John Keells X Open Innovation Challenge winners enter 6 month accelerator programme

(PRESS RELEASE) – John Keells Holdings PLC announced the six winners of its second John Keells X Open Innovation Challenge at a Pitch Day recently. The winners advance to the JKX six month Accelerator Programme, which will allow them to tap into a wealth of JKH resources including seed funding, office space, access to support services such as legal, secretarial and finance, mentoring from the industry’s best and brightest, curated curriculum and the chance to pitch for and secure further funding for their business idea.

John Keells X was first launched in 2016 to boost creative and intellectual business talent in Sri Lanka via a competitive programme conceptualized and administered by John Keells Holdings PLC, Sri Lanka’s premier listed conglomerate.

The competition was conceptualized to encourage innovators with imagination and strong design ethics to take the next step in making a pipeline idea a reality. This year’s challenge has evolved into a fully-fledged accelerator programme that includes an entrepreneurship and growth hacking curriculum delivered by international trainers. In September a workshop on Disciplined Entrepreneurship was spearheaded by Marius Ursache (Teaching Fellow, MIT Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp). In November, Growth Tribe, Europe’s first growth hacking academy will conduct another training session. The JKH Legal and Secretarial division delivered a workshop on the important legal aspects of running a business while the Corporate Finance and Strategy division delivered a workshop on valuation of start-ups and tracking of key financial metrics in a business. This intensive course of expert workshops for the 20 shortlisted teams was complemented by sessions known as JKX Meetups, where the teams gained valuable insights and interacted with senior level leaders from JKH.

The teams have pitched and developed their ideas from a wide variety of sectors including leisure, travel, retail, financial technology, logistics, IT solutions including IOT (the Internet of Things) applications. “We are very pleased with the diversity of ideas and business models here,” noted Wishanth Wijesinha, Head of JKX. “The teams have developed their ideas since they were initially shortlisted, and we have chosen the most promising six teams to enter the 6-month accelerator programme.”

The panel of judges for this year comprised of Ajit Gunewardene (Deputy Chairman – JKH), Ronnie Peiris (Group Finance Director – JKH), Krishan Balendra (Executive Director – JKH), Gihan Cooray (Executive Director – JKH), Ramesh Shanmuganathan (Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer – JKH), Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya (Regional CEO – Axiata Group South Asia/Non-Executive Director – JKH) and Jonathan Alles (Managing Director/CEO – Hatton National Bank PLC).

The six winners are (in no particular order);
• Direct Pay – Electronic/Mobile payment solution for onsite/online financial transactions
• – e-commerce platform dedicated for automotive products and services
• Helios – A peer to peer lending platform leveraging on blockchain technology
• iLoan – Borrower driven online loan aggregator and powering engine
• – A simple, efficient and interactive learning platform
• Senzagro – First IoT/Sensor based precision agriculture solution in Sri Lanka

They will have the opportunity to interact with JKH companies and senior level leadership mentors, along with opportunities for further investment during or after the accelerator programme. “I’m looking forward to seeing these teams progress over the next six months,” says JKH Executive Director, Krishan Balendra. “My door is always open to them, as are my colleagues’. We strongly believe that the private sector can play a very important role in improving the scope for innovation and entrepreneurship in Sri Lanka. This is us playing our part, and we’re confident that this cycle and the ones to follow will produce some star teams and ventures.”

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