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Sri Lanka’s Angel Fund shortlists five startups for investment

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The Angel Fund Investment Committee members who unanimously select the startups for investment.

The Angel Fund, the first of its kind in Sri Lanka, has shortlisted its five early-stage startups for potential investment; Niftron, Traccular, Medica, Soulboner Clothing, and Ophir. This follows an intense application and selection process, spanning September, October, and November 2020, which initially attracted 80 applications. 

The Angel Fund, launched earlier this year by the Lankan Angel Network (LAN), was established with the support of ecosystem development partner Ford Foundation to catalyze the growth of Sri Lanka’s startup ecosystem. Comprising 100 angel investors, including many high-profile entrepreneurs and corporate leaders, who represent more than a dozen sectors with proven competencies in over 20 functional domains, the Angel Fund is also distinct in that it features 20% of its investment from members based out of Canada, Dubai, Hongkong, Qatar, UK, and the USA.

The process was guided by the Fund’s high-profile Investment Committee (IC) consisting of angel Fund members Dumith Fernando, chairman of Colombo Stock Exchange/chairman of Asia Securities, Dumindra Ratnayaka, Chairman/Senior Consultant at Martin & George. The IC also comprises Nathan Sivagananathan, Co-Founder of Hatch Works; Anarkali Moonesinghe, former CEO of CIMB Sri Lanka; Mangala Karunaratne, Founder/CEO of Calcey Technologies; and Imal Kalutotage, Founder/CEO of NCINGA. Joining them as Independent IC Member is Shiluka Goonewardene, Principal – Deal Advisory – KPMG.

Angel Fund IC member Dumith Fernando stated, “The investment approval process for the Angel Fund was quite robust with seasoned experts from varied backgrounds participating in the Investment Committee. We were encouraged by the quality of the shortlisted startups that presented to us. We set a high bar for investment selection this time. And even among those founders who did not gain funding this quarter, we found several who would be investable with some tweaks to their business models and plan.”

Some shortlisted startups were:

• Niftron – A Blockchain-as-a-Service platform that allows for easy and efficient integration of blockchain with products or projects, enhancing ownership, transparency, and security.

• Traccular – A cloud-based IoT-enabled visitor management system that provides a scalable solution for companies looking for an efficient check-in and verification process to improve efficiency and security.

• Medica – A cloud-based patient and prescription management platform for doctors. From when a patient registers, to when they walk out with their medicines from the pharmacy, the entire process is managed within Medica, which aims to build a digital ecosystem for primary health care for Sri Lanka.

• Soulboner Clothing – A fun, casual Sri-Lankan streetwear line made for GenZ and the young Millennial. The brand focuses on creating a lifestyle and a community and boasts a customer base in many countries. 

• Ophir – A brand focusing on a range of chemical and synthetic-free, all-natural body care and spa products, which deliver the rich benefits of Camellia Sinensis, Ceylon Tea. Ophir taps into the skyrocketing global demand for natural skincare products, with the added advantage of Sri Lanka’s millennia-old fame resulting from its cornucopia of botanicals, spices, and herbs, as well as Ayurveda.

Independent IC Member Shiluka Goonewardene said, “The finalists for evaluation by the committee were all startups with good ideas and opportunities. The varied experience of the IC members enabled us to evaluate and shortlist the best participants for the funding stage. Overall, it was a great learning experience for me as well, listening to the presentations of the finalists and the follow-up discussions among the IC members.”

These startups will be featured at the LAN hosted Angel Roundup, an exclusive virtual event to be held in mid-December for the network’s angel investors. The event is partnered with Sri Lanka’s largest private-sector retail bank Hatton National Bank PLC, a long-term strategic partner for LAN

Commenting on behalf of the top five shortlisted startups, Ophir Founder Rohini Nordmann said, “The Angel Fund has been both rigorous and supportive of its participants. A winning combination for the investment seekers as well as the investors.”

Angel Fund IC member Anarkali Moonesinghe added, “The Angel Fund was created to bridge the gaps that exist within the startup ecosystem in terms of opening this alternative asset class to a wider audience as well as connecting these investors with incredible entrepreneurs. It serves as not only an avenue to secure funding at an early stage, but also affords startups access to an amazing group of individuals who can be true mentors while, also, opening doors to international markets and networks.”

The Rs. 100 million Angel Fund has plans to eventually invest in six to 10 high potential startups in total, gearing them up to scale domestically, and even internationally. It is managed by LAN’s fund management team, which continues to identify and evaluate opportunities for investment across the island, including in traditionally underserved regions. The fund is dedicated to investing in, and mentoring and supporting, early-stage startups across multiple sectors; from making investments at the early stages, to even helping startups identify sources for future funding. 

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Sampath Bank continues to partner Central Bank on promoting QR payments

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Sampath Bank PLC joined hands with the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) yet again to raise awareness and increase acceptance and usage of LANKAQR, the common Quick Response (QR) code standard for the country that was introduced in 2020.

Encouraging consumers to adopt LANKAQR for their day to day transactions, Sampath Bank held a 2-day promotional drive at one of Colombo’s latest outdoor dining destinations, Dining Capsule at Baladaksha Mawatha, near Galle Face Green on the 23rd and 24th of January.

