Making Ideas Happen - hackX
By Shanuka Kadupitiyage
Although part of the developing world, Sri Lanka is home to some outstanding talent. This is especially true within the IT industry, a field that is booming and continues to grow in relevance within this country’s economy as the world adjusts to the new normal.
This is especially true within the new emerging generation of IT students; young individuals who have the drive, vision, ambition and passion to take the world by storm by providing innovative and effective solutions using technology. However, many fresh ideas rarely find the way to become realities and remain as they are; ideas.
Tackling the subject as to why there are very few startups in Sri Lanka is worthy of a discussion of its own. Thankfully, things have been changing significantly over the past few years.
One reason behind that is undoubtedly the appearance of various startup challenges and competitions that offer winning parties support and backing to make their winning idea a thriving business.
hackX is one such startup challenge organised by the Industrial Management Science Students’ Association (IMSSA) from the University of Kelaniya. IMSSA holds the pride of organising one of the most successful inter-university hackathons for four consecutive years. In time, hackX has evolved from being an ordinary 12-hour hackathon into an Inter-University Startup Challenge.
Last year, hackX announced its winners after sifting through over 150 applicants from more than 25-different universities which included government-run universities such as the University of Moratuwa, University of Uwa Wellassa, University of Peradeniya and the University of Jaffna; as well as private institutions such as NSBM, Informatics Institute of Technology (IIT) and even the Open University of Sri Lanka.
The finalists were given a chance to showcase their developed product in front of a panel of expert judges, where winning teams are chosen.
Those who win get the chance to gain industry exposure as well as potential investors in order to make their winning idea a winning business.
This year, the winning team will be given the opportunity to undergo what is called an ‘incubation period’, where they will work on turning their idea into a full-fledged business with both financial funding as well as mentoring from the leading industry professionals.
However, the journey to victory isn’t easy. First, the contesting undergraduates from universities all over the island must undergo a gruelling programme intended to bring out the best of their capacities.
Ideas will be pitched at the start of the month and, those who are selected then undergo a month-long startup guidance programme organised by the IMSSA to provide mentoring as well as training to help develop their idea into a viable product before a final showcase in front of the judges, as well as potential investors like before.
Doing so, hackX plans to expose innovations crafted and developed by undergraduates to the industry while providing them with a platform to earn recognition as well as support and investment.
2020 marks the fifth instalment of hackX and unlike before, the organisers of hackX informed Ceylon Today they the startup challenge will limit itself to tech-based solutions while giving attention towards sustainable, eco-friendly ideas that will be beneficial for ensuring a greener tomorrow. Although acceptances of applications are closed by this date, there are other ways to become a part of all that’s going on through hackx.lk, the official website.
hackX is only one of many opportunities that are opening up for startups around the island. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic causing traditional business models to stall and struggle to adapt, tech-based startups have been given a vast field of opportunity to reap from and provide Sri Lanka’s economy with a lifeline. What other opportunities will Sri Lankan tech startups ‘hack into’?
Photo courtesy - Isira Lakshan