6 advices for Sri Lankan tech start-ups (by a Sri Lankan)

Thu, 2014-05-15 21:23

If you are reading this post, chances are that you either stumbled upon this, or you are really an enthusiast in tech start-ups and live in Sri Lanka.

If it's the latter, I sincerely do hope you have had at least a little experience in a start-up company. Being a freelance developer, I could take part in several tech start-ups. Besides, I have taken part in some of the Hackathons in Sri Lanka, and have also witnessed many other overly used "companies" rise and fall.

I think speaking out some of my thoughts would help enthusiasts who haven't started up anything just yet, but they dream to be the next Zuck, Steve Jobs, Gates or any famous entrepreneur

1. Be an enthusiast first

1. Note in my above introductory part, I emphasized enthusiast and entrepreneur words. It's unlikely that people will find your start-up interesting enough if you are not really interested in it. If you don't love music industry, don't start the next big music streaming service. Whatever you do, grow an enthusiasm around it first. That keeps you entertained and happy no matter how you end up.

In a Hackathon in 2012, the first thing I realized was that there were many pitched ideas which I pretty sure that the entrepreneur wasn't really an enthusiast first. I don't want to mention the initiatives by names, but most of them were impractical and nobody had the interest in the subject itself. They just wanted to develop something that are dead simple and had a clear way to earn out of it.

2. Don't focus on earning first

Don't focus how you earn from or how much you can earn. You definitely need have a sensible budget, include tiny costs and be prepared to jaw-dropping charges as well. Unfortunate case is that you can't cover all those costs in your first month or worse yet, the first year either. Be creative about how you plan to earn and how you can defeat the rivals. Remember that you are not going to start somewhere middle in the track. Advertising and monthly subscriptions are used everywhere. You need to be creative about that as well.

Develop something awesome first. People only pay for what they get; not what you put in.

3. Don't reinvent the Sinhalese or Sri Lankan version of the wheel

If you have developed something already, look what you have done already and compare it with competitors. I wouldn't call you an entrepreneur if you created a simpler version of a popular web service, a web site with everything, in the our mother language.
I can prepare a giant list of Sri Lankan start-ups that are simply fall into one of these categories:

  • A social network just for Sri Lankans
  • A search engine just for Sri Lankans
  • A blog syndicating engine for local language blogs
  • A hotel booking service, but with only < 100 listings
  • Travel planning, but only for Sri Lankan locations

I think there is no need to explain who are the major players in these fields. Narrowing down the features with a "Sri Lanka only" filter does not make you are an entrepreneur. You need to pitch a really innovative idea first. You can easily fund it in both financial and human effort. But you can't fight with a million (if not billion) worth companies with your relatively less budget and nearly a dozen team.

Think big. I know I wouldn't spend one cent just because the people behind the start-up are from Sri Lanka.

4. We have already covered TV/Radio stations, "Hot actress photos", Gossips, and community type web sites

In a age that even a 5 year old kid manage a blog nowadays and can embed a video from YouTube, don't think your move will be anymore better. I wouldn't even call those a "tech" start-up though. Flashy GIF images and Flash radio player playing "Baila" songs all 24 hours? I'd close the tab in a jiffy.

5. Connect with the world

Be open to the world. Don't wait until someone explains something in our mother language. Learn other (human) languages and keep an eye on what's going on rest of the world. TechChunch disrupt is a great place to start. Don't just copy their ideas. Get an idea how broad their pitched ideas were. It's not necessary to solve a problem.

6. Make yourself a name

Start your own blog, publish some of your work in GitHub, be active in StackExchange and do such stuff develop your name. You will be surprised how others are keen to give you media coverage on your next big event. Learn how to meet other people and get to know them better. Try to make other idolize you. On your next startup, they will believe in you and do their best because you are involved - someone they have heard to be a reputed person in the field.

Wish you all the best!