil Unicode web contents without depending on user’s language support. Our first client for that was BBC Sinhala web site. Ada Derana and some other local sites also use the same facility. But we have given it for free for Sinhala bloggers for non-commercial purposes as we always promotes the local language use in IT.

We mainly focus on local language products on mobile platforms. Bhasha is the proud owner of the one and only Mobile Sinhala soft-keyboard for Android devices which won e-Swabhimani award in 2012. Another product, Bhasha Puvath is a Sri Lankan news aggregator from news sources from multiple local language news sources. Bhasha Dictionary is an English to Sinhala & vice versa dictionary we developed in collaboration with LTRL of UCSC. Bhasha Puvath & Bhasha Dictionary is available in both Android iPhone platforms. We will soon make available them for Windows Phone platform also. Bhasha Viyunu is a blog reader for local languages. Vishwa Facebook is a Facebook client for Android which support local languages. All these products are ad-supported and given free of charge for users.

Awards

In B2B product line, we specialize many industry areas. Mobile browsing, News Media, Mobile banking, m-Commerce, Location tracking, Image sharing & Augmented Reality are the main. Some of our key clients for our B2B products are Etisalat, Dialog, Derana, Hiru, Ceylinco Insurance & Union Bank. In all these products, local language support is available by default. It’s our vision to make sure that we support the user’s right to work with the local languages that they use.

What is the potential that you see in the domain of operation? local language and Mobile as a whole?

According to the stats, there are 20million mobile phones in the country for the 20million people living in this country. Although we have a record high literacy rate in South Asia over 90%, the English literacy rate is about 10% of the total population. You might not be able to understand this reality because of your neighborhood; may be your society is inclined to English as a trend. But there are 18million Sri Lankans who would be comfortable in using their native language as opposed to English. When technology moves fast, we see a huge potential in bridging the 90% of the population with the web and latest services through local language support. It can drastically improve the service reception to the population otherwise unreached. It can improve data usage by which Telcos get a huge benefit from.

 

In the new technology businesses, engineers have become successful entrepreneurs especially in western countries. Do you see the same trend in Sri Lanka as well?

 

If you take many well established IT companies, founders are mostly coming from the technology or engineering background. But, since Sri Lanka is lacking the entrepreneurship culture, it’s hard to see newcomers join this list of names. So what we don’t see is a trend as in other countries. Everyone is hoping to do a job; they don’t imagine anything beyond that. Even when I took this decision, I had pressure from my family. They were asking “why don’t you go for a job for a year to take the experience before you start the job”. It’s true that everybody can’t be an entrepreneur. But it’s sad to see that there are not enough attempts from the young techies.

Dhanika

Who helped you during the inception?

My family and my girlfriend helped me a lot backing my decision after I started to work in Bhasha fulltime. My colleagues Chamika Weerasinghe, Ganindu Prabhashana and Punsiru Alwis always help me being the first employees of Bhasha and now being the directors. I had the best support from the department of Computer Science & Engineering of University of Moratuwa completing my engineering degree while creating Bhasha. I would like to mention Mrs. Vishaka Nanayakkara, Dr. Shahani Weerawarana, Prof. Gihan Dias and Dr. Chandana Gamage for their support.

I also really respect Mr. Duminda Rathnayaka the CEO of Etisalat, who saw the potential of SETT long before anybody else. Without his input, Bhasha might not come this far. Mr. Harsha Purasingha of Microimage is also one of my entrepreneurial mentors. I would like to thank for the great support from all industry leaders who are today our clients for keeping trust on me as a young entrepreneur.

Dhanika

I would like to thank the government and the ICTA about their tremendous support for tech startups. It was varying from the awards to the consolation to funding opportunities through ICTA Spiralation program.

 

There are 100 graduates coming out each year from the Computer Science & Engineering. In your batch, how many of your batch mates have started a company?

Only myself.

 

Isn’t that something strange? Is this something that we can afford as a nation?

