As over 160 countries marked Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) 2015, a full house of budding and established entrepreneurs in Colombo came together to discuss what it takes to be an entrepreneur at a forum held at the Informatics Institute of Technology last week.
Participants at the Sri Lankan event organised by the Smart Future Forum and Global Shapers Colombo Hub, joined roughly 10 million people around the world in this eighth annual celebration that recognises and supports entrepreneurs from around the world. The event titled ‘Entrepreneurship Is In: But What Does It Take?’ took place recently. Smart Future Founder and economist Anushka Wijesinha stated, “Sri Lanka hasn’t had a GEW event since 2012, so it was great to have a fantastic turnout of over 160 enthusiastic young people. And in the true spirit of the GEW, the session ended with an impromptu mentoring session by some recent start-up founders. These types of events are good for Sri Lanka at a time when the start-up ecosystem is just beginning to emerge.” During one week each November, the GEW inspires people everywhere through local, national and global activities designed to help them explore their potential as self-starters and innovators.
The keynote speaker, Aspyre Group CEO Romeo Effs, who connected via Skype from London, gave the audience an insight into what it meant to have an entrepreneurial mindset and how to ‘create amazing’. Effs, an international business coach and successful entrepreneur, who started his journey in Jamaica, reminded the largely student audience that while entrepreneurship is now seen as glamorous, the fundamentals of business success must be kept in mind.
The two local speakers - Nayana Samaranayake (founder of WorkInSriLanka and Storylize and former Google Software Engineer) and Amrit Rupasinghe (Co-founder of new social news app Buzzbird) joined the panel and spoke about their personal entrepreneurship journeys. They shared insightful lessons and explained the pitfalls and opportunities to look out for.
Samaranayake argued that entrepreneurship opportunities can be found everywhere, by converting problems to solutions - “Look for the pain points in your everyday life, if they are things that others also share, it could be a business opportunity.” Rupasinghe explained to the audience, “I am often asked when I decided to start my own business. You have to begin a start-up when you cannot resist the pull of your idea.”
In an impromptu networking and mentoring session that followed, many of the new entrepreneurs shared lessons and anecdotes with students keen to begin a start-up journey. The speaker session was followed by a screening of the hit movie ‘Crocodile in the Yangtze’, under special arrangement with ‘Endeavor Turkiye’. The movie, which chronicles the rise of Jack Ma and his Chinese e-commerce sensation Alibaba, won ‘Best Film on Innovation and Entrepreneurship’ at the Silicon Valley Film Festival. Shaper of the Colombo Global Shapers Hub and Managing Director of Informatics Holdings Hiran Wickramasinghe added, “It was an excellent session to expose young students to ideas of entrepreneurship - beyond the hype - getting down to basics of what it means to start and run a business. Several IIT students who attended the session said they found it both inspiring and informative.” To find out more about the Smart Future Forum, IIT Sri Lanka and the Global Shapers Colombo Hub please visit their Facebook pages.