This year, we celebrated our ninth birthday, and next year, it will be a full decade since LAN was founded. However, our mission of empowering the local startup ecosystem to reach greater heights remains the same.

As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day, so we thought it would be worthwhile to take a walk down the memory lane to see how far we’ve come.

A timeline of our journey since 2012

Technically, LAN sprouted from Venture Engine, Sri Lanka’s first real startup competition that was the brainchild of BOV Capital. As Sri Lanka’s 3 decade long civil war came to an end in 2009, Prajeeth Balasubramaniam, Jeevan Gnanam, Sanath Fernando, Mafaz Ishaq, and Apurva Udeshi thought it apt to plant the first seeds of Sri Lanka’s then non-existent startup ecosystem. They knew that deal flow and investor funding was paramount to foster a vibrant ecosystem, and through BOV, launched Venture Engine as a platform to bring together investors and prospective startups.

Launching Venture Engine wasn’t easy. It took nearly 3 years of painstaking work — plans had to be drawn up, investors had to be found, and more. But once Venture Engine saw the light of day, things slowly started to fall into place. By March 2012, Prajeeth and team had built a sound relationship with the Indian Angel Network, who helped immensely to formulate LAN’s operating structure and even co-invested in Venture Engine itself.

They probably didn’t think much about it at the time, but by launching LAN, Prajeeth and Co. were the first settlers of the wild west that was Sri Lanka’s startup funding space. Startup funding and terms like ‘angel investing’ were oddities to the general public, and any mention elicited a reaction that made it look like we’d managed to procure a Sri Lankan fish bun or maalu paan, with actual fish in it.

With time though, things got better. An entire generation of post-war Sri Lankans began knocking on our doors with awesome ideas. There was OMAK Technologies founded by Ehantha Sirisena, Extrogene Software founded by Ruwan Dissanayaka, and Zigzag.lk founded by Dinindu Nawarathna. Along the way, we also became one of the first formal sources of funding for female founders in Sri Lanka. Lonali Rodrigo’s House of Lonali, “nithya” by Nithya Yamini Lamahewa, and Charitha Abeyratne Hettiarachchi’s Saraii Village are a few names that come to mind. Today, these businesses have gone on to do well in their respective domains, and it is quite humbling to realise that we had a part to play in their success.

A few LAN-funded startups whose names you may recognise

Fast forward to today, and we still tap dance to work looking to make things better for Sri Lankan startups. We’ve launched the Angel Fund, and have partnered with a whole host of like-minded organisations from the world over.

Special mention also goes out to our patrons Ariththa Wickramanyake who helps us with all our legal matters, Padmaraja Rupert who helped create LAN and opened doors for us regionally, Linda Speldewinde who gave us our first office space and continues to partner with us on many programs to date, Rajan Anandan who has been instrumental in bringing foreign investors into Sri Lanka, Dr. Hans Wijesuriya who has championed Sri Lanka’s startup ecosystem, and Hanif Yousuf, who together with Dr. Hans has supported Venture Engine from day one.

These names are just a few in a long list, but we are absolutely grateful for the support we’ve received from every name on said list. At the same time, we are looking forward with excitement to what the future will bring.

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A blog by LAN — Lanka Angel Network, Sri Lanka’s largest network of angel investors.