By Shanuka Tissera Published :July 19, 2012 - The ICT Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) launched Spiralation Connect  Mobile project at Park Street Mews recently, designed as an accelerator program to support tech start-ups. The event provided a platform for budding entrepreneurs to have their ideas refined and shaped through experience sharing, guidance and mentoring.

This was the first time that the session was held outside of ICTA premises and had more than 20 CXO level mentors in a bid to help alleviate problems that start-up firms may face. The Spiralation project started over two years ago and has already built partnerships with giants such as; IMB, Microsoft, Oracle and the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.

Applicants must first send in a copy of their business plan; if they are successful at this stage they will be given a chance to take part in a presentation and interview process. Upon completion, a technical review is required and once all factors have been taken into account, Spiralation will help the team get off the ground.

The training procedure will not only look to give ICT advice, but will also teach the new 'Zuckerburgs' of Sri Lanka in areas such as governance and finance. A total of 12 companies have officially been brought to market by Spiralation, 11 of which are still running today and have created over 70 jobs in the process.

A case study was given by one of Sri Lanka's most inspirational entrepreneurs, Microimage CEO Harsha Purasinghe, who shared his highs and lows in an educational format to help shed light on what it takes to start a successful business. "Passion, innovation and think big" were the three key steps shared by him.

Learning how to program from a young age, it soon became a club and was explained as an "accidental opportunity". One of their first products was Sinhala fonts for Windows 3.1 back in 1994, an offer for Rs. 300,000 was the first spark to a growing flame he named Microimage.

Some basic lessons learnt from a young age were: No cash no business, grab early opportunities, diversification without losing focus and importance in branding. As the years went by, the awards and money flowed in.

Microimage boasts of being Sri Lanka's first web-based enterprise HRIS software, first enterprise radio automation and first GSM-based early warning solution in the world and has won awards such as the National Science and Tech award to GSMA Asia award for mobile innovations.

"To build a global business, one must capitalize on niche opportunities. You must love what you do and follow your passion. Innovation changes everything and with a unique idea, you must find passionate people."

He daringly shared that if it is a comfortable life the young ones want, they should then go and find a normal job and if they want to try and change the world, then they will need to put in blood sweat and tears for the project.

His address was followed by a panel discussion on the topics of marketing and tips for individuals/teams to get a successful tech start-up off the ground. It was the mentoring session that really gave the young entrepreneurs an opportunity to obtain one-to-one feedback about their ideas and plans for the future. Over 20 high level professionals covering a broad range of knowledge in the tech industry were present at the event, which will continue to grow as real ICT opportunities seem to find their way from Sri Lanka. As Purasinghe asserted: "Experience in a cruel teacher; first you get the exam, then you get the lesson."

Spiralation is here to share the mistakes learnt the hard way so that Sri Lanka's young tech entrepreneurs will not have to go through the same thing.

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