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Held annually, the SAARC Startup Awards recognizes entrepreneurship and builds bridges for innovation in the region. Sri Lanka secured 3 of its prestigious awards at the event, which recognizes innovative entrepreneurs from across the SAARC region. Organized as part of the Global Startup Awards, these Sri Lankans were recognized at the coveted awards program in the presence of top-notch entrepreneurs, global corporates, investors, and ecosystem builders from across the globe. These are the Sri Lankans that won big at the SAARC Startup Awards 2020 and their stories. 

Ecosystem Hero of the Year – Nevindaree Premarathne – This award seeks to recognize passionate individuals with the ability and willingness to help entrepreneurs and their startups and grow. The winner of this award at the SAARC Startup Awards 2020 was Nevindaree Premarathne. A Project Manager at the ICTA, she is a key pillar behind its startup accelerator Spiralation, which is among the 1st accelerator programs in the country. In her role at the ICTA, she’s been an active supporter of several startup initiatives in Sri Lanka. Actively participating in community-driven events serving as a mentor, judge, or facilitator, Nevindaree has assisted several startups in their journey. Additionally, she also plays an instrumental role in organizing Disrupt Asia, which is Sri Lanka’s largest startup conference that brings together both local and international startup ecosystem builders. Sharing her thoughts on receiving this award, Nevindaree said, “It’s a great honor to receive this award. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues at the ICTA, they’re also behind this award. Their dedication and hard work are remarkable. Building an ecosystem is always a collective effort.” 

Best Newcomer – Niftron – Co-Founder & CEO of Niftron, Sharmilan Somasundaram – It was a Sri Lankan startup that secured the award for Best Newcomer at the SAARC Startup Awards 2020. Niftron is a Blockchain as a Service platform that allows organizations to integrate blockchain into their projects in a simple manner. All the while improving trust by offering transparency, security, and ownership. In doing so, Niftron aims to make it easier and cheaper for businesses to utilize blockchain technology. The award recognizes Niftron as a startup while being less than 2 years old, has shown the greatest development over the last year based on growth, innovation, and impact with their product/service. After hearing the news, the Co-Founder & CEO of Niftron, Sharmilan Somasundaram said, “We were excited to know that we won the best newcomer award yesterday and it’s one of the best recognition that we have received so far.” Sharmilan continued, “We are honored to receive the best newcomer SAARC Startup Awards 2020 and will be looking forward to representing Sri Lanka in the global grand finale. Winning this prestigious award encourages us to do more and help reinvent organizations by leveraging blockchain. I would like to thank everyone who supported us in this journey and recognize the continuous support from the ICTA’s  Spiralation program, Lankan Angel Network, and Founder Institute Sri Lankan chapter.”

Best Co-Working Space – Hatch

Another award Sri Lanka secured at the SAARC Startup Awards 2020 was for Best Co-Working Space, which was won by Hatch. The award recognizes co-working spaces for their services, support, and resources offered to help startups grow while developing a culture of innovation. 

We’ve previously covered the story of Hatch and its wider vision. The award recognizes Hatch for its collaborative community, customized programmes, many events, alongside international partnerships. A notable example among its efforts to help startups and promote innovation is from last year where Hatch in partnership with the Lankan Angel Network and Ford Foundation launched Sri Lanka’s first virtual accelerator for fintech startups

“Winning this award means the world to us – it reinforces the fact that we’re heading in the right direction and encourages us to continue working hard to define and refine the standards of the future of work. We want to thank our community, partners and the whole startup ecosystem for being part of this continued journey and helping us reach this milestone as we continue collaborating and creating invaluable impact in the future,” said CEO of Hatch, Brindha Selvadurai, reflecting on this achievement. 

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