Derana Startup 2021, Sri Lanka’s premier entrepreneurial reality TV program recently concluded with much grandeur and fanfare. The incredibly successful venture was a partnership between Derana, Partners for Good (PFG) a Jordan non-profit organization, YouLead, the youth skills development and entrepreneurship project of USAID, and the Ministry of Sports and Youth. Joining the project were also, strategic partners of the program: the Small Enterprise Development Unit, Sri Lanka Inventors Commission, Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM), Hardtalk Private Limited, and Corporate Sponsor Dialog Enterprises.
The competition drew over 5,000 applicants, out of which, after careful shortlisting by industry professionals, experts, and academics, only the most impressive top 30 young entrepreneurs were chosen. These 30 participants went through a rigorous mentoring phase with industry experts who helped improve their product into a commercially viable innovation, giving them the much-needed business intelligence, knowledge, experience, and skills to take home the grand prize of 6 million rupees to be used as an investment to their start up.
After the conclusion of the mentoring phase, all 30 participants of Derana Startup 2021 had to be subjected to an SMS voting round, where 3 entrepreneurs were featured weekly, and only one outstanding competitor made it through to the next round. Out of the 10 contestants selected by the people, only six highly qualified entrepreneurs who stood out with their unique ideas qualified for the grand finale.
The final competition was judged by renowned personalities across multiple sectors, including Academic and Top Entrepreneur, Dr. Ravi Liyanage from the Kingdom of Raigam, Ms. Charitha Abeyratne, CEO, Saraketha, and Saraii Village, as well as famous motivational speaker, leadership trainer, and entrepreneur, Mr. Mohan Palliyaguru.
During the event the top ten participants of Derana Startup 2021 were awarded an exclusive scholarship for a Certificate in Entrepreneurial Marketing with an added membership to an entrepreneur incubator from Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing. Mr. Menaka Keerthi was awarded the position of Third Place for innovating upon his creation of an efficient wood-burning stove as a solution to the gas and oil crisis Sri Lanka is currently facing. Menaka walked away with one million rupees as well as an unlimited home broadband connection for 12 months from Dialog Enterprise.
The First Runner-up position for Derana Startup 2021 was awarded to Mr. Venura Wijesekera, a student from Trinty College Kandy, who innovated a technologically-enhanced stethoscope that could be used by doctors to advance the field of healthcare. Venura walked away with a whopping 2 million rupees and an unlimited home broadband connection for 12 months courtesy of Dialog Enterprise.
And finally, Ushan Chaminda, who created an interactive application called ‘Gavesha’, an Ed-Tech startup that empowers Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education, was awarded the title of Winner of Derana Startup 2021. ‘Gavesha’ is set to empower students across the country, and eventually the world, through technology, to reduce barriers for children in accessing tech education. Ushan was awarded a cash prize of 3 million rupees and an unlimited home broadband connection for 12 months from Dialog Enterprise as his grand prize, both of which will aid him immensely in developing and furthering his innovation.
Addressing the audience, the winner of the night, Ushan Chaminda, said, “I am incredibly happy about our achievement at Derana Startup 2021 tonight. I worked tirelessly over the months to get to this position. This achievement is incredibly encouraging to my team and I as it takes us one step closer to our dream – which is to see a Sri Lanka that will one-day launch rockets.” When asked about his message to the world, he said, ” Every single one of us has the talent to change the world. We only need to believe in ourselves!”