Colombo Hackathon – The startup scene in Sri Lanka!

It’s probably a bit too late to write about this because its been more than three weeks since it happend. However something like this cannot skip my blog specially because I was one of the organizers of the event. Since we (I and Chandika) came back from Startup Weekend we have been wanting to do something similar here in Sri Lanka and the first choice was naturally a Startup Weekend. However due to many constraints we weren’t able to pull it off. One of the key reasons being the financial requirement the event had on the participants. We were not sure yet if the local tech/startup community would fancy a expensive ticket to a event of this nature. When Sanath came up with the idea to do a similar event, we all gathered up for a discussion, myself, ChandikaJeevan and Sanath and followed the birth of Colombo Hackathon.

We didn’t have much time till the event and there was much to be done. However thanks for the resourceful team that came together, we were able to get everything organized in time without having to put in much effort. Special thanks to Jeevan for providing the venue and other required arrangements. When we put out the registration form we were taken by surprise to see the number of signups that occurred during the first two days. We had hit the quota of 50 by the second day. We kept the form open and by the second week there were close to 190 registrations. We had to limit the invites to 125 due to resource limitations. On the event we had close to 80 show up and around 75 participate. During the initial pitching session there were 29 ideas that came up. 14 ideas were selected to work on during the two days. 13 ideas continued to work and produce working demos. 4 pitches won and turned home as startups! It was magic to see the kind of energy and enthusiasm that went around in the room. During the initial pitches, even-though they had never planned for it, some walked up to the front to talk about their ideas – driven by the energy in the room. This is exactly what we wanted to see and this is exactly why we did Colombo Hackathon. All in all it was a massive success and we sure plan to do it again soon!

Coming back to that, why did we do this? It’s simply because we are those geeky startup guys. We love to see ideas form and come to life. We’d love to see a startup community form in Sri Lanka and we want to see a (tiny as it may be) silicon valley in this lovely island. For the past few years myself and Chandika and many others have had this discussion. Why are there not many startups in Sri Lanka? Us being a startup that created a world renowned product, we badly needed that here. We wanted to create that here and I am glad we did this! Thanks to the inspiration from Startup Weekend India and also Venture Engine which has greatly supported this. Here is an interesting article about why startups are important.

Amidst all the excitement and energy it was sad to see quite some negativity going around. It was all mostly about the worry of one’s idea being stolen and why would one talk about it in public. There was even a blog post referencing the Winklevoss twins as an example incident of a stolen idea. Taking startup advice from one who’s only startup experience was the movie “Social Network” is like taking parental advice from Britney Spears. I get it, Facebook is what everyone knows and thats what they talk about.  Ok so lets talk about Facebook then? how authentic and unique is the idea? It’s been done a 100 times before, some quite exactly the same as Facebook. But how did Facebook become so big? A startup is not about just an idea. Ideas form every other minute. Startups are about the people! If anyone other than Mark Zuckerburg had done Facebook, it would have never gotten to where it is now and thats the fact. For a startup to be successful it takes a lot… the confidence and motivation to stand up every time you fall, relentless hard work and decisive execution, sticking around with the right people and connections and letting the wrong ones go… and lots more. If you did come to the Colombo Hackathon, you’ll know. I am very happy and excited that we were able to inspire at least eight different teams to continue executing their ideas into real businesses. Until the next Colombo Hackathon… Adios!

Startups Rock!

Colombo Hackathon Facebook Page –
Colombo Hackathon Twitter –!/cmbhack