Building a successful startup in Sri Lanka is no easy task. Especially with the economic crisis and political instability, scaling up is an uphill battle for most startups. This is where programs like John Keells X (JKX) truly shine. JKX is the corporate startup accelerator of the John Keells Group. The program works to help startups that are building innovative solutions for long-standing challenges. To that end, it offers startups funding, mentoring, market access, and more to accelerate their growth.
The program recently concluded its fourth iteration, which consisted of 3 distinct tracks aimed at startups at different stages of growth. Throughout the program, participating startups were supported with workshops, meetups, and online webinars. These sessions featured an array of experienced mentors and trainers who helped the selected innovative startups unlock their disruptive potential for change.
The basics of entrepreneurship, marketing, and finance
The first webinar in the John Keells X training program was hosted by John Keells X Lead Trainer and MIT Teaching Fellow, Marius Ursache. At the webinar, participants were introduced to disciplined entrepreneurship. With emphasis placed on the principle of ‘work smart, not hard,’ the webinar focused on a startup’s early stages, such as talking to customers. The second webinar focusing on “Market” was also held online. In this, customer personas, market segmentation and ranking, the importance of understanding and relating to the target market, and identifying your “beachhead market” was highlighted, among other topics. This is important not only to improve marketing but also to improve the product or service being marketed.
In mid-April, John Keells X changed things by holding an offline workshop at the Duke’s Court at Cinnamon Lakeside. This also doubled as the first meetup for participants, with the Chairperson of Pickme, Ajit Gunewardene, and Chairperson of Asia Securities, Dumith Fernando, in attendance. The meetup centered around the role of technology and startups in Sri Lanka’s current economic and political context. Participants were also advised on finding investors, pitching, and many more topics discussed in depth. In addition, the Manager – Finance at JKH, Sanjeewa Gurusinghe, and Manager – Group Finance at the John Keells Group, Gihani Silva, conducted a workshop on the basics of accounting and the importance of maintaining proper financial practices.
The law, collaboration, and product development
During the month of May, John Keells X held its second physical training program at the Ivy Room at Cinnamon Grand. This session focused on the legal essentials of running a business and important aspects of Intellectual Property (IP) for startups. It was conducted by Manager – Group Legal at JKH, Ramesh Perera, Head of Strategy and Business Dev at John Keells Research, Chathuri Yatawara, and Assistant Manager of IP at John Keells Research, Ovinee Wadasinghe.
The second workshop was followed by a meetup with the President of Retail Sector at JKH, Charitha Subasinghe, and Deputy CEO and COO of Cinnamon Hotels and Resorts, Hishan Singhawansa, in attendance. At the session, the two shared valuable insights and learnings of Keells Supermarkets and Cinnamon Hotels and Resorts in understanding your customer’s evolving needs, adapting to changing times, and collaborating with stakeholders, among other topics.
A week later, the third webinar was held online with Marius Ursache as the host. This webinar focused on “Product” and gave a comprehensive knowledge of everything involved in product conceptualization, development, product life cycle stages, high-level product specifications, and product market fit.. These meetups and workshops are the first lessons the startups gained during the first 2 months of the pre-accelerator program.
By setting a stage where industry experts can share their knowledge and experience, John Keells X is empowering startups. Stay tuned for the John Keells X Chronicles Part 2 to witness how the program strengthens the broader Sri Lankan startup ecosystem to enable the rise of a new generation of innovative companies.