I visited Sri Lanka for a week in January 2018 in order to understand better the Sri Lankan tech ecosystem with the intention of developing UK Sri Lanka Tech Partnership, where Techcelerate Ventures would deliver a number of services in collaboration with Sri Lankan partners.
The visit included meeting a number of potential partners and holding a tech meet up to engage with the community. Backdrop to this visit was the growth of the Sri Lankan Tech Startups Facebook Group which has reached 3,000 members, the on-coming 20,000 sq. feet of space for tech companies in Colombo and my college reunion.
Discussions with Jeevan Gnanam
The first port of call was to meet up with Jeevan Gnanam, co-founder of Hatch, CEO of Orion City, Co-Founder of CrowdIsland and many other organisations, and also one of the most prolific angel investors in Sri Lanka. We’ve known each other since 2014 when I first spoke at a Tech Event in Sri Lanka. We agreed in principle to collaborate on three important areas, all involving bilateral trade between Sri Lanka and the UK.
- Access to Investment
- Access to Markets
- Access to Talent
The important factor here is that for each of the above, the transactions could flow in both directions, e.g. Sri Lankan High Net Worth (HNW) individuals may invest in UK companies whilst UK investors may invest into Sri Lankan companies, specially when expanding their operations into the UK.
It was also a pleasure to meet with Saman Maldeni from the Sri Lanka Export Development Board at the event.
Meetings with Software Development Companies
I had the pleasure to meet and extend previous relationships with three software development companies, these being Calcey led by Mangala Karunaratne, SoftCodeIT led by Damitha Jayarathna and Ceynocta led by Dhammike Mendis. We explored relationships where Sri Lankan companies fill talent gaps of Manchester based tech companies.
Tech Meetup – Update on Ecosystem
The meetup took the following format:
- Compered by Mazin Hussain, Editor of Readme, shared the story of Readme’s growth over the last 6 years and the importance of ICT to the Sri Lankan economy. My very first Sri Lankan tech event in 2014 was arranged with the help of Readme and OrionCity. It was a pleasure to learn about the success the Readme team has achieved including expanding into other areas including sport.
- Aloka Gunasekara, Programme Manager at StartupX Foundry spoke about the progress the startup ecosystem has achieved including the establishment of StartupX Foundry, which is currently incubating four startups, these being: Maturify, Earn Shark, Tracified and Igniter Space.
- Chalinda Abeykoon, CEO of CrowdIsland spoke about the growth of the investment ecosystem in Sri Lanka. CrowdIsland started as Sri Lanka’s first Crowdfunding platform, but has pivoted to provide a comprehensive solution in investment readiness and investor matching, similar to some of the services Techcelerate Ventures provides.
- Tech Startups pitched included Dulitha Wijewantha of Alakazam, a friendly sidekick that delivers marketing insights to your inbox weekly; Harin de Silva of Verox Labs, inventor of medical equipment; CD Athuraliya of ConscientAI whose team is developing AI technologies similar to Google and others; and Keerti Kodithuwakku of Jendo Innovations, a cardiovascular diagnostic system.
I also managed to live stream most of the event, which may be of interest to those who could not attend.
After the event, I had the pleasure to have long conversations with Harin from Verox Labs and Nithushan Uthayakumar of Blue Lotus 360 at Curve Bar, later joined by Mano Sekaram, CEO of 99X Technology and Co-Founder of StartupX Foundry, Hariharan Padmanaban, the man who knows who’s who in Colombo and Anton Thayalan, CEO of Zeallegiant.
I also had the privilege of trying out Pickme, the local competitor to Uber, who’s CTO is known to me and has visited Manchester previously.
Visit to Vega Factory
I have been a long admirer of Harsha Subasinghe’s electric sports car project and had the privilege to see the progress his team has achieved. Whilst I was not allowed to take pictures, I managed to grab the followings from Harsha’s own collection. When completed, the Vega electric supercar is expected to reach 0 to 60 kmph in 4 seconds with a top range of 240km. It’s a remarkable undertaking by a Sri Lankan.
Some of the others I caught up with include:
- Chamara Peiris, CTO of Yoho Bed, the Airbnb of Sri Lanka. Chamara designed most of the web pages of edocr.com during latter years prior to its acquisition as well as the key graphic on UnifiedVU‘s home page.
- Harsha Purasinghe, CEO of MicroImage. Harsha has been to meet me twice in Manchester and I am looking forward to his next visit. MicroImage is developing a world beating Human Capital Management solution and recently announced the release of ‘Mia’ chat bot.
- Shakya Lahiru Pathmalal, CEO of Takas. I’ve known Lahiru since 2014 and it was a pleasure to learn about the progress Takas has achieved including the importance of developing your own tech stack and raising investment.
This article would not be complete without mentioning the Reunion of Royal College ’87 Group, which was attended by over 200 batch mates who flew from all over the world to celebrate all of us turning 50 years of age in 2018. Without a doubt, it was the best party I’ve attended.