SPIKE Sri Lanka’s monthly rendezvous is back up and running

Monthly tech entrepreneur and start-up meet-up SPIKE Sri Lanka is back up and running following a hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. With their first session since the pandemic taking place last month, their second session, “Journeying through Product Life Cycles”, is to take place today (23) at 6 p.m. at the Barefoot Garden Café.

The Morning Brunch spoke to SPIKE Sri Lanka Co-Host and Arteculate Asia Founder Enosh Praveen for more details on the SPIKE Sri Lanka story and what to expect from this latest meet-up.

Praveen shared that SPIKE Sri Lanka was started back in 2015 by Sam De Silva, with the initial team including longstanding host and Strive.lk Founder Gayantha De Zoysa, and has gone on to become the longest-standing meet-up in the Sri Lankan start-up ecosystem in the form of a regular pitching and idea-sharing night where tech start-ups and entrepreneurs get an opportunity to pitch to investors and a curious audience, and everyone has a chance to meet and network in casual surroundings.

“It’s very informal. People can walk in and listen to start-up stories and people sharing their learnings as entrepreneurs,” Praveen shared. “This meet-up has the laid-back vibe of being able to walk into Barefoot, have a beer, and listen to founders talking about their experiences. There is a really good following because this concept is something you don’t get elsewhere in Colombo – where you can just walk in as you are, grab a beer, and listen to like-minded folks.”

SPIKE Sri Lanka’s meet-ups have always attracted entrepreneurs and start-up folk, gaining a loyal following over the last five years. Taking a break in 2020 because of the pandemic, just after celebrating their fifth anniversary, SPIKE Sri Lanka has only just resumed their monthly meet-ups with the first one being held in January with Patta History Executive Director Geeshan Bandara and Deegenics Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Shohan Kulasuriya.

Kulasuriya spoke about his experiences founding the female-driven (literally) cab company Pink Drives, explaining how it came about and the challenges he has faced as a man owning a business operated by women for women. Bandara spoke about his experience founding Patta History, a YouTube channel that narrates and digitises Sri Lankan history in a relatable way for a modern audience, explaining how Patta History depicts stories without taking sides and how they have approached monetisation and business models.

Today’s SPIKE Sri Lanka meetup features two start-up personalities who have broken boundaries in Sri Lanka – Healthnet Head of Product Management Nayanaka Vidanarachchi and Rhoda Founder and CEO Eyas Fazul.

Vidanarachchi will discuss the journey of Healthnet, Sri Lanka’s first pharma assistant, a chat-based pharmaceutical assistant app that allows customers to enter and order medical prescriptions using a conversational chat-based app interface.

Fazul will speak about Rhodha, Sri Lanka’s first electric bike that has been designed and made in Sri Lanka, and upgraded throughout the lockdown, Fazul will talk about what goes on behind the scene at the Rhoda camp and showcase a model bike as well.

Speaking on resuming meet-ups after taking almost a year’s break because of the pandemic, Praveen shared that the decision to suspend meet-ups was an active one after looking at the core values of SPIKE Sri Lanka.

“We were constantly contemplating whether to take SPIKE Sri Lanka online, but in the end, we didn’t for two reasons,” Praveen explained. “First, the online space was already crowded with too many webinars. We didn’t want to become just another online meet-up. Second, we realised that the spirit of SPIKE Sri Lanka has always been to meet people in person and to engage and interact. It’s not even about the talks, that’s just an enabler. When we bring in these people for the talks, the real value is that it is an opportunity for others to network. We have some regulars who come to catch up with their other regular startup folk in an informal place without any obligation.”

This social, interactive spirit is what has allowed SPIKE Sri Lanka to become the community it has. Praveen shared that last month’s meet-up was announced with 24 hours’ notice and still saw a turnout of about 50 people, illustrating the power of informal networking.

“When you interact with people, new possibilities just happen by that interaction,” Praveen said, adding: “Networking and interacting has bigger, better benefits, which is part of why it works within the start-up community.”

SPIKE Sri Lanka’s rendezvous for February takes place today (23) at 6 p.m. at the Barefoot Garden Café. Entrance is free and you can go as you are.