June 19, 2016 (LBO) – York Street Partners (YSP), Sri Lanka’s boutique investment bank, joined forces with Ikman.lk, the largest local online marketplace, to host Startup Investor and Entrepreneur Night.
The event drew attention to the need for deepening relationships and understanding between entrepreneurs and investors, with the goal of increasing the flow of capital to the growing opportunities in the startup sector.
One of the keynote speakers for the evening was Praveen Dayananda, Managing Director at YSP Ventures. YSP Ventures, a part of York Street Partners, supports leading Sri Lankan start-ups with strategy and fundraising and has recently facilitated raises and provided on-going guidance for Takas.lk, Kashmi and Emojot.
Dayananda highlighted that entrepreneurship in Sri Lanka has grown rapidly since the end of the conflict with the eco-system providing increasing levels of support to entrepreneurs through local competitions, incubators, accelerators and government incentives.
The event was held on Thursday to a packed audience at Ikman’s state-of-the-art new office on Union Place which aimed to catalyze engagement between Sri Lankan entrepreneurs and investors.
The prospect however, for Sri Lankan startups to stamp their mark on regional and global markets, Dayananda raised, is challenged by the conservative sentiment in the country towards both venture growth and venture funding.
He observed that entrepreneurs tend to focus on Sri Lanka and local markets with investors generally preferring to invest in less risky and more traditional investments such as real estate or funding startups with terms that may restrict the necessary future explosive growth often essential to make venture funding feasible.
The event provided opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors to begin to engage in tackling this important challenge.
ikman MD Alexander Löwbäck spoke about the meteoric growth of his startup in the four years since founding.
ikman, the leading local website in Sri Lanka, has grown from a small operation in Löwbäck’s apartment to now employing over 200 employees.
ikman’s parent company and investors have been key to this growth raising a significant amount to bring together local sellers and buyers in Sri Lanka and other emerging markets. Löwbäck spoke about the key role of directly engaging buyers and sellers in the early days and of building off that success with aggressive digital and off-line marketing in taking the company to its current position as market leader.
The event drew both individual and corporate investors along with entrepreneurs from multiple sectors including e-Commerce, big data, fintech, agriculture, fashion and education. Organizers plan to facilitate similar events in the future to continue to strengthen the startup eco-system in the country.