Mangala Karunaratne

Current Employment: CEO and Founder, Calcey Technologies

Education: California State University, Fresno
BSc Computer Science

How it all started

Mangala Karunaratne, CEO and founder of Calcey Technologies enjoys an almost love-hate relationship with his home country Sri Lanka. Initially he left Sri Lanka a couple of decades’ ago, to pursue his higher studies. He, like most others, fell in love with the sun and surf life of California and decided to make his home. Having a passion for mountain biking, snowboarding and other adventure sports, taking on the then booming tech industry was a natural match for this risk taker.

He was at the right place at the right time, enjoying the perks of the Silicon Valley life at the peak of the .COM boom. He held various Internet engineering and management roles at Fortune 1000 technology companies and dot-coms. In addition to Calcey, he founded eConceptions, RideLanka, OneClickTel to name a few. Like all good things must come to an end, Mangala’s romance with the Valley too, followed suit. Flashback to early 2000, the .COM boom crashed, and he was forced to take a hard look at his life.

Amidst this .COM turbulence, he took stock of his life and future and decided it was time for change. In a dramatic shift in priorities, Mangala decided to bid adieu to the first world luxuries of Northern California and return to his homeland in 2002.

Return of the Prodigal Son

Returning to Sri Lanka marked a turning point in Mangala’s life and it was during the arduous 22-hour journey back to his beloved island nation that he decided to create Calcey.

Driven by passion and focus, he tried to build in Sri Lanka a company and life that he enjoyed in California. Forty-eight hour workweeks fuelled by a staple diet of kottu, he worked tirelessly to make his dream a reality. Calcey was taking shape into what he envisioned, a boutique software product engineering company, specializing in Web, Mobile and Cloud products.

Taking the Plunge – Entrepreneurship

From this very humble beginning, Mangala, worked hard to develop the startup culture within his own company. From his rock star life in the Silicon Valley, he had literally hit rock bottom in Sri Lanka. He bootstrapped a 2-man show out of his father’s office in Maradana, where he faced a lot of challenges given the lull in the tech industry at that point. Everyone was weary of yet another tech startup and Mangala was not spared any scrutiny.

Calcey was taking shape into what he envisioned, a boutique software product engineering company, specializing in Web, Mobile and Cloud products. But something was amiss, he yearned for the energy and vibe of a startup and then set out to inculcate that culture into Calcey.

There was a marked difference to the work culture in Sri Lanka. Having never worked a day job in Sri Lanka, he struggled to come to terms with that. The DNA of Calcey was something Mangala wanted to bring into the Sri Lankan work culture. While it was a constant struggle, he now looks back at the company he has built, with pride.

In the midst of building, what he hoped to be his future empire, Mangala, also married the love of his life and was on his way to being a dad. While jubilant about both these events, he was also constantly hounded with nightmares. He was under a lot of pressure about building a stable future for his growing family. This is where the support system and family in Sri Lanka kicked in and helped him breathe easy.

The Good Life

Whilst he continued to expand his company his family expanded too. Blessed with two bundles of joy now, Mangala, credits his wife with bringing up his children gracefully. In the years to come Mangala moved back to the Silicon Valley to further expand Calcey and set up shop there. While he continued to work tirelessly to better his company’s future, his better half worked even harder to maintain a good home.

In 2011, Mangala and his family moved permanently back home to Sri Lanka. While his son initially experienced some withdrawals and a culture shock, he then soon adapted to the local life. While he never conformed entirely to the typical Sri Lankan mindset, Sri Lanka has been great for Mangala the entrepreneur and the family man.

Bite the Bullet – Come back Home

He still enjoys taking risks and incubating projects that he strongly believes in. There is tremendous potential for the country he says, which is a hot bed of tech ideas just waiting to take off. Mangala firmly believes that technology will help Sri Lanka leapfrog from a developing nation to a first word country.

Mangala still misses that ‘je ne sais quoi’ that the Silicon Valley embodies and his misadventures at Lake Tahoe. He often yearns for the overload of technology conversations with like-minded individuals that is the norm in the Bay area. He reminisces the charm of San Francisco and the fond memories of friendship and family. It’s time to make new memories in Sri Lanka, which is now home for him and the family and they are not looking back.

Looking at the holistic view, his move to Sri Lanka, has proved to have given Mangala certain luxuries of time and leisure, which he previously did not enjoy. His work focus has had shifted a bit too, he has taken a high-level role and looking at many projects that he is passionate about. They are not only high-tech anymore, some that help the disadvantaged to make money on their own in a sustainable manner, plantations and adventure tourism that are close to his heart. He is also working on incubating product ideas at lot cheaper costs than in the Silicon Valley. When someone fails it does not cost an arm and a leg, and they can move to the next idea. He cautions potential returnees to not over think and plan their return to Sri Lanka. His advice is to bite the bullet and move much like he did. The future is here and now and the Sri Lankan Diaspora should embrace it.