Disclaimer: I am a part of the organizing committee for Startup Weekend Jaffna. Written below is my opinion about the event in its genuine and unbiased form. The view expressed in this post is purely based on a culmination of my experience of attending the event in another country and the experience of some of my colleagues and business associates as well.
Greetings and hello everyone. I know there is a lot of buzz happening in Sri Lanka about ‘some’ event called Startup Weekend Jaffna or #SWJ that will take place from the 24th to 27th of June in Jaffna. Many of you have been shooting me emails and voice messages to know more about the prospect of the event, Therefore, I decided to write up a quick blog to answer all your questions.
I plan to cover some of the topics of interest, like, What the event is about, what is the prospect of such an event and who should attend it, how we made it possible in Sri Lanka and some commonly asked doubts that most inquiries have.
Before I dwell further into this blog, I would like to mention just one thing about StartupWeekend that you should know. It doesn’t matter if you are a serial entrepreneur, a budding startup or just an investor look for tie-ups. If you are motivated enough about your product, service or vision, you will easily meld into the crowd at SWJaffna on the next weekend.
What is Startup Weekend All About?
The essence of Startup Weekend is that people with an idea for a startup or individuals who want to collaborate with another startup(s) meet up under one roof over the weekend and work together to get something cooking.
How Did We Make Startup Weekend Happen in Sri Lanka?
Well, this one’s a long-long tale, and it’s impossible for me to write in full details. However, I will ‘rewind-n-relive’ the most valuable minutes of this journey, some of which, have been truly inspiring and life changing.
It was during last year when I was in Malaysia on a business tour that the idea of bringing StartupWeekend to Sri Lanka had struck me. I was attending the CAYE Asia Summit in Malaysia and on the last day the Summit was held at MAGIC Center (Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Center). Call it my luck, or destiny but Startup Weekend was also running parallel in the same building (JACKPOT).
As an startup Entrepreneur, I had always dreamt of attending such an event. StartupWeekend was a dream for me. I wanted to participate in the event after the summit ended and it was the second time I felt lucky that day when #SWM organizing team let us attend the event as a guest from Startup Weekend MaGIC. I just attended #SWM for an hour with one of my colleague Puwaneswaran who also participated CAYE Asia Summit.
I made the best use of my time at the event by indulging in conversation with various Attendees, Malaysian Entrepreneurs, and Members of the Organizing Team. One of the lead organizers introduced me to Lalitha Wemel (Regional Manager, Startup Programs for South East Asia and Oceania). I expressed my desire to bring StartupWeekend to Sri Lanka to Mrs. Lalitha, and she gave me the reference of Anurag Maloo (Regional Manager for South & Central Asia).
When I connected with Mr. Anurag Maloo, he openly expressed his concern about the Sri Lankan scene. Within minutes of discussion I came to know that many “Entrepreneurs” had asked him to get #SW to Sri Lanka, but he had not found anyone motivated enough to bring such a big event to the country. Mr. Anurag told me that most people merely enquired about the event, and when the time came to take action, they were nowhere to be found.
With such a pathetic and frustrating first experience, it was tough to convince him. However, I was hell bent on explaining my vision. I wanted Startup Weekend to come to Sri Lanka. I shared my ideas with Mr. Anurag and explained to him why #SWSL would be a very good idea and how I could help him make it possible. Upon further discussion, his team interviewed me and verified my credentials and gave me a green signal to get the planning started for the event.
Upon receiving the green signal from Anurag Maloo, I immediately summoned my most trusted business associates and friends to tell them about the event – Thavaruban Thangarajah, Chamara Peiris and Robinson Prashanthan. They are not merely business associates or friends for me, they are people I can trust on even with my eyes closed. With them in place, it was in a matter of few hours that I was able to form highly motivated team that was eager to see the event of such great standing, take place in our proud Country.
Note – If you want to check out the list of Speakers at StartupWeekend Jaffna, click here.
Why Did We Decide Jaffna, From all the Other Cities in Sri Lanka?
Upon receiving the green signal from Anurag Maloo, I immediately summoned my most trusted business associates and friends to tell them about the event. These were people I could trust on even with my eyes closed. It was in a matter of few hours that I had formed a highly motivated team that was eager to see the event of such great standing, take place in our proud Country.
After countless hours of brainstorming, we defined Jaffna as the host city for the event, as it is a growing city and it’s rapidly recovering post-war. The reason we never considered Colombo is because already there are lots of Hackathons and Startup Events in this town every year. We did not want to make StartupWeekend a part of any other event and thus considered between Kandy and Jaffna. Now, as Kandy is already marked by SLASSCOM for KandyITBPM, we decided to stick to Jaffna.
