Wednesday, October 18, 2017
   
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Launch of the Junior World Entrepreneurship Forum in Sri Lanka


The Junior World Entrepreneurship Forum (JWEF) is a global initiative established by the World Entrepreneurship Forum (WEF) dedicated in putting forward the views of young people as part of the global debate on entrepreneurship. JWEF brings together young individuals who have entrepreneurial dreams and give them an opportunity to grow through access to WEF mentors, investors and infrastructure.

The JWEF Chapter in Sri Lanka, operated by the “Dirisaviya Foundation”, was officially launched on July 31st at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Strategic Studies. Mr. Asanga Abeygoonasekera, Chairman and Founder of the Dirisaviya Foundation, and a core team of young individuals organized this event and conducted panels including diverse experts in the field, both young and veteran, allowing the audience comprising of entrepreneurial hopefuls to learn of what they can do to pursue their dreams.

Mr. Asanga Abeygoonasekera who led the opening plenary with the welcome address and an introduction to JWEF, postulated the necessity to “support start-ups, promote venture capital and angel financing, and enhance business incubation and mentoring networks in our vocational training institutes and universities”. He also suggested the establishment of a presidential task force on entrepreneurship so that experienced individuals from the field can personally enter communities and facilitate the development of entrepreneurship in Sri Lanka.

Dr. Chandra Embuldeniya, Founder and Vice-Chancellor of Uva Wellassa University (2004-2011), delivered the keynote address at this event. Dr. Embuldeniya spoke of the importance of promoting entrepreneurship in a post-conflict society by looking at how Sri Lanka post-conflict has lost its competitive strength. Dr. Embuldeniya also spoke of the access for young persons to the entrepreneurial eco system, stating that “very few privileged people have access to the eco system that promotes entrepreneurship” and he stressed the need to allow accessibility to a conducive environment.

Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, who also spoke on the occasion, touched on social entrepreneurship, especially in the context of the Sarvodaya movement of which he is General Secretary. He noted that many entrepreneurial pursuits supports a profit-generation model which is all about the ‘survival of the fittest’, whereas social entrepreneurship, while generating revenue, fulfils a vital social need.

Two panel sessions were held following the opening plenary. The first session, held under the theme ‘Sri Lanka’s Entrepreneurship Ecosystem’ was moderated by Mr. Mano Sekaram, and consisted of Ms. Linda Speldewinde, Mr. Dilith Jayaweera, Mr. Anushka Wijesinha, Mr. Anver Mustapha, and Ms. Jayomi Lokuliyana. Mr. Anushka Wijesinha, a Research Economist at IPS, touched on the fact that entrepreneurship sits as an avenue for young people to take advantage of their potential but there is the need for a policy framework to be put in place to allow for this potential to grow. He emphasized that in terms of policy “we need tight rules for the right reasons, and not long rules for the wrong reasons.” Ms. Jayomi Lokuliyana, Co-founder and CEO of zMessenger (Pvt) Ltd., noted how many young people tend to question taking the plunge into entrepreneurship for various reasons. She motivated young entrepreneurs to go for it and in her closing remarks for the session said that “Failure will come, but fail fast and cheaply while creating value in the process.”

The second panel session consisted of young individuals speaking on their experience as successful junior entrepreneurs under the theme “Youth as Entrepreneur’s in Sri Lanka.” Mr. Anushka Wijesinha moderated this panel which consisted of Ms. Anoka Abeyrathne, Mr. Andrew Jebraj, Mr. Sheran Corera, Mr. Navin Suriyaarachchi, and Mr. Sabreen Reffai. Mr. Andrew Jebraj spoke of his personal success story as an inspiration for young entrepreneurs by mentioning the three manthras he followed in establishing Readme.lk: firstly be unbiased but interesting, secondly identify you target audience and give them what they want that others can’t, and finally find a great team that work and have fun together and let them do what they love. Mr. Sabreen Reffai, Director of Redline Technologies Pvt Ltd., spoke on a topic that many young hopefuls were conscious about and that was fear and doubt. Mr. Reffai spoke of his personal experience and how fear demotivates you pursuing a dream and said to “let go of your fears and you’re left with absolute freedom to start the business of your dreams.” In the Q&A session many young people brought up their fears in entering this path, especially in terms of social expectations, and also how the education on entrepreneurship is lacking. All panellists agreed that you won’t be successful immediately but if it’s what you want the most then eventually success will arrive, and that they hope that knowledge about the field and policy that supports it will steer the ecosystem to be conducive to entrepreneurship among the youth.

At the conclusion of the event, JWEF Sri Lanka announced Ms. Anoka Abeyrathne and Mr. Nirosha Kodituwakku as the candidates selected to represent Sri Lanka and attend the 7th Edition of the World Entrepreneurship Forum to be held in Lyon, France this October as representative Junior World Entrepreneurship leaders. Ms. Anoka Abeyrathne is the 2012/2013 Commonwealth Youth Award recipient for Excellence in Developmental Work and featured 3rd on the 25 World’s Most Influential and Powerful Young People list 2012 by Huffington Post and Youth Service America and the Co-founder of social enterprise Growin’ Money. Nirosha Kodituwakku is the founder of Archmanagae Pvt Ltd – an online e-ticketing system which is now used by the majority of the cinema halls in Sri Lanka. The company now has a staff of 13 and 80% of the market share.

The event was supported by its partner - the Dirisaviya Foundation, television partner - Art Tv, and sponsors – Informatics Institute of Technology, Houznt Pvt Ltd and ReadMe.

JWEF Sri Lanka has now opened applications for young entrepreneurs wishing to become a part of the Chapter to take the aims of JWEF and WEF global forward. Those wishing to apply and find out more can email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Members of the Opening Plenary Session (L-R) Mr. Asanga Abeyagoonasekara [Chairman, JWEF Sri Lanka], Dr. Chandra Embuldeniya [Founder Vice Chancellor, Uva Wellassa University], Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne [General Secretary, Sarvodaya Movement]


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 Session One: ‘The Entrepreneurship Ecosystem in Sri Lanka’ (L-R) Mr. Anver Mustapha [Director General/CEO, CIMS Campus], Ms. Linda Speldawinde [Founder/Managing Director AOD Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka Design Festival], Mr Mano Sekaram (Founder/CEO, 99x Technology Ltd), Mr. Dilith Jayaweera [Chairman, George Stueart Group of Companies], Mr. Anushka Wijesinha [Research Economist, IPS], Ms. Jayomi Lokuliyana [Co-Founder, zMessenger Pvt Ltd]

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Session Two: ‘Youth as Entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka’ (L-R) Mr. Sheran Corera [Chief Technology Officer, Creative Solutions], Mr. Sabreen Reffai [Co-Founder, Readline Technologies Ltd], Mr Anushka Wijesinha [Research Economist, IPS], Ms. Anoka Abeyrathne [Co-Founder, Growing Money], Mr. Andrew Jebraj [Co-Founder, ReadMe], Mr. Navin Suriyaarachchi [Founder/Managing Director, Houznt Pvt Ltd.]

lk12 Mr. Nirosha Kodituwakku and Ms. Anoka Abeyrathne who will be representing JWEF Sri Lanka at the 7th Edition of the World Entrepreneurship Forum to be held in Lyon, France this October.

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