There are two types of people in Sri Lanka: those who like startups, and those who don’t.
The ones that like startups are cool. They’ve read the stories about Apple. They use Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and Instagram and tend to live in Colombo.
Talking to them is a bit of a surreal experience, because it requires a lingo that you’re not quite accustomed to. A Facebook page is “a platform”. Three people eating isso wadey (the street food version of prawn crackers) is “a conference.” They generally wax lyrical about the #startuplyf. Mention that you, too, have a startup and they’ll surreptitiously try to figure out who you’re related to, who you went to college with, whether you have an epic office, and whether they can drop by.
For some reason, very few of them actually have anything resembling a business operation.
The ones who don’t like startups are the old crowd. Their idea of success is rigid: join the bank. Become something sane, like a doctor or an accountant. The job description of choice is a manager. Take on enough loans to own a house and drive a car.
Talking to these people is also very interesting, because they tend to have picked up a lot of knowledge, an incredible amount of history (regardless of how old they are) and will generally be mildly amused at you. They don’t understand ‘this Facebook thing’ or ‘that website business’. If you really want to bust their bubble, talk to them about personal finance and mention PewDiePie’s annual income. But don’t: they’re alright, really. There’s a lot you can learn from a casual chat – especially about the ins and outs of the business scene here.
Then there’s the third type. The crazy ones. The misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. People quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because while everyone’s busy hashtagging bottles of beer in the firelight, they’re watching them and wondering what they can convince these people to buy, download or share. They’re thinking of the next big thing. You rarely find them in the limelight. Half the time, you won’t even know they exist. Because they’re really too busy being out there, hustling, making stuff work. By the time they take the stage, they’ve made it.
So come on down to Sri Lanka. The vibes are good and “conferences” don’t cost a thing. And because we’re a little behind the rest of the startup curve, there’s always space for a few more troublemakers. The question is, what do you want to be?