I think it is due the non-entrepreneurial culture we have. Everyone is looking for a job as soon as they get some educational qualification. Many don’t even think that there are options out there other than going for a job. Even the society and traditional industries do not have a good picture on their mind on young entrepreneurs. This is something we have to correct from everyone’s attitudes. In my opinion at least we as undergraduates should try to be job makers in the country, but not job seekers.

Dhanika

My message to these budding entrepreneurs is to follow your passion and back yourself to succeed as an entrepreneur. You may have to work twice as hard (than a job) at the beginning but the rewards you would get down the line would be tenfold or more.

Learn Startup Engineering Online….from Stanford!

How many of us so badly want to get away from that routine job and work on our cool startup idea? But still, how many of us shy away from the whole deal as we feel we are strangers in the world of startups and have no clue where to begin?

The newest course offered by Stanford University might be the one that may change your life. Startup Engineering aims to guide you through the process of building and scaling a startup from the ground up.

Startup Engineering is a 10 week course focusing 50% on technology and 50% on the philosophy behind startups. Besides from the usual video lectures and course notes, the students are required to complete weekly programming assignments and finish the final project – a crowdfunding site based on bitcoin and SelfStarter. Lectures are conducted by Balaji S. Srinivasan and Vijay S. Pande from Stanford University. About 100,000 students have already registered and the forums are filled with energy and enthusiasm from all over the world.

The course is available for free on Coursera. It just started (on 17th of June) and you can join within the coming days to make sure you aren’t missed out.

Visit the course home page: http://online.stanford.edu/course/startup-engineering

Internet Entrepreneurship Forum – Rotaract Club of USJP

Event: Internet Entrepreneurship Forum

Organizers: The Rotaract Club of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura in collaboration with the Department of Entrepreneurship USJP

Date & Venue: 11th June 2013 @ Fayol Hall University of Sri Jayewardenepura

Sponsors: sl2college.org

This forum was organized with the aim for the cultivation of the entrepreneurship among undergraduates of USJP; making some of them budding entrepreneurs of tomorrow. 3 of the most significant characters in the field of internet based business presented their experiences and ideas in an interactive fashion.

Mr. Rohan Jayaweea, Country Consultant, Google Inc.

Mr. Reeza Zarook, CEO, Anything.lk

Mr. Indi Samarajiva, Founder of YAMU and Kottu blog syndicator

7 Problems to overcome and 7 things to think about – by Rohan Jayaweera

Rohan is also an entrepreneur himself, disclosed some of the difficulties that he has faced and mistakes that others can also learn from. Here is a summary of his session.

7 Problems to overcome

7 obstacles to overcome

7 Factors to think about

7 factors to think about

Final Quote:

Final Quote

Entrepreneurship as a voyage finding new territories – Indi Samarajeewa

Indi introduced himself as a business owner who does not make much money out of those businesses at the moment. His experience in the field as an entrepreneur was highlighted in this session. Here is a summary of his session.

Entrepreneurship as a voyage

How to Start a Startup ?- Reeza Zarook

Reeza is a Charted Accountant by profession, a man “who knows his numbers” did an inspiring and very interactive session taking everyone’s attention throughout the session. Here is a summary of his session.

How to start a starup

 

Below are a few captured moments from the event

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Barriers to Entrepreneurship in the Sri Lanka Software Industry – Part 2

Note from the Author : This post is based on a paper that was presented at the International Research Conference on Management and Finance 2011. I had the privilege of co-authoring this paper with Prof. Gamini de Alwis and Dr. R. Senathirajah from the Faculty of Management and Finance, University of Colombo. The references in this post may seem dated as the research was conducted nearly two years ago. However, the underlying observations and the derived conclusions are still relevant today. 

This article is a continuation from the Part I.

As we showed in Part 1 of this article, the general tendency among Sri Lankan software professionals is to shy away from entrepreneurship. We presented our research findings on how wealth or industry expertise alone, would not influence this mindset. We also discussed how they prefer not risk failure by experimenting in entrepreneurship, and stick to their jobs where they feel comfortable.

A brief note about our data analysis…

In our last post, we explained why wealth, is theoretically considered a positive influence towards entrepreneurship. On the other hand, considering the earning potential, we expected to see a professionals be more reluctant to leave their jobs as they accumulate more and more industry expertise. However, we did not observe either in our research.

