What is MIT Global Startup Labs? (Previously known as MIT AITI program).
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) delivers innovation through “MIT Global Startup Labs” to promote development in emerging regions by cultivating young technology entrepreneurs
This year, a team of 4 MIT students, 2 each from technology and entrepreneurship departments guide 5 teams of students from University of Moratuwa in Sri Lanka. The program consist intensive 8 weeks long curriculum.
Teams are expected to create a Mobile application based business.
What mentors do?
This is my second year as a mentor for “MIT Global Startup Labs”.
I have met the team and got to know what they’ve been through: a series of lectures, hackathons, customer interactions, feedback sessions from mentors and industry partners. This year specific training on Django and android was given.
The teams basically live and breathe for 8 weeks. Because it is very important that they give undiluted attention, they are released from the normal university lectures and assignments for the period.
My role is to see their business sense of the application they build. I ask questions and get their attention to focus on the customer, as sometimes excitement over technology can distract the value given to the customer. Developing a Mobile app is easy, but figuring out the ‘value’ to ‘customer’ is always a tough nut to crack, and they have only 8 weeks to do it all.
I could see a lot of focused energy from the MIT team plus a healthy interaction with many industry partners like SLASSCOM, Stax and Lanka Angel Network. Out side the program I see lot of media (print/TV) attention, and much enthusiasm in social media. This shows the growing consciousness for start-ups in Sri Lanka – a good sign.
This coming Thursday, July 25th, the teams go through the critique day. They will demo their prototypes for judges, mentors and mobile operators to get the feedback for their final pitching that would happen on 01st August in a grand ceremony, ending the program. I am looking forward to see also what other teams have created. This week will be interesting.
This years’ mentors include: Mafaz Ishaq (Director, Calamander Capital), Ruwindhu Peiris (Director, Stax), Sanath Fernando (CEO Ridgecreast), Arj Wignaraj (Stax Colombo office founder), and Lasith Lansakara (Engagement Manager, Stax Labs), Jeevan Gnanam (CEO and founder Orion City), Harsha Purasinghe (CEO and founder Microimage), Chandika Jayasundara (CEO and founder Cinergix), Isura Silva (Manager Sarvodaya-Fusion) and Madu Ratnayake (Vice President of Virtusa).