Saturday, August 20, 2011

WSO2Con - 2011

WSO2Con - 2011, the event of the year!

I found it a great a pleasure to have a chance to attend this event, which is to be a huge event in middle-ware industry with participations from Google, IBM and eBay and a perfect pool for technology lovers. Only few lucky students will get the chance to be there at student rates. But the great news is still you can reserve your place for a very low price regrading the value of this three-day conference with two more days in tutorials. Try and see whether you can catch the early bird rates too.

Check out event agenda and the registration page for more information. Here is what Dr. Sanjiva Weerawarna CEO-WSO2 has to say about the event.






MIT-AITI Experience–Part 3 /Demo Day

 
It was our dream day, it was the day we waited to show off the results of the intensive hard work we did in just 6 weeks and got the maximum of out of it. I will be sharing that experience with this post.
We have been finished developing our product to the level to do a live demo by that time and unfortunately with the nature of our product ‘ThenaHari’, we were unable to perform it inside a conference hall. Following were the problems we had and the solutions we found with the help of Samidh, Lisa and Micheal.
  • Simulate an outside journey inside a hall – We developed a simulator that mimics the path of a passenger travelling in a bus route. This simulator was mainly developed by Manoj, one of mobiAssist co-founders, with the contribution of others. This also solved the problem of not having a way to access a the LBS(Location Based Service) of service provider to track passenger location which was great.
  • Making the alert via fake call – As we still did not had access to a service provider’s SMS gateway, this was a big problem. So with the help of few contacts we got, finally a solution came up from bluetooth.
  • How to convince the importance of our application – It was predicted that our audience will not understand the value of our application at once, as most of them were not users of public transport. This was a real challenge and this was the most important objective doing demo in front of them. So we came up with two solutions.
  1. Produced a moFilm that highlights the value and usage of our application ‘ThenaHari’ – Actually two of our co-founders act the main roles there and Dhanika directed it so well. Will be sharing it here soon after releasing for general public.
  2. Conducted a survey and submitted what we found – We did a survey for a week getting into busses and trains and counting down how many people are sleeping. This was a real nice experience and we enjoyed it a lot.
With the dawn of the 3rd of August we were well prepared and waiting for the time to show off our work. The venue for the event was Cinnomon-Grand Hotel and we were so excited with hearing the list of distinguished guests. There were ministers from government, parliament representatives from the opposition, higher  professionals from Dialog, Mobitel and Etisalsat, the main mobile service providers in Sri Lanka, possible investors, leading local entrepreneurs from software industry and Professors and lecturers from University of Moratuwa including the vice-chancellor. Also DailyFT has put an detailed article on the front page encouraging us and we understood that if we try hard on this and continued we can add some value to the economy of the country.
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We had the confidence that we will rock the demo and after been staged as 5th team to go, we knew we did it great with the comments from judge panel and the audience. That was a great moment I will remind proudly forever.
Then we had the reception where we got whole lot of comments appreciating us, pointing out paths to improve and of course invitations from mobile operators to have business meetings with them. That was a great achievement for us. And there were more waiting for us.
There were three awards waiting for teams to win namely “Outstanding product”, “Best technical innovation” and “Best social impact”. “ThenaHari” was that excellent product to win both the awards “Best technical innovation” and “Best social impact” which were awarded by Dialog and Mobitel. It was not the reward we got with that, it was the strong foundation we got for our start-up to grow up bigger that made us much happier.
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The demo day ended up like that having a great positive impact on our company and this is how DailyFT  encouraged us putting a detailed articles on the event.
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You can read the full article in DailyFT site,
Though the demo day ended it was just the start for us. And Samidh, Lisa and MIcheal were still staying with us to guide us how to continue our companies after they left in two days. They introduced us to the possible people from whom we would be able to have some help and gave more guidance on our future plans. Thank you Samidh, Lisa and Micheal for all the strength and guidance and everything you gave us. We know continuing this with our fullest commitment is the greatest gratitude we can show you all.
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Finally I should mention that we are thankful to Prof. Saman Amarasinghe for bringing this program to Sri Lanka, MIT, Staff of UOM, Dialog, Mobitel, Etisalat, Mentors, Investors, Friends and each and every person who encouraged us even by a word. Thank you all for your contributions!!!
Now it is our time to have fun in the industry discovering the world of entrepreneurs!!!
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I will share how our product logo, name and company name came from in a later post.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

MIT-AITI Experience–Part 2

I am writing after completing the whole course and becoming a director and a co-founder of the company mobiAssist, the creator of ‘ThenaHari’. I would like to begin the story from where I stopped at previous post.
 
After having fun at the end of 2nd week with elevator pitch competition we had a week filled with technical stuff with the help and guidance Micheal. Parallel to that Samidh and Lisa introduced us to the marketing principles, entrepreneurship skills and presenting and lot more. Those rest 4 weeks became so intensive with work and of course lot of fun too. Below I will be describing few important events that took place during those 4 weeks.
Our product page product page at MIT site can be found in the given link.
A photo coverage total photo coverage on overall program can be found .
 
Hackathon
This was a really cool and challenging experience. We were given 24 hours to complete as much as we can in our products and the group which create the most progress was to win. Meanwhile Micheal was posting challenging questions randomly time to time and if awake we could submit solutions and earn marks. This was very interesting and our group divide tasks among us and worked together to reach the win. We slept in shift so that we do not miss challenge questions.
 
Though the main objective of this event was to accelerate the implementation of product what I found most valuable was the team spirit we built through this. Anyway we could not win in this competition but the progress we made, make us understand the capacity of us as a team that it is possible to do that much of work within a day.
 
20th July: Critique Day (Get feedback on Business)
This was a very hard day for us and was very useful too. Now I can say this created a strong foundation for us, though we were bit worried. On this day we had to meet up with 6 panels which consisted of 3panels from leading mobile operators of Sri Lanka (Dialog, Mobitel and Etisalat) and three panels from leading local entrepreneurs and senior lecturers and professors. Day before the critique day we had a tuff session with Samidh as a rehearsal and we walked to each and every panel, submit a brief description about product with still improving demo and asked for their comments and how we can improve.
 
We had bit of hard time trying to convince them that we are doing something useful for the society. Actually none of them won’t find our application useful frequently unless they are travelling to an unfamiliar place as they were not users of public transportation. Anyway we got good practice on how we should explain our product to variety of people in various angles and received lot of useful clues to improve our product. Thankful to all of them and our instructors for arranging us that opportunity.
 
27th July: Negotiation Day (Get contracts with Operators)
This was a very exciting day we looked for, from the beginning of implementing our product ‘ThenaHari’. On 26th we had a session on how to negotiate and in the morning Samidh announced us that every team has got at least one opportunity to meet an operator and show off the product. And finally it was Mobitel who was interested on our product with the image they got from our one-pager which our whole team prepared with so much care.
To meet with Mobitel we prepared a pitch deck explaining
  • The problem we are addressing
  • The solution we suggest and how our product address it efficiently
  • The Marketing opportunity
  • Marketing Strategy  
  • Future Plans                                     which was a whole effort of our team.
While we were waiting for our time slot we could have some clues from the previous group and they told us that do not expect the attention of audience and do not worry if they show bored. This was bit disappointing and anyway I thought to do maximum to have the attention of audience and changed my pitch I prepared to be more brief and interesting. After we get introduced it was me who was to start our presentation pitching an overview of the product. I did my maximum to attract and keep the attention of audience with a little story could initiate an interactive discussion which our team continued well.
 
Final effect was a great feed back, we even did not expect and I can still remind the panel saying “superb idea”. They wanted to meet us for a business meeting the very next week and our team celebrated this achievement going to beach and having lunch together. All of us were thrilled that we are going to have do a real business as a company which once was just a dream.
 
It really was a great day we worked hard as a team and achieved our first goal to get a service provider interested in our product. Without that we could not proceed with ‘ThenaHari’.
 
1st August – Meeting with Mobitel
With the feed back we got for last presentation we did, we were so confident and went to Mobitel with our business plan. In this visit all our instructors accompanied us, which was a great strength. With a little introduction now we felt the conditions have changed a bit after going through our business plan. They were not happy with the plan and asked us for a change. Yes, that was really negotiating which we were not much exposed to. We were not used to those kind of business negotiation before and was the where I started to think this as a real business, concerning profits, our future plans, facing competitors and bargaining too.
 
Finally the meeting ended up asking us to come up with a modified business plan. We started to look for experienced people’s advices on the suggested plan by Mobitel and kept on analyzing how that will affect our future growth of company.
3rd of August was the big day and I will be sharing those details in the next post.