In the previous story of this series, we explored the first set of workshops and meetups conducted by John Keells X (JKX) to help startup founders. Between May and August 2022, the program continued to host various events covering various topics ranging from marketing to regional scaling to corporate finance to pitching to technology and many more from industry veterans. These events provided a valuable opportunity for founders to learn from experienced industry experts, connect with other entrepreneurs, and gain valuable insights and resources to help take their businesses to the next level. Over the course of the program, its participating startup founders benefitted from the knowledge, experience, and connections of the John Keells Group and its network of advisors and industry professionals.
Purposeful branding and clear marketing strategy
The third workshop of the John Keells X program explored the topics of branding and marketing. It was conducted by the Director of Brand Strategy and Marketing, Cinnamon Hotels and Resorts & AVP, Pramukshi Kariyawasam, alongside the Head of Marketing at Keells, Nilusha Fernando. The workshop was a valuable opportunity for startup founders to learn about the importance of purposeful branding and how to implement and execute a marketing strategy. It explored several concepts, including identifying and targeting a specific customer base, developing a unique brand identity, and creating a marketing plan that effectively promotes a company’s products or services. The workshop also gave attendees practical tips and tools for executing a successful branding and marketing campaign.
Opportunities for local and regional expansion
The workshop was followed by a meetup, which featured the President, Property Group at JKH, Nayana Mawlimada, and the CEO of Union Assurance PLC, Jude Gomes. During the meetup, the founders had the chance to discuss several aspects of scaling their businesses. These included learnings from regional and local experience in scaling companies, how to prepare for regional expansion, and the potential for collaboration with larger companies. The meetup provided participants valuable insights and advice for operating in an uncertain business environment and general guidance for early-stage technology startups.
Fine-tuning sales pipelines and business models
Fast forward ahead, the program organized two more webinars, which were hosted by MIT Teaching Fellow, Marius Ursache. The first webinar focused on sales & marketing. It gave attendees insights into developing and implementing effective go-to-market strategies, marketing and sales processes, and building scalable sales pipelines. The second webinar focused on getting the business models & unit economics of a startup right. Accordingly, it explored designing a business model. It delved into key details, such as understanding the different revenue models that can be used and learning how to analyze and optimize unit economics.
Corporate finance for startups
The fourth workshop of the John Keells X program was also held in June. It was conducted by Senior Strategist, Corporate Finance at JKH, Eneeshya Perera, alongside Senior Strategist at JK Capital, JKH, Pathumi Abeysekera. This workshop offered founders a foundational understanding of key concepts and principles of corporate finance as it relates to startups.
It covered various topics, including the basics of shareholding and more advanced concepts such as financial planning, budgeting, and forecasting. The workshop also gave founders practical tips and tools for managing their startup’s financial affairs, including creating financial projections, raising capital, and making informed financial decisions.
Learning from the experience of a conglomerate
The workshop was followed by a meetup, where founders had an opportunity to exchange ideas with the Deputy Chairperson, Group Finance Director of JKH & Chairman of Nations Trust Bank, Gihan Cooray. During the meetup, he shared lessons from digital initiatives launched at John Keells Group and how startups can apply these insights to their businesses. Gihan also shared what investors look for in early-stage startups and stressed the importance of getting the fundamentals right from the start and was also a part of the judging panel for the impending demo day (or something to that effect worded nicely to show startups had an opportunity to meet and greet with him in advance).
How Microsoft can help startups
Later, the John Keells X program organized another webinar hosted by one of its international partners – Microsoft for Startups. The webinar offered attendees guidance on using Azure Credits and utilizing the Microsoft Founders Hub to grow their businesses. It covered topics such as how to access and utilize Azure Credits, leverage the resources and support provided by the Microsoft Founders Hub, and effectively incorporate these tools into a startup’s business strategy.
Preparing for Demo Day and beyond
The final webinar organized by John Keells X for its participating startups was geared towards preparing for its penultimate moment – The Demo Day. One was hosted by Marius, who shared how founders can effectively communicate their startup’s potential to investors. The webinar explored many aspects of pitching, such as different structures and approaches used, the importance of storytelling in the pitch process, and how to convey a startup’s unique value proposition effectively.
The final virtual meetup of the John Keells X Program was hosted by the Head of John Keells X, Wishanth Wijesinha, alongside the Program Lead at John Keells X, Mariam Moosa. Celebrating the spirit of the program, this “Founders help Founders” session was a gathering of entrepreneurs. Each shared insights from their respective industries, which allowed the entire group to grow collectively. Thus, setting the stage for a support network between the participating founders that will outlast the program. Ultimately, over the course of several months, the John Keells X program brought together a vast pool of resources, such as mentorship, funding, and networking opportunities from within its parent group and beyond. In our fast-evolving world, where technology is disrupting the status quo with greater frequency, such support is essential for startups to gain the skills, knowledge, and connections they need to succeed in the competitive world of entrepreneurship.