Since this was a dead-end, we moved on to scanning our data for interesting patterns. Before, we go in to the details, let’s establish the definitions.

  • Wealth is the total value of the person’s property, savings, etc.
  • Industry Expertise (or the Professional Human Capital) is a measure of the professional’s skills and competencies. The measure includes academic qualifications and the years of experience.
  • Entrepreneurial Intent (EI) is a measure of the desire the professional has in setting up his/her own business within the foreseeable future.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”-Mark Twain

Depending on whether a person scored high or low on each of the 3 variables, we grouped the sample in to 8 segments. We’ll ignore the segments that scored low on EI and concentrate on those who have at least a slight interest towards entrepreneurship.

We also had to leave out the Low Wealth / Low Expertise group as the size of that segment was too small for analysis. So, we ended up looking at the following segments in depth:

  1. Superstars : High wealth, high expertise
  2. Hesitants: Low wealth, high expertise
  3. Fanatics: High wealth, low expertise

entrepreneurship_2_graph

Fanatics group was made up of fresh graduates who came from wealthy backgrounds. We felt that their willingness to get in to business was too premature. We believe that they should remain as professionals until they have the expertise to launch a high tech business with a high growth potential. Premature entrepreneurs are very likely to create unsuccessful ventures. And when those fail, they leave behind a popular belief that Sri Lanka is a hostile environment for tech startups.

Professionals that fell in to the Hesitant category, had both the industry expertise as well as the financial motivation to start a business. Some even felt that there was only a slim potential for further career growth.  Most of them had done some freelance work on the side but, had not taken any concrete steps towards full-time entrepreneurship. From the common patterns emerging from their responses, we believed that these individuals had the most desire to become entrepreneurs. The fear of failure and the lack of financial strength may have been holding them back.

The Superstars, on the other hand, consisted of experienced and top ranking professionals; majority being over 30 years of age. With the high level of industry expertise and the higher tolerance for financial risk, this group had the highest potential to set up high-tech, high growth businesses. Majority of the group, however would consider setting up a business in the next 5 to 10 years. This again, demonstrates that despite being indifferent to the financial risk, they were unwilling face the risk of failure. They would consider entrepreneurship as a retirement plan, not a career choice.

So, what would it take to break this barrier? We’ve established that the possible financial/social consequences of failing are the reasons holding you back from starting a business. So, would you start a business if we give you:

  1. The ability to share your risk?
  2. Peer recognition and validation at the onset of the business?

The result was a near 30% increase across all segments on the likelihood of starting a business. Surprisingly, this increase was even higher (33%) among the low-EI/high-wealth/high-expertise group. We had initially labeled them as the “Carefree” as they seemed to be looking forward to retirement without any interest in complicating their lives with entrepreneurship activity.

The twist in this is that, we didn’t really ask the above question. What we did ask was, whether they’ll set up a business if they can have a co-founder for their startup. Let’s see how this question translates in to the above.

A partnership is an opportunity to share the financial risk of the business. You are no longer the only person liable for the losses. Maybe, your co-founder can bring the capital while you contribute the expertise to the business. Not only that, it may even be possible for the partners to tag-team in running the business so that initially, both can minimize the career risk by staying employed at lease on a part-time basis.

Either way, the “peer recognition” aspect is the most interesting part of the question.

By agreeing to come onboard, a fellow professional is taking an equally risky career choice. In order to accept he/she must evaluate and recognize the validity of your business case. This validation and the sense of social acceptance, is a great motivator for the entrepreneur and adds momentum to the startup effort.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”- Steve Jobs

How do we translate this in to action?

So, sparking entrepreneurship among software professionals isn’t really an expensive problem. It’s not a problem of building infrastructure, setting up seed funds or affecting policy reform. It’s a matter of bringing likeminded people together and nurturing collaboration towards setting up businesses. The obvious challenge is creating an environment of trust, in which they feel confident about sharing ideas and strategies. Existing startup incubators can take the lead on such an initiative as they have the means to support the partnership from the immediate next steps in the process.

