Category: Entrepreneurship

The Tragedy of ‘Silicon Blah’ is not ‘Silicon,’ but People Themselves!

Coca ColaI came across Brad’s post on ‘Silicon Blahs’ around the world right after we started calling Colombo start-up community, The Silicon Reef. The first question Shamal had was ‘What do you think?’ Then I replied him with my thoughts. I wanted to  comment on Brad’s blog, but I guess a post on this would be better. Don’t get me wrong, I really respect Brad. He’s a Super Hero. I’ve always loved his books, articles. On this post I have a different take. I am going to copy the content from his blog and comment in front of it.

In the late 90′s a wave of “Silicon Blah” appeared. Silicon Alley, Silicon Mountain, Silicon Prairie, Silicon Slopes, Silicon Gulch, Silicon Bayou, and on, and on, and on. The rallying cry was “we are going to be the next Silicon Valley.” Whatever. At the time, my opinion as someone who disliked generic marketing was that this was the worst branding ever. I feel even more strongly about this today.

I agree the fact that some of these words are really bad. You cant even spell them at once right after hearing it. Those words do suck! But there are some really cool names too; Alley, Valley, Island, Beach to name a few. Gunapala in Sri Lanka, Sadam in Sudan or even Chitti in South India can spell these words. I guess it’s pretty important to think of how easily you can spell it when you hear the name in branding.

There’s a reason for using the word ‘Silicon.’ When you hear it you know it’s about tech startups. I personally can’t of an any better way of doing that. It is OK to piggy back on the word Silicon. It would not hurt anyone. If I were to start another Cola, I would call it Colombo Cola (or whatever the name I would use)  just like hundreds of other Colas that are out there.

If you are going to create a startup community, build your own identity. People now talk about “New York” and “Boulder” as amazing startup communities. They don’t talk about Silicon Alley and Silicon Flatirons. Well – I suppose some do, but I don’t hear it anymore (or at least my brain doesn’t process it) – I just hear New York and Boulder. And when someone says “Do you like living in Denver?”, I say “I live and work in Boulder.” Sure – Denver has a startup community also, but it’s distinct from Boulder

When we wanted to find a name for Colombo startup community, I wanted to call it Silicon Island first. There’s a Silicon Island in Canada so we changed it to Silicon Reef. The problem is not the word ‘Silicon’ it is the people themselves. If you google for Silicon Island, you hardly find anything about it. If you search for Silicon Beach in Australia, it’s the same situation. We are trying to achieve two things here. One is to get all all startup people under one flag. Using the same name that’s been there for ages would not do it. New York and Boulder has made it, because of the people not the name. Second is to let other people hear about your community. If we call the Sri Lankan startup community, ‘Colombo,’ it would not make much sense to a lot of people in around the world. The aim is to be global, not just within.

There’s another factor. The almighty $. To start things lean, you have to piggy back on whatever you can unless you are willing to invest a lot of money in to building the brand name like Singapore did. I don’t know how well that has worked out for them.

By the way, I am reading Brad’s book ‘Burning Entrepreneur‘ and it is super cool!

How We Added the ‘TWiST’ to Colombo: The Rise of New Silicon Reef!

It’s been ‘something!’ Over the effort that was put in, it was great to work with the start-ups from Colombo and share their experiences and work with them to pitch at the most viewed start-up talk show in the world, This Week in Start-ups. I couldn’t have done this if it was not for couple of people who helped the cause in so many ways. A BIG BIG Thank You to Dr. Ajith Madurapperuma who is now at NUS, Ruwindhu Peiris from Stax, Chandika from Creately, Madu Ratnayake (who’s been helping secretly behind the scenes 🙂 ), Jeevan from Orion City and all the others I did not mention here. Oh yes, and rest of my team here at Centuryware. On Jason’s end, Zack, Brandyce, Carolyn, Tyler, thank you so much guys for all your support! Of cause, Shamal came in with a very short notice and was incredible during the program. Everyone down in Colombo loved his comments as well. (‘When the technology is not good enough, the integrated solution wins! – Shamal’)

Best of luck to all startups that pitched at the event and I am sure there was valuable feedback given my Jason, Shamal and Tyler. Let Go! was selected as the best start-ups because of its innovative approach in the mobile space. Please do enjoy the episode if you have not seen it already and we will soon be planning the next TWiST meetup, bigger and better!

