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Ramping up local entrepreneurship at the second John Keells X Open Innovation Challenge 2017

Susantha Ratnayake, Chairman, John Keells Holdings
Susantha Ratnayake, Chairman, John Keells Holdings
Sri Lankan entrepreneurship is geared to hit the fast-track at the second annual John Keells X Open Innovation Challenge 2017, as teams of aspiring innovators and inventors compete for a chance to win entry into a six month Accelerator Programme at JKH that offers Rs. 2 million in seed investment, a curated growth oriented curriculum, office space in Colombo, access to legal, finance and secretarial expertise, access to mentors involving senior JKH leadership, active interaction with JKH businesses, as well as the prospects of further investment during or after the six month Accelerator Program.  
John Keells X was first launched in 2016 with the goal of boosting creative and intellectual talent through a public competitive format. This year’s challenge has evolved into a fully-fledged accelerator programme that will holistically educate participants on key factors to hone business performance. This will also include an entrepreneurship curriculum and growth hacking curriculum delivered by leading international trainers with extensive startup experience. Additionally, participants will receive invaluable mentorship from some of the most respected entrepreneurs and business magnates in the country.
Krishan Balendra (President, Leisure Sector/Director - JKH), Ajit Gunewardene (Deputy Chairman - JKH), Ronnie Peiris (Group Finance Director - JKH), and Ramesh Shanmuganathan (Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer - JKH) at a panel discussion for the inaugural John Keells X programme last year.
Krishan Balendra (President, Leisure Sector/Director – JKH),
Ajit Gunewardene (Deputy Chairman – JKH),
 Ronnie Peiris (Group Finance Director – JKH),
and Ramesh Shanmuganathan (Executive Vice President
and Chief Information Officer – JKH)
at a panel discussion for the inaugural John Keells X programme last year.
The updated format of the open innovation challenge held last year,  John Keells X Open Innovation Challenge 2017 will now include extensive support to accelerate business ventures over a six month period, and this was prompted as a result of the strong and enthusiastic response from young entrepreneurial talent at the inaugural event last year.
Commencing from 2 May 2017, competing teams must work to exhibit disruptively innovative ideas that hold the potential to complement the core sectors that John Keells Holdings PLC is currently engaged in, such that growth of their early stage business can be accelerated through aligning with any JKH business unit or industry vertical spanning Leisure, Transportation, Consumer Foods and Retail, Property, Financial Services, Information Technology and Plantation Services.
Applications for the John Keells X Open Innovation Challenge 2017 open from 2 May to 25 June 2017, and can be submitted through the event website: www.johnkeellsX.com. There, participants can also discover more information about the Accelerator Programme, including details of the selection process and basic guidance on how to get started. JKH will host a series of road shows and meet ups in order to provide guidance to the pool of potential applicants.
Shortlisted candidates will go on to a ‘Demo Day’ where they will pitch their ideas to an eminent panel of judges. The panel of judges for this year will comprise Ajit Gunewardene (Deputy Chairman – JKH), Ronnie Peiris (Group Finance Director – JKH), Krishan Balendra (President, Leisure Sector/Director – JKH), Gihan Cooray (President, Retail Sector/Director – JKH), Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya (Regional CEO – Axiata Group South Asia/Non-Executive Director – JKH), Jonathan Alles (Managing Director/CEO – Hatton National Bank PLC), and Ramesh Shanmuganathan (Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer – JKH)
Up to seven of the best teams from Demo Day will thereafter be selected to participate in a six month Accelerator Program running from November through to April 2018. Through this programme, JKH will offer access to interact with JKH companies and  senior leadership level mentors at JKH along with opportunities for further investment in the selected winning entities during or after the six month Accelerator Program.
Notably, the interaction with John Keells X does not end with ‘Demo Day’. The relationships built with JKH will help individuals and teams navigate the tough path of a start-up with much greater confidence. JKH may also support this year’s most promising start ups to secure long term funding provided they are capable of meeting the Group’s rigorous internal evaluation criteria.

John Keells Holdings PLC is Sri Lanka’s largest listed conglomerate in the Colombo Stock Exchange. From managing hotels and resorts in Sri Lanka and the Maldives to providing port, marine fuel and logistics services to IT solutions, manufacturing of food and beverages to running a chain of supermarkets, tea broking to stock broking, life insurance and banking to real estate, inbound and outbound travel, JKH has made its presence felt in virtually every major sphere of the economy. Since modest beginnings as a produce and exchange broker in the early 1870s, it has been known to constantly re-invent, re-align and reposition itself in exploring new avenues of growth.
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