Alternatively, a great initiative would be to rally up high wealth / high expertise segments in to Angel Networks. As Angel Investors, these professionals will have the opportunity to gain the benefits of business-ownership, while being able to distribute the risk of failing across several companies and co-owners. Such Angels will motivate Hesitants to take up more responsibility in the operational side of running the business; all of which would speed up the cycle of new businesses getting off the ground.

Crippling emotions

Entrepreneurship

As we’ve found out in this research, we have only ourselves to blame for the lack of entrepreneurship among our software professionals. Yes, ourselves; not the lack of infrastructure, lack of funding, or messy political landscape. The problem and the solution aren’t financial; they are emotional. It’s unreasonable for us to demand that people change and get over their fear of failure and the fear of being criticized for failure. Therefore, we’ve conceptualized a strategy to build emotional support to take this first step, by identifying the critical role a co-founder could play. We hope that what’s presented here, lead to a healthy discussion on enhancing collaboration among workforce segments and eventually lead to a vibrant startup culture.

References and Recommended Reading

[1] Iyigun, M.F. & Owen, A.L., 1999. Entrepreneurs, Professionals, and Growth. Journal of Economic Growth, 4, pp.213-32.

[2] Hurst, E. & Lusardi, A., 2004. Liquidity Constraints, Household Wealth, and Entrepreneurship. Journal of Political Economy, 112(2), pp.319-47.

 

Image credits:

http://www.imasocialentrepreneur.com/

http://georgeessien.com

Barriers to Entrepreneurship in the Sri Lankan Software Industry – Part 1

Note from the Author : This post is based on a paper presented at the International Research Conference on Management and Finance 2011. I had the privilege of co-authoring this paper with Prof. Gamini de Alwis and Dr. R. Senathirajah from the Faculty of Management and Finance, University of Colombo.  This post was written exclusively in the hope that this would be useful to the TechWire.lk readers.

The global Tech Industry has it’s share of success stories of wealthy and powerful companies that grew out of garage-office start-ups. You’ve no doubt heard of the early days of Apple and Microsoft, Facebook’s humble beginnings from Zukerberg’s dorm room, and of the billion dollar cash-ins of Instagram and Tumblr. At a glance, Tech Industry seem to be the best place to be if you are a startup. But, if that’s the case, why does the Sri Lankan tech-startup landscape look so depressingly flat?

Entrepreneurship has always been a hot research topic in Sri Lanka. But, the focus has always been on assisting the unemployed and underprivileged to be self-employed. So, there’s a wealth of research data on low-tech/low-income industries and almost none on high-tech industries. This lack of insight and the burning question highlighted above, lead us to the research that’s presented here.

Why do we need to care about entrepreneurship in the Software Industry?

Entrepreneurship Future

Entrepreneurs and professionals carry out two distinct and vital functions in an economy. Entrepreneurs push the technology boundaries of a nation through product or process innovation. Professionals turn these innovations in to implementations that deliver actual economic benefit. Therefore, the ratio of entrepreneurs to professionals, is a key factor for the growth rate of an economy. When there’s a high percentage of entrepreneurs, the rate of innovation is expected to be high. This generates high demand for professionals which leads to higher salaries that attract more and more people to these professions. The excess supply of professionals causes the salaries to drop, encouraging some professionals to switch to entrepreneurship in search of better income. As the economy would now be consolidating, these new entrepreneurs will be forced to innovate even more aggressively. This cycle will eventually stabilize once the optimum ratio of entrepreneurs to professionals is reached [1].

This is where the IT Outsourcing Industry hurt us the most. We did not innovate locally and allow the cycle to run its course. Instead, we “rented” out our professionals’ to foreign entrepreneurs. Much like the Garment Industry and the Rubber Industry before that, the Software Industry exported professional skills and competencies on a Time and Materials basis. As the supply of professionals kept growing, the industry worked tirelessly to bring more outsourcing jobs. Until the day a cheaper outsourcing destination pops up and steal our jobs, this model is likely to continue.