Who Should Attend Startup Weekend?
It doesn’t matter if you are looking to kick-start your entrepreneurial journey or co-found another company. And, it doesn’t even matter if you just have an idea. Since you will be sharing your idea with business evangelists from various industries like Technology, Education, Health, Disability, Automobile and more, you can rest assure that you will be receiving mission critical feedback about the highs and lows of your master plan.
My Opinion About Startup Weekend
“The primary reason why most startups ‘CLOSEUP’ is because they fail to scrutinize the bigger picture of their business strategy. Most novice entrepreneurs are too busy looking at the upsides and advantages of their game plan, that they completely overlook or become blind to evident and irrecoverable business potholes. Startup Weekend is like a face-off with the mirror for everyone, rookie or seasoned professionals alike, as we all are learning.
The idea of having to face your own internal junk scares everyone to death. There is lots of talent in Sri Lanka and lots of bright people who can shape the future of our country. But, most of them are too shy to come out of the closet.
People don’t like their ideas being dissected or analyzed. The fear of sharing their next best idea with everyone, or for that matter being made fun off because their idea is not that amusing, is too overwhelming than their desire to create a unique and evergreen product.
For anyone looking to start off their business, or be a part of one, my advice would be to head over to Startup Weekend Jaffna and pitch yourself in front of the crowd, and face your demons. In the end, it won’t matter if you have created an ‘awesome product for an invisible problem.’ It is best to get yourself validated, call BS early and move onto the next idea.
As an Entrepreneur, it is entirely acceptable to make mistakes, but what is not acceptable is to continue doing what you are doing, even when you know you are wrong.”
If you live in Sri Lanka and have an excellent idea for a Startup, or if you want to be a part of an awesome Startup idea, either way, Startup Weekend Jaffna is the place to be. Visit the following link to register yourself for the event – https://asia.explara.com/e/swjaffna
Now for all the people who have approached me saying things like:
“Startup Weekend is a fool’s paradise.” Or “I am not stupid enough to share my idea with a whole bunch of hungry investors and co-founders who will steal my idea…”
Here is my Answer…
Attracting people is not about what you want from them, it’s about what they want that you can provide.
‘Collaboration’ is the heart of Entrepreneurship. Let’s take the example of any successful entrepreneur in the world. Talk about Steve Jobs, who envisioned Apple, Bill Gates behind the success of Microsoft or Zuckerberg, who turned something fun that he made for himself and his fellow students into a powerful and most widely used social platform that needs no introduction. All of them were not afraid to share their idea with the world. They were more focused towards identifying a critical problem, and offering a solution to the problem.
There is no end to the learning curve in an Entrepreneur’s life – It’s dynamic. I keep learn things every single day, most of which I wouldn’t even know if I had not collaborated with others in my industry. my suggestion would be not to worry about your idea being hijacked Instead, focus on sharing and enhancing on the core idea and try to validate its worth by running it through the Startup Weekend Judge’s panel. By the end of the 54 Sleepless hours of non-stop business intelligence and action, I am sure you will have more to take home from the event along with your core idea, even if it is not shortlisted amongst the winners.
You should go for Startup Weekend and share your insights about, a vast and profitable market that maybe lying untapped, a market in which you have identified a model customer, with a unique problem that has not yet been solved, and discuss your solution.
Meet people, go co-founder dating, discuss unique strategies, talk about your team. Let people know that you already have interested investors (if any). Try to explain a conceivable business model along with your customer research. You can also show off a prototype of your product and service and demonstrate some traction if you are already in business.
For people who are just looking to invest in other Startups and build their connections in the industry, Startup Weekend is a unique treat. One of the best parts about #SWJ is that the organizing committee is getting an incredible lineup of advisors and mentors from various industries like marketing, finance, health, technology and more. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a startup idea, you can still visit startup weekend to seek out, possible and lucrative business opportunities and entrepreneurs who want to collaborate with you to extend their idea into a thriving and ever-growing business model.
Startup or Not – You Should Attend #StartupWeekendJaffna
The bottom line is, whether you are an investor, an entrepreneur a college graduate or anything in between, the 54 Hours of #SWJ will be the most memorable and astonishing moments of your life and by the end you will have “a lot” to take away from the event. It is an energizing and refreshing experience.If you want to register for the Startup Weekend that will happen from 24th to 26th of this month in Jaffna, you can visit the following link to book your tickets. Click Here.
Or, have you attended Startup Weekend in any other country? Don’t forget to share your experience about the event in the comments section below. Here is a link to the Frequently Asked Questions Page of Startup Weekend if you have any further doubts.