Refresh ​Colombo sets stage for startups

Guest post by – ​Indulekha Nanayakkara​

Calling all thought leaders!

Refresh Colombo may be one of the (if not the) fastest growing web/tech communities in Colombo that has a promising future to probably turn Colombo into a Silicon Valley in the next decade or so to come.

The community meets up once a month and share their expertise among the members. And all of this is done free of charge.

Refresh Colombo Intro from Hamid Afzal on Vimeo.

So how did it all start? When Samir and Sukanti Husain attended a TEDx event in Miami, back in early 2010, the two imagined making their motherland, Sri Lanka, the next Silicon Valley after listening to an inspiring speech by Alex de Carvalho – the founder of Refresh Miami, about his own dream for Miami.​

Following Samir’s next trip to Colombo in June last year, Refresh Colombo was born. This was a result of the dedication of three amazing individuals – NazlyAloka and Milad along with a small but enthusiastic ​group of volunteers. The first Refresh Colombo meetup was held at the Chamber of Commerce in Colombo in July.

Although I missed the very first meetup by a matter of days I attended the second Refresh Colombo meetup in August, out of sheer curiosity. I was so taken up by the idea that I made it a point to attend the next meetup… and the next. Now, the monthly meetups are a must attend event for me. The fact that the organizers have made it an every “last Thursday of the month” event as of 2011 (and posted future meetups on the website) has made it much easier to keep the date free. ​

So far, we have been sharing ideas and information on topics such as:

  • Technology
  • Gadgets
  • Start-ups
  • Social media
  • SEO
  • Marketing
  • Social good
  • Web development
  • Web security
  • Gaming

As I see it, the community keeps growing and we’re successfully conquering a few challenges with each meetup. At October’s Refresh, Shazly did a live streaming over his phone as an experiment. Since then, we’ve had a few requests to live-stream the meetup for the benefit of those who are ​both not in the Country and Colombo. After playing around with various methods, we successfully live-streamed December’s Refresh Colombo using just a webcam and a laptop. We had a quite a following with that effort – including questions from the U.S. and Anuradhapura! which were over text, Twitter and call-ins.

In addition, Gihan offered to video record the meetup and now it’s available on the website as well. Meanwhile, there was a request for live-tweeting from the event after I did some live-tweeting for fun, at the October meetup. And for November’s meetup, the organizers asked me if I could do it from the official @RefreshColombo twitter account, instead of my own – to which I happily obliged and we had a lot of feedback from that session as well. And following a few requests from Sukanti and the Refresh Colombo organizers, I had the privilege of delivering a presentation on Social Media at the last meetup in December as the first woman speaker.

The way I see it, Sri Lanka has been amazingly adoptive of latest technologies. We have a wide telecommunication sector consisting of 5 mobile network service providers with and a thriving IT industry​. But to take it to the next level, we need innovative thinkers, thought leaders and the right platform.

And I see, Refresh Colombo provides the perfect platform for anyone to share their knowledge and learn from the experts, which might give rise to some brilliant start-ups very soon – something that Zuckerberg would have probably wished for, when he was in College!

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