Dharmasri Kumaratunga, Director – Payments and Settlements, Central Bank of Sri Lanka; Nanda Fernando, Managing Director, Sampath Bank PLC; and Tharaka Ranwala, Head of Operations and Group Chief Marketing Officer, Sampath Bank PLC, took part in the ceremonial launch of this initiative together with other senior representatives.

The Bank offered 25% cash back on payments made with the LANKAQR-enabled Sampath WePay digital payments mobile application at Dunhinda Colombo, Roots, Grand Monarch, Street Wok, Lavinia, Spice Junction, Giovanni’s Pizza al Taglio and BoxBar outlets at the Dining Capsule during this period.

“Offering greater convenience and security, technology continues to transform the way we conduct our day to day transactions. This is becoming increasingly true in Sri Lanka too, where consumers and businesses are actively adopting digital payments,” said Nanda Fernando, Managing Director, Sampath Bank PLC. “At Sampath Bank we have always focused on leveraging emerging technologies and delivering market relevant solutions that add value to our customers around the island. In line with this, we are delighted to partner with the Central Bank of Sri Lanka on driving the acceptance and usage of LANKAQR.”

“Across Sri Lanka, a growing number of merchants and consumers are getting on board the LANKAQR ecosystem and beginning to appreciate the value offered by QR based payments. We are witnessing this phenomenon with Sampath WePay, the secure, one stop digital wallet from Sampath Bank that allows users to store all types of financial instruments from any bank and carry out a wide range of real-time online transactions.

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Taking cashless transactions across the country

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The Central Bank of Sri Lanka in coordination with leading financial institutions and telcos in the country set in motion the ‘Rata Purama LANKAQR’ promotional campaign with a monumental event on January, 23. The ‘Rata Purama LANKAQR’ initiative represents the second phase of an island-wide campaign commenced late last year to introduce LANKAQR as the standard for mobile phone and digital payments countrywide, in moving towards a cashless and digitally-savvy society plus greater financial inclusion across Sri Lanka.

Held at Diyatha Uyana, Battaramulla, the event was graced by the Chief Guest, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms, Ms. Yvette Fernando, Deputy Governor CBSL and the chairperson of the National Payments Council, D. Kumaratunge, Director Payments and Settlements – CBSL, and Thilak Piyadigama, chairman – CBSL appointed LANKAQR Committee/CEO SDB bank, among other distinguished guests.

The Colombo-leg of the LANKAQR national campaign, drawing on the participation of numerous high-profile guests plus the island’s top banks and financial institutions, aimed to advance the program’s overall vision of promoting digital transactions as the new norm and included city-wide promotions, covering major commercial locations in and around the city.

Developed by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, LANKAQR is a common Quick Response (QR) code standard, and its adoption by most major financial institutions in Sri Lanka is a progressive step on the path to Sri Lankans fully embracing a future that is inevitably digital, gradually leading to an entirely cashless mode of transaction.

The LANKAQR system will allow banks, financial institutions and telcos, through their digital payment apps and platforms, to facilitate fast, secure and low cost digital payments to any merchant or service provider. LANKAQR provides customers with a mechanism for payment for all their needs ranging from groceries, healthcare to utilities, and even the purchase of goods from street-side vendors, directly from their bank account through the use of any LANKAQR-compliant mobile payment app.

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SLT-MOBITEL gives ‘Power to Your Dreams’ with special connectivity offers

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SLT-MOBITEL is all set to launch the ‘Power to Your Dreams – සිහිනයට සවියක්’ campaign to provide the latest connectivity solutions to microbusinesses on the of January, 25 the company announced recently. This program will provide ICT solutions packages encompassing products and services essential for microbusinesses, at maximum affordability.

Understanding the connectivity needs of the microbusiness segment, the promotion provides them solutions that fulfil their requirements. Accordingly, communication, business networking, cloud technology, entertainment & IoT, communications devices and business infrastructure services for various market segments within the microbusiness ecosystem is provided utilising SLT-MOBITEL products and services such as voice & mobile telephony, 4G LTE, SLT Broadband, SLT Fibre and Peo TV services.

Speaking on the planned promotion, Sanjeewa Jayamaha, General Manager – SME Business Development, Sri Lanka Telecom stated, “Microbusinesses are the bedrock of Sri Lanka’s economic activity, supporting day to day transactions for millions of people. It is vitally important that they receive the full benefit of the connectivity solutions offered by the national ICT solutions provider, Sri Lankan Telecom. The brand unification of SLT-MOBITEL means now we can offer a full bouquet of products and services to our clients. This promotion will ensure that microbusinesses from various segments can now access the connectivity solutions most important for their businesses to thrive.”

Microbusinesses operating in entertainment and leisure, fashion and beauty, daily essentials, medical and health care, education, special occasion services, financial services, e-commerce and software development, professional services, construction support and transportation and delivery services will be able to benefit from bespoke packages crafted by SLT-MOBITEL with their specific industry needs taken into consideration.

 

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