Professionals vs. Entrepreneurs

Researchers Hurst and Lusardi [2], found that for the general public, a person’s wealth had almost no impact on whether that person desired to become an entrepreneur. However, they found that this was not the case for professionals whose entrepreneurial aspirations increased with wealth. The researchers believed that as professionals became more affluent, they saw “business ownership” as a way to gain flexible work schedules and freedom in decision making. To them business ownership was also a “luxury good” that symbolizes success and power.

This is a very interesting argument. Would the same hold true for Sri Lankan software professionals? If so, we can identify the ideal period in their careers where they’ll be open to setting up their own business. We approached our research from this angle and built a conceptual model based on motivation theories, with a focus on variables such as personal wealth and industry expertise.

Entrepreneurship is an unattractive  career choice

A professional has to face two types of risks when to investing full-time in a business: One is the obvious financial risk; the other is the risk of disrupting his/her professional career growth.

The financial risk is easy to understand and quantify. If the business was to fail, he risks losing the invested capital and the earnings that he/she could have made as a professional. The impact of the career disruption is somewhat indirect. It’s caused by the fact that entrepreneurial skills and professional skills have to be accumulated at the expense of each other. By focusing on business operations as an entrepreneur,  the individual has to give up the opportunity to enhance his/her professional skills and keep abreast with new technology. In a fast evolving high-tech industry, being disconnected for an extended period, could lead to a significant competency gap.

So, imagine that you as a Software Professional, is interested in starting your own business. You are willing to invest some money in to it and dedicate the next five years to make the business a success. You are reasonably wealthy and the possible financial losses are not a major concern for you. Since this is your first venture, you make a backup plan to go back and get a job as a Software Professional, say in five years, if the business keeps losing money and you no longer feel it can succeed.

entrepreneurship23jpg

Here’s where the above competency gap comes in to effect.

The competencies you hold now will be obsolete in five years. When you return to the industry as a professional, you’d have fallen far behind your current peers. This means lower pay and lower status than those who may have worked with you or under you if, you were to take a job under this circumstances. In our analysis, we found that this possible loss of “esteem” was so overbearing in our Software Industry that even when combined with other positive influences towards entrepreneurship, the net effect was still negative.

In a culture that has a low tolerance for failure, it is not difficult see why professionals prefer to stick to the “safety” of their jobs than to venture out and fend for themselves as business owners. Given the earning potential of a software professional, the choice is perhaps a no-brainer.

When we planned our research, we made an effort to confine ourselves to objectively measurable variables. We especially wanted to steer clear of the “cultural effect” which is often the scapegoat for  anything. Sadly, even after a methodical research we found ourselves staring back at this elephant in the room. But then again, we cannot dwell on this aspect; culture is not something we can take upon ourselves to change.

Where do we go from here?

Unsurprisingly, our data showed a genuine disinterest towards entrepreneurship among Sri Lankan software professionals. There was no upward trending curve between entrepreneurship intent and wealth or expertise. Consequently, there’s no threshold on either variable to earmark possible entrepreneurship candidates. And we’ve found evidence that this is not due to lack of skill or financial or political factors, that we could have addressed.

As  the goal of the research was an implementable strategy, we kept looking at other variables we captured during our data gathering. Cross tabulation of this data led us to uncover an interesting trend that could be used to mobilize more professionals in to setting up their own software businesses.

Please stay tuned for the Part 2 of this article for the details.

entrepreneurship

References and Recommended Reading

[1] Iyigun, M.F. & Owen, A.L., 1999. Entrepreneurs, Professionals, and Growth. Journal of Economic Growth, 4, pp.213-32.

[2] Hurst, E. & Lusardi, A., 2004. Liquidity Constraints, Household Wealth, and Entrepreneurship. Journal of Political Economy, 112(2), pp.319-47.

 

Photo credits:

http://img.bhs4.com/a9/d/a9d3eaf892944ce4c774df34ff87a9461620510e_large.jpg

http://kennysilva.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/doubt.jpg

http://nanyate.com/internet-memes/bill-gates-mad-respect-steve-jobs-is-sexy

http://wall.alphacoders.com