Program Timeline
1:00-2:00 Welcome everyone to the first TWiST Sri Lanka meetup!
2:00-4:30 We’re very excited to hear from five startups in Sri Lanka today.
4:30-7:30 With us today is Shamal Ranasinghe, one of the co-founders of Topspin Media. Welcome Shamal!
7:30-9:00 Are the Sri Lankans an industrious people?
9:00-11:00 Thank you to Sourcebits for sponsoring the show!
11:00-12:30 Sesiri, what do you do in Sri Lanka?
12:30-16:00 Buddhika Siddhisena pitches ZoomBa, an enterprise app that helps increase employee collaboration and IT infrastructure functionalities.
16:00-17:45 What are some of the services you provide?
17:45-19:00 Do customers want the CRM services that you’re offering, as opposed to going with another provider?
19:00-22:30 Shamal offers his feedback.
22:30-24:00 Next is Jehan Bastian from eDGEVANTAGE, which offers web-based document and workflow management support.
24:00-25:30 I think we understand the idea. Who are your big clients?
25:30-27:30 What open-source software is this built off of?
27:30-28:45 Shamal, what are your thoughts about going up against big companies like this?
28:45-33:00 Thank you to GoToMeeting for supporting the program!
33:00-34:30 Mangala Karunaratne pitches Xaffo, which is like Google Analytics for social media.
34:30-36:30 Is this product launched already?
36:30-36:45 Working on a low price isn’t as important as working on a killer feature.
36:45-41:30 Shamal: It’s a crowded space and anything you can do to focus on ROI for the user would be a good way to go.
41:30-44:45 Next we have Ehantha Sirisena pitching OWI Systems, a customizable hospitality solution for restaurants and clubs.
44:45-45:30 How long have you been around?
45:30-46:15 Tyler: Because it’s so broad, it’s hard to follow in a pitch. You’re better off focusing on one problem you’re solving.
46:15-48:45 Shamal: The pitch started off strong, but then it went in so many directions.
48:45-50:15 What’s the technological foundation in Sri Lanka?
50:15-52:15 Last to pitch is Ashoka Ekanayake of Let Go! App, a system for helping you manage and improve your emotional intelligence.
52:15-54:15 The name is ok, but the logo is bad. This is certainly the most original idea of the group.
54:15-56:00 Tyler: It would be amazing if you could tie this to your heart rate.
56:00-58:45 Shamal: I like emotional intelligence and I like the concept.
58:45-01:00:45 An insight from Tyler: This is like an out of work developer.
01:00:45-01:03:15 You just don’t want this app to be enabling.
01:03:15-01:08:30 Why did you build this, Ashoka?
01:08:30-01:10:30 Let Go! App is declared the clear winner! After a vote, second place goes to eDGEVANTAGE.
01:10:30-01:13:00 Thank you to everyone in Sri Lanka and thank you Sesiri for organizing! We’ll see you next time.

Support This Week in Startups and independent media by joining the TWiST Producer Program at!

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Keep up with the latest from our sister company, LAUNCH:

First Eight Companies for LAUNCH Education & Kids
The Age of Excellence
Is There a YCombinator Valuation Bubble or Not?
The One Product that Makes Apple a Trillion-Dollar Company Overnight Cloudability to Graduate from TechStars Cloud with 2k+ Customers
Jason: @jason
Tyler: @steepdecline
Shamal: @shamalman
GoToMeeting: @gotomeeting
Sourcebits: @sourcebits

Jason Calacanis: The New Chairman at Yahoo? Welcome to This Week in Yahoo!

I watched Jason’s episode on Yahoo current CEO’s ‘inadvertent error‘ (at least what they call it) and was thinking to myself maybe Jason would be good fit to take it over. Few hours after watching the episode I get the Nimble mail with his LinkedIn employment status changed to Chairman at Yahoo! First I was shocked (in a good way) and then again I see Arrington’s Linked In status changed to the CEO at Yahoo and it confused the hell out of me. I immediately emailed him and asked, but no response yet. This left me in a really confusing state as if this was a joke or if it was for real. Of cause Arrington was making fun out of the whole Yahoo situation and his interview with Batz was no fun to her (yes this is before she was fired!) She finally said ‘F*** off!‘ and I kinda felt bad for her.

I still feel really bad about this whole Yahoo situation. Yahoo was my first email account, I did my search back in the days, it was my first internet radio/music experience, it was my first chatting experience and it was everything to me back in the days. It’s been many years since they’ve had a good product guy up there; what they desperately need is a good product guy that can really make a difference. When was the last time you really heard Yahoo putting out anything that is really disruptive? They need some young minds there.

If Jason and Arrington do take over Yahoo, it would be really something to see what changes they can do. I really think they both can do an amazing job. They both are influential and they both have the ability to talk to the right people/audience. Regardless of the controversies, Arrington  and Jason changed the startup game for a lot of these entrepreneurs. It was like winning the Nobel price to be featured on Techcrunch. They both work very closely with startups and have gained a immense knowledge of what’s coming out.

That’s it! I’ve had enough, I have to start at some point!

It was just like ‘The Day That Never Comes!‘ (Oh my, why did that album sucked so bad??) I changed my wordpress to a premier account, changed themes from time to time, had my designers come up with a new look and feel, but it just did not work. All of a sudden I realized, may be it is not that. May be it is not that the designs were bad, or everything was not in place.. May be it’s me. I have seen so many active blogs with a real simple standard Twenty Twenty theme, but I just could not get what it was to write and what it was like to be expressing everything you feel like!

It was not until I really digged deeper in to Altuchers blog that I figured out what was really missing. That blog is freaking amazing, so addictive, just can’t get enough of it (See his 10 rules about blogging). It was not really about any of those ‘I don’t have time’s or ‘bad design’s or anything. It was really me. I was scared to write what came to my mind. I did not know what people would think when I say what I wanted to say. Of cause I talk, I talk a lot. I argue a lot and I am fine with that. I was scared the fact that a conversation that is in front of a few people is now wide open to everyone else, to the whole world. Then I realized, it does not matter. It does not really matter how many people would read it, how many would comment, how many would hate, or criticize. It wasn’t until Deepamala told me ‘You have so much to offer and the description about you says none of that! it just says you tweet and you have a facebook profile‘ that I figured out I shouldn’t really be concerned about expressing what I really want to in public. I was not really fighting with time, I was fighting with myself!

I want to say it with blood. It is not just about all these tech talks, successful events or whatever people want others to see in them. It is really about sharing the real experiences! I’ve been talking to many Sri Lankan tech entrepreneurs last few weeks and figured out it was not just me who’ve had bad times, everyone has had! They too seemed to feel like they have found the same kind and I was relaxed, calmed down. I’ve been doing the right thing. I get criticized so many times a day for being so arrogant. I used to say ‘It’s business! nothing personal.’ and I don’t say that anymore. Somehow I have taken off the word ‘business’ from it since it mislead people many times. now I just say, ‘Nothing personal!’ ‘We will fight for a good cause!’ I say..

Tim Lambesis - As I Lay Dying


All of a sudden I am just relaxed! Felt good to be back! Oh wait, I was never here. I just kept a blog online so people could see who I am when they google my name, wasn’t necessarily to express my thoughts! For a moment it was like to be on a stage in front of a crowed, rocking out! (yes yes, there was ONLY about 100 people and I was the one on drums!). My good old buddy Jerod and I so wanted to tour back in 2004 and 2005. Yes we all were hardcore Mars Volta and Mastodon fans.

Lessons to learn from great companies like Hostdime: Global Hosting, Personalized!

It was sometime back in 2002 I was referred to Hostdime by a friend of mine and back then I wanted somewhere cheap to host my ‘business idea‘ (It had a different brand name back then) I had. Hostdime was cheap comparing to the others we found and so went ahead with them. Around 2o03, I was going schooling at Southern Arkansas University and I still had the basic hosting account. I remember I used to dial the FL local number they had and Manny Vivar (founder and the current VP of global operations) used to answer the pone in the middle of the night.

Around 2004 while having the hostdime account I did try out some of the other companies like Godaddy, 1&1 and, etc where I ran in to disasters with. I had dedicated servers with Godaddy at one time and it became a nightmare. I could not get them to do anything unless I pay their ‘extra charges’ they had coming up with. The servers did not boot and they still would not do anything about it; sure enough they wanted me to get their ‘manages servers‘ priced probably three times of unmanaged back then. With 1&1, I ended up talking to customer services they in Philippines and was kept on hold for hours and hours. probably had one of the worse customer services as well.

All these times I always had Hostdime accounts and it very surprisingly they had been changing their systems, adding employees, improving customer support every day and night. Around 2007 I looked back of everything they had done and I really was surprised! A lot of hosting companies have both managed and unmanaged hosting models and I started to think what the difference is. With hostdime, I felt like everything was managed, customer support was very impressive and it still is. They were all about serving clients than making another sale.

I surely learnt a lot all the years just by looking at what changes Manny has made to Hostdime. He has certainly made Hostdime the Zappos of hosting in this decade. We too resell a lot of their hosting services to our clients and they have been a great partner in our business processes.

If Manny writes a book on Business Development, I would buy it in a heart beat! 🙂

PS: By the way, do not believe what some of these hosting reviews sites will tell you.


Three Great Ways to Promote Your Business

While marketers spend hours identifying their niche market, these could be ways you might have never thought of to get your business name out. Entrepreneurs have invested a lot of time and money on social media and internet media making their business to work on both online and offline. But how many of them have really gained their return on the investment? Before you try out any other ‘Pay-per-Click’ campaign or ‘Search Engine Optimizing’ Campaign, see what kind of a return you would get from these ‘Business Networking’ and ‘Professional Networking’ websites discussed below.

Merchant Circle
As the internet gains popularity, the traditional advertising systems like Newspapers or cable have become very costly and ineffective. Merchant Circle provides you with a class platform to list your services with the company information and contract details. Its local business social networking website will build connections with other businesses in your area or a region you specify (this does not restrict marketing your services to any place else) and grow your network based on the activity and the popularity of the business. Again, it’s strictly up to you to become active on the website and work on the things you need to do become active. Your business profile on Merchant Circle helps you to enhance the band awareness. It also works great for SEO too.

Fast Pitch Professional Networking
Searching professionals and businesses has made easy with Fast Pitch Networking. It gives you more control on how you network with people and it even allows you to communicate with people on your network, real-time. You can network with professionals on the internet based on experiences, shared educational types, location, affiliations, etc. Fat Pitch allows you to distribute content directly to the members using blogs, press releases, video, email marketing and event announcements. Check it out for yourself here.

Linked-in Professional Networking
is may be by far the most popular professional networking platform out there. Linked in has over 43 million members so far covering over 200 countries. According to Linked-in almost all the fortune 500 company executives are on Linked-in. ‘Relationships Matter!’ they say and yes, it has many features embedded to the platform to build the relationship between you as a professional with your potential client or the vendor.

These there websites too have paid subscriptions, but try it out for yourself with the free memberships these websites have.

Things to know before you start building your website

This article is originally posted at the Centuryware Solutions’ Blog.

Whether you want to build your first website or enhance the existing website you have, the cost factor is likely to be on your mind on top. The website could be few text pages or something far more complex, but defining what you really need before hand would keep the costs down. Before you look for a web development firm, always define the purpose and the scope of the website. Here are few guidelines for you to follow.

Relax, take a pencil and a paper and try to answer these questions yourself.

1. Who are the primary users (ex: retail customers) of the website and why should they come to your website than your competitor?
2. What purpose the website will serve? Ex: lead generation, brand awareness, e-commerce, etc.
3. What media do you like to have? Ex: flash, audio, video, quality graphics, virtual tours, etc.
4. What are the similar websites you like?
5. What would you have your competition would not have?
6. How many pages you will like to have?
7. How would you market your website and what budget do you have?
8. Who will do the updates of the website?
9. Who will do the content writing (copy)
10. How will you measure the success of your website?
11. What’s the time frame you have for the project?
12. Social Media?
13. Contribution you can provide for the marketing aspects
14. What would be the maximum price you can afford?

Having answered these is likely to keep your costs down and will avoid unexpected expenses. At the same time, it would give your website consultant information to understand your concept/thought better to make it a reality.