Harnessing New Ideas Through Open Innovation

Published Dec-12-17

Breakthrough:
A peer-to-peer lending platform that uses blockchain technology and an Internet of Things agriculture solution among other novel concepts.

Company:
John Keells Holdings, Sri Lanka

The Story:

Harnessing New Ideas Through Open Innovation Ideas are the lifeblood of innovation but they only have currency if acted upon. Open innovation competitions often generate a lot of interest and novel concepts with prize money being awarded to the winners, but there can be concerns that once the challenges are over there’s no follow through. The ideas go nowhere.

Getting Ideas Off the Ground

That shouldn't be the experience of the winners of the 2017 John Keells X Open Innovation Challenge. This was the second open innovation contest organized by John Keells Holdings Plc, a huge conglomerate in Sri Lanka that covers seven industry sectors, including transportation, food manufacture, banking and real estate. The initiative is more than just a search for ideas because it offers winning startups a six-month accelerator programme to help innovators turn their concepts into reality. The aim is to give Sri Lankan business talent a boost.

For startups, having great ideas is not the most difficult part of innovation. Many new enterprises launch on a wave of creative energy but then come to a grinding halt. Among the reasons are a lack of support, running out of money and having no business plan. Hence JKX’s accelerator programme to help reverse this trend.

Shortlisted Applicants

To be in with a chance of a coveted space, participants had to submit an application form and video to introduce their idea and their team. The conglomerate then shortlisted 20 teams to go forward to the next stage which included training on how to prepare for the contest’s pitch event. The teams hailed from several industry sectors such as logistics, retail, travel and financial technology.

Following the eagerly anticipated pitch day, judges selected six teams for admission to the accelerator programme.

"We are very pleased with the diversity of ideas and business models here," commented Wishanth Wijesinha, Head of JKX – Corporate Startup Accelerator. "The teams have developed their ideas since they were initially shortlisted, and we have chosen the most promising six teams to enter the 6-month accelerator programme."

Among the winning ideas were:

Helios - a peer-to-peer lending platform that leverages blockchain technology
Senzagro - an Internet of Things/sensor-based precision agriculture solution
Greasemonkey.lk - an ecommerce platform for automotive products and services

So what does membership of the programme look like?

The winning teams were given office space, mentorship, access to John Keells companies, training and two million Sri Lankan rupees (approx. USD $13,000) seed money.

"I’m looking forward to seeing these teams progress over the next six months," said JKH Executive Director, Krishan Balendra. "My door is always open to them, as are my colleagues’. We strongly believe that the private sector can play a very important role in improving the scope for innovation and entrepreneurship in Sri Lanka."

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