The 2018 edition of Disrupt Asia, Sri Lanka’s Premier Start-up Conference and Innovation Festival, was successfully concluded recently at the Trace – Expert City with the participation of a large number of individuals connected to the growing startup industry in Sri Lanka.

The Conference part of Disrupt Asia 2018 featured several top international and local experts in entrepreneurship, policy, innovation and startups while the Innovation Festival, a new addition to this year’s event, showcased many technological innovations that included works of art and digital activations for the public to experience and interact with.

The Conference brought to light the need for policy and strategy while entrepreneurs shared their insights, successes and failures and inspired current and potential entrepreneurs. Several top experts from USA, Netherlands, UK, Singapore, Bangladesh, Philippines, India and Sri Lanka expressed their views on AI, digital marketing, security and set the stage for disruptive thinking around STEAM education, creative industries and social entrepreneurship.

 

Innovations being presented at the Innovation Festival

 

One of the key objectives of Disrupt Asia bringing down foreign experts was to get them to inspire local entrepreneurs through their startup experiences back home. Several of the international speakers who took part in the event continued to engage with local entrepreneurs in the day’s following the event and offered valuable insights on how Sri Lankan startups could succeed locally and globally. These newly-formed relationships are expected to greatly help local entrepreneurs to think big and elevate their startups to the next level.

During his Opening Keynote, Glenn Robinson – Managing Director of XLr8 Andhra Pradesh Technology Business Accelerator (University of Texas at Austin extension) emphasized on several keys to innovation economies and explained the need to exploit local advantages, develop and diffuse innovation expertise, encouraging self determination and accelerate through collaboration between educational institutes, private sector organisations and the government and the importance of inclusiveness. He further envisioned “let electrons be shared, but insure atoms collide and engage in a virtuous cycle”.

Panel Discussion on the National Innovation and Entrepreneurship Policy from left Sachindra Samararatne (Program Manager, Industry Development Program at ICTA), Glenn Robinson (Managing Director of XLr8 Andhra Pradesh Technology Business Accelerator), Mangala Karunaratne (CEO/Founder of Calcey Technologies) and Anushka Wijeysinghe (Advisor at the Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade)

 

At the Strategy and Policy panel discussion, a common notion among the audience was that all the support given to startups need to be communicated efficiently in a startup friendly manner using the proper channels. The government promised to provide their fullest support to these companies and in turn requested them to continuously engage with them and keep them accountable. In short, the consensus was that the government, private sector and the general public need to communicate and collaborate better in order to reap the maximum benefits of the startup economy.

In the panel discussion on the topic “Myth busting Social Entrepreneurship”, the experts addressed the myth that social enterprises cannot earn a profit. They elaborated on how social enterprises can be profitable whilst also ensuring that all employees receive a fair salary, raw material is acquired from sustainable sources, manufacturing and packaging is environmentally-friendly and the product or service creates a positive impact on society. They stated that a significant portion of the profits of social enterprises need to be reinvested in the company in order to grow the company while also uplifting the lives of employees and subcontractors. One of the key highlights during the discussion was the emphasis on responsible uses of technology when it comes to disruption.

During his Closing Keynote, Nick Marino Junior – Director of Social Change at TangoTab challenged the audience to go out there and make a difference in the world through their start-ups. He stressed on the need to bring ideas to life quickly and encouraged the audience to take action swiftly to stay ahead of the competition in a fast-paced world.

 

Panel discussion on – It’s time to STEAM education. From left Mohammed Fawaz Manager-Innovation and Global Reach at ESOFT Metro Campus, Dr Harsha Alles – Chairman – Gateway Group, Jehan Wijesinghe Co-Founder & CEO – IgniterSpace and Indika De Zoysa Director, Projects at ICTA

 

Organized by the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA), Disrupt Asia 2018 is supported by the Ministry of Telecommunication, Digital Infrastructure and Foreign Employment. The event was supported by numerous partners connected to the startup ecosystem while the Inclusion Partner – LIRNEasia and Social Innovation Partner – UNDP Sri Lanka are continuing to work closely with the ICTA on several ongoing projects.

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