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Sunday July 25th, 2021

Hatch: Where big ideas are born

From the left, Jeevan Gnanam, Co-founder, Brindha Selvadurai-Gnanam, Co-founder/CEO of Hatch

On a mission to make an ordinary bunch of people do extraordinary things, Hatch provides a space for innovative young-preneurs to build their businesses.

True to its meaning, Hatch is all about a new beginning. It’s where some of the craziest ideas are born, innovations are nurtured and a new generation of young entrepreneurs gear up for an exciting journey of growth.

Hatch has a vision, and the minds behind it are on a mission to make an ordinary bunch of people do extraordinary things. Can Sri Lanka become the hub of innovation in Asia? Co-founder Jeevan Gnanam and Brindha Selvadurai-Gnanam, Co-founder and CEO of Hatch, are certainly on a journey to drive this agenda forward.

Tell us about Hatch. What’s the purpose of this project?

Brindha: Hatch is a place where innovation, creativity, knowledge sharing, networking all come together in one space. Hatch is where the future of work happens.

We were motivated by the idea of building a community driven by purpose. The purpose being to create an environment where anyone from any walk of life can have the opportunity to make a meaningful impact in the world and in doing so, flourish and thrive. The vision of Hatch is not limited to simply providing a co-working space. Instead, we wanted to transform the business culture in Sri Lanka. We focused on providing genuine opportunities for entrepreneurs to experiment ideas, acquire knowledge, share lessons and thrive successfully together, in a creative co-working space. A space that encourages budding entrepreneurs to incubate, collaborate and accelerate. We believe resilience is built by communities.

Co-working spaces are a trend. It offers convenience and cost effectiveness for businesses especially in their early stage of operations. How does hatch differ from other co-working space providers?

Jeevan: Hatch is unique in the sense that it’s not just a co-working space. We are a pay it forward community of entrepreneurs and innovators, looking to empower grassroot level innovation and entrepreneurship. Hatch from inception has been a place that was set up to create a measurable impact to the entrepreneurship culture of Sri Lanka. Some of our pay it forward community initiatives – called Hatch X programs are:

  1. The Hatch Open House mentorship program, an initiative to help entrepreneurs and startups in Sri Lanka grow smarter and faster by getting guidance from business leaders and experts in their fields. We facilitate their growth by augmenting the existing tools and skills they have in order for them to overcome roadblocks efficiently and continue to be successful. Overall we supported 100 startups, with 56 mentors and over 327 business development session hours in 2020.
  2. Hatch Kickass Bootcamp is a curated incubation program series for early-stage female entrepreneurs and founders conducted by our entrepreneur coach, Naomi Gunnels. In 2020, we supported 35 startups, 37 female entrepreneurs with over 52 business development session hours.
  3. . Our Maker Studio headed by Florian Manderschield has been set up to infuse creativity into the Sri Lankan startup ecosystem. A masterclass online tutorial has been launched on YouTube to empower makers. In addition, we have launched SL Makers Unite, a new maker collective for makers and maker enthusiasts to connect.
  4. Hatch X Fintech Accelerator is Sri Lanka’s first fintech startup accelerator program, launched virtually to help local fintech startups find success by offering them the necessary support to grow and expand their businesses beyond Sri Lanka. In 2020 at the height of the COVID19 pandemic we launched 7 fintech startups, 12 speaker sessions, and over 40 Pitch Coaching Sessions together with 40+ Partners / Customer / Mentor / Investor Intros, 50+ 1:1 Business Advisory Sessions and 70+ 1:1 Program Check-ins.

Start-ups are often cash strapped, and as a result, growth is a challenge. How does hatch support such ideators in their mission for growth?

Brindha: Apart from the programs mentioned above we also have global partnerships with She Loves Tech and Good Life Accelerator. She Loves Tech is the world’s largest startup competition for women and technology. The competition, together with its conference, has continuously expanded, now reaching 30+ countries. 2020 marked the 6th year of the series and it was brought to Sri Lanka in partnership with Hatch in spite of the challenges caused by the global pandemic.

Access to a ‘Good Life’ is the foundation of our business development program ‘GoodLife X’. The program is geared to scale products and services to achieve better health, as well as social and economic prosperity. Our aim is to foster ethical and sustainable business ideas that help to improve life. In 2019 our Good Life Accelerator pilot was conducted with 6 companies and in 2020 we launched a cohort of 10 companies (2020). This together with the Good Life Accelerator GARAGE pilot, which was launched for SMEs in 2020, supports 5 SMEs.

Hatch caters to start-ups, corporates, and SME’s. How does the service offering differ among these three segments?

Jeevan: We believe that places shape behavior, and behavior over time is culture. Intentionally designed physical space matters and has the power to drive the attitudes, behaviors and levels of performance that people and corporates need to thrive. Interestingly, we’ve had a few corporates approach us, asking us how we could replicate this atmosphere within their own space. Corporates are starting to see the value in encouraging an entrepