Innovation in the island- how i founded 4 companies

Sri Lanka — the tear drop island situated in the heart of the Indian ocean brings to mind clear blue waters, pristine beaches , tropical weather and very welcoming people. It has a rich cultural heritage and a population of less than 22 million making it an ideal destination for a vacation in South East Asia!

But is that all to the island nation? Is it just a holiday destination? Is it only considered as a strategic port location for easy trade? Is tourism the only purpose for people from across the world to visit?

No, not anymore. Sri Lanka is now a growing hub for technology and start-ups. Gen Y of the country has a different mindset — they have a hunger to setup shop, bring about disruptive innovations, focus on cutting edge technology and try to create a foothold in the financial/ technology markets across the globe.

My story is no different. I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur. However, after having completed my degree in Computer Science from Imperial College, London I started working for some of the best financial companies in the business. I started working for Nomura and then moved to Kotak Bank(both in London), helping the bond trading business flourish across locations for the latter. After having spent 5 years working in London, I felt the need to start my own company in my home country. I wanted to move back to Sri Lanka to tap the space in the financial and technology markets, help promote entrepreneurship, cultivate young talent and disrupt the traditional ways of working.

Was making that decision easy? No, it wasn’t. A lot of friends and family couldn’t understand why someone would want to leave their well paying job at a global bank to start from scratch? After a lot of retrospection and a brutal London winter I decided to take the plunge :D . Jokes aside, being an entrepreneur has always been my end goal and this was the first step towards achieving it.

Sri Lanka, 2011

Starting with nothing is never easy. My first step was to play to my strengths — the area which I knew well. I started a one man company called Argent Capital — a sector agnostic structured fund that invests across Private Equity, Listed Equity, Fixed Income Trading, Real Estate and Start-ups. The next step was to hire people — trying to employ people to a virtually unknown company was the biggest challenge that I faced! Over a period of 8–10 months I was able to setup a strong base for my company with 2 people on board. Over the next three years, Argent Capital was able to invest in hospitality, education, BPO and IT in the Private equity space in Sri Lanka. Argent Capital’s listed equity business holds stakes ranging from 0–5% in numerous public listed companies on the Colombo Stock Exchange. In the Fixed Income Trading business, Argent has become one of the largest non-institutional Fixed-Income Trading desks in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka, 2012

I am a founding board member of the Lankan Angels Network(LAN). The Lankan Angel Network (LAN) is a platform for angel and private investors who invest in high growth early stage Sri Lankan ventures. LAN provides mentor ship and funding for the entrepreneurs, streamlined deal flow and structured guidance to the investors until exit. Conceptualized in conjunction with Indian Angels Network, the project created a platform for entrepreneurs to pitch directly to potential investors while also providing comprehensive mentoring for the selected individuals.

Sri Lanka, 2017

One wing of my company was successfully structured ( albeit with challenges). I had a team of two who could run the company on a daily basis with basic input from me. It was at this time that I decided to focus on my second interest — technology. With an idea and two extremely bright colleagues, I decide to venture into Technology -specifically the data analytics space in Sri Lanka. Data analytics is a very hot market to focus on in the island. Everybody is speaking about it, everybody wants to adopt it but nobody knows how to implement it! This includes my company Argent Capital where we did not make effective use of the data widely available to us!

In today’s world, data as a resource is more valuable than oil. Every business needs to effectively use their data to obtain insights to action upon. It was at this time that I founded ZEPTO — a self-service Data Analytics & Visualization platform with a vision to take an AI-based analytical tool to the masses. Zepto has gained some traction in the Sri Lankan and Indian market with clients like KPMG, First Capital Eternis, Setu etc. and now we try trying to tap the US financial service market.

Visit our website: https://www.zepto.io

Sri Lanka, 2019

Cutting edge technology always excites me and i have always been drawn towards anything new in the tech space. What started off as a project close to my heart is now a full fledged company! I am a co founder of ‘Avantrio’ — an AI/Machine Learning and Blockchain focused services company.The company is group of engineers passionate about developing software with innovation and excellence.

Read more about this here: https://avantrio.xyz/

To quote Roy AshAn entrepreneur tends to bite off a little more than he can chew hoping he’ll quickly learn how to chew it “ It is with this attitude that I am trying to further the reach of my business’, mentor young minds, help other entrepreneurs succeed and bring cutting edge technology and innovation to my island nation.