Fostering the local startup ecosystem through effective collaborations and support

The Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA), in partnership with Startup Genome, the global research and policy advisory firm recently held a webinar titled โ€œAccelerating the Sri Lankan Startup Ecosystemโ€ in an effort to create awareness about the current positioning of the local startup ecosystem and its way forward. The webinar was primarily focused on exploring the key findings of the assessment report compiled by Startup Genome and ICTA with the support of 111 startup founders and startup enablers. The webinar while providing a broader overview of the local startup ecosystem urged the need for a collaborative approach to create a conducive environment for the growth of startups.

The assessment report was presented by Stephan Kuester – the Head of Ecosystem Strategy and Equity Partner at Startup Genome who carries extensive experience as an advisor for both government and private sectors in the creation and acceleration of tech and innovation clusters. He was joined by Akshat Agarwal โ€“ Manager Research at Startup Genome who supports ecosystem assessment, insight generation and strategy recommendations for Startup Genome clients. Stephan and Akshat together with Sachindra Samararatne โ€“ Director โ€“ Startup Ecosystem Development at ICTA enlightened the audience to valuable insights including a comparison of Sri Lankaโ€™ startup ecosystem with global ecosystems, mainly identified gaps in terms of funding and expansion of startups, new opportunities while providing a long-term road map for the development of the ecosystem.

Among the key talking points of the session, Stephan touched upon three important areas of consideration for Sri Lankaโ€™s startup ecosystem, which is categorised in the Activation phase according to the metrics used by Startup Genome. Stephan highlighted the need to grow the number of startups, increase startup quality and early stage funding as mandatory requirements for an ecosystem in the Activation phase. He emphasized that the performance of a startup ecosystem is directly linked to the number of startups and through adequate evidence proved that Sri Lanka has the potential to develop home-grown entrepreneurship and the role universities can play in startup ecosystem expansion efforts. He also stressed on the importance of collaboration and connectedness among startup founders, entrepreneurs, enablers and investors to grow the startup ecosystem.

When it comes to the startup quality aspect, the session explored the gaps between high potential technologies, business models, industry expertise, access to global customers and enough tech talent. The report also focused on the funding aspect, providing detailed information about the funding gaps and viable solutions to increase early stage funding. Stephan emphasized the need for a long-term solution to address funding gaps alluding to the fact that Sri Lankaโ€™s startup ecosystem funding gaps are larger than its peersโ€™.

Stephan reiterated the fact that an assessment of this calibre helps an ecosystem to understand where it stands as at present in order to find the way forward. He stated, โ€œI would like to thank all the startup founders who provided their insights and support to compile this assessment that enables us to work together in accelerating the ecosystem. Even though Sri Lankaโ€™s startup ecosystem is relatively smaller in terms of market size, we see that there is potential for growth in a collaborative approach where we can create start-up friendly policies, build partnerships with global ecosystems, attract global investors, etc. โ€œ

Towards the end of the webinar, Stephan presented a set of recommendations to prioritize each year with a road map for the development of the startup ecosystem till 2025.

Commenting on the webinar, assessment report and ICTAโ€™s overall efforts to develop the startup ecosystem, Chief Executive Officer of ICTA, Eng. Mahinda B. Herath said, โ€œWe highly appreciate Startup Genome for partnering with us and their efforts to develop the countryโ€™s startup ecosystem. On behalf of the ICTA, I am thankful for Stephan Kuester, Akshat Agarwal, all those who supported in compiling the startup ecosystem assessment report and the ICTA team behind this initiative. The insights provided in the report including a clear overview of where we stand as an ecosystem, a roadmap for the ecosystem development with recommendations, etc. will be highly useful for the way forward. We would like to collaborate with all startup founders, enablers, stakeholders and organizations to grow the ecosystem.โ€

ICTAโ€™s partnership with Startup Genome dates back to 2017 where ICTA collaborated with Startup Genome to launch the first Global startup Ecosystem report and again in 2020 to launch the second edition of the report. All these initiatives align with ICTAโ€™s National Digital Economy Strategy that aims to expand the startup ecosystem to 1000 technology startups by the year 2024.

ICTA invites startup founders, startup enablers and all interested parties to collaborate in building the startup ecosystem in Sri Lanka.  For more information, please write to [email protected] .

About ICTA

Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) acts as the catalyst in shaping the startup ecosystem of Sri Lanka. ICTA pioneers in supporting startups via Spiralation and all other startup related activities in its Startup Ecosystem Development SBU under the Digital Economy Pillar of ICTA. The Startup Ecosystem Development is initiated with the view of developing new tech based business ventures in the country, increasing startup output, quality, providing early stage funding, knowledge and everything a startup needs to run a successful business.

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