The Tech Investment Ecosystem in Sri Lanka, with Blue Ocean Ventures

Please introduce yourself…

BOV (Blue Ocean Ventures) is a VC based out of Sri Lanka and started in 2010 right after the 30 year old war. More info on the founders can be found here.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the startup ecosystem in Sri Lanka vs. other countries in the region?

We cannot compare as we are just in the process of creating our ecosystem. On a positive note, we have learnt from others mistakes and pretty much doing it right so far. Our guidance comes from our partner http://www.indianangelnetwork.com. Government incentives will hugely help to accelerate this.

What industries are you currently getting excited about?

Tourism, Hospitality and Travel, Education, IT/BPO, Design, to name some of the sunshine industries in Sri Lanka.

What advice can you share with entrepreneurs wanting to start a startup in Sri Lanka?

As LAN is very structured, it is easy for investors to become members or entrepreneurs to apply via this LAN platform.

How mature is the legal structure, especially around businesses and investing, in Sri Lanka?

We have a legal advisor who is a patron of LAN. Aritha Wickramanayaka from Nithya partners is undisputedly one of the Top corporate lawyers in the country and helps the investors and entrepreneurs with any issues they have. So far he has made it look very easy for all stakeholders, foreign or local. Thus we have not had many hurdles.

Based on your experience, what are the top risks of doing business in Sri Lanka?

As long as you do it by the books, there is no risks involved. It is a small market and thus needs to be scaled offshore. There in itself lies the risk.

What areas of the startup ecosystem in Sri Lanka need to be improved?

Plenty of good business plans is still lacking. The mentality of university students need to change.There is a very low perception re entrepreneurs in the country and this needs to change.

Unfortunately majority of Srilankans were brain washed by their seniors to become professionals and not businessmen. This is slowly changing. A few success stories will speed up the change.

Are the government getting involved with the startup/investment ecosystem in Sri Lanka?

We have not received any incentives yet, but we plan to work with the relevant authorities to make this more conducive for startups. The government also has a few programs with world bank funding. Spiralation program conducted by the ICTA is one of this.

What’s next for Blue Ocean Ventures?

Sri Lanka’s startup ecosystem is at a very early stage of development. Over the next 10-15 years we will see a step-change increase in innovation and entrepreneurship in Lanka.

This transformation will cut across sectors and will lead to the creation of thousands of new companies, create millions of jobs and will bring significant new investment into the economy.

Getting there will require many changes to the ecosystem including 1) creating awareness 2) helping entrepreneurs build capability, 3) providing seed and follow on funding 4) helping companies to accelerate their growth and 4) creating a large network of mentors who can work with these companies.

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