Written by: Sarah Edris
July 5, 2014
Apologies for the late blog post, but things have been pretty busy here
We're coming to the end of week three of six, and teams have progressed quite a bit. A quick intro to GSL Sri Lanka 2014, for those unaware:
This is the fourth year GSL is in Sri Lanka, but the first year the program is being operated over seven months and is open to all students and professionals in the country. Previously, it was only seven weeks, and open to just students from the University of Moratuwa. Because the program is much longer, it's also been split into three phases. Phase one was led by MIT instructors and occurred over January, focusing on team formation and idea generation. Phase two was led by local industry experts and occurred from February to May, focusing on conceptualization, visualization, and initial creation. Phase three is what we're currently in, and teams are focusing on refining, fine tuning, determining funding, and readying for the final demo day at the end of the month when they'll be pitching to investors.
A recap of the first few weeks:
We kicked off the program on June 16th at the University of Colombo School of Computing, introducing outselves and meeting the teams. On the second day of class, participants took part in the Marshmallow Challenge, as a fun way to learn about not only collaboaration and innovation, but also about concepts like "failing fast" and "pivoting" when one method of thinking just isn't working. Participants largely focused on continuing to refining their ideas, and really figuring out what their problem, solution, and customers are.
We stepped things up a few notches, and had participants do elevator pitches to each other, as well as the many guests brought in. Notable guests included Yasas Hewage, founder of SkillSalad, who gave an electric talk titled “Think BIG, Start Small, Scale Fast”, Hasitha Liyange, Chief Architect at Infoshare Ltd who gave practical technical advice to each team, and Hiran Embuldeniya, Director at York Street Partners, who gave them valuable and actionable feedback on validating their proposed business models. Dhanika Perera, founder and CEO of Bhasha and Ruwan Dissanayaka, cofounder and CEO of Extrogene, both successful alumni of GSL 2011 visited and gave participants great advice from the perspective of someone who has gone through the program before. And shout out to Ruwan -- Extrogene just got second runner up at Venture Engine! We love seeing alums succeeding after GSL, and hope that we'll be seeing current participants in the future doing great things.
We focused more on business models and funding, as well as had teams create their initial draft pitch deck. Venture Engine, a pitching competition and incubator program, had their final demo day this week, which lined up perfectly with our own introduction to pitches. Most participants were able to attend the event, which was a good idea of what our own demo day will look like (...happening in just under four weeks! :o). Guests for the week included Sohan Dharmaraja, Founder and Chief Data Scientist at Socialroo (and an MIT grad), and Jeggan Rajendram, Chief Business Development Officer of SocialRoo and cofounder of anything.lk. Together, they gave a well balanced perspective from the tech and business side on entrepreneurship in the tech field.
I think that about sums it up. We have tons more speakers and pitching events planned for the second half of the program, so stay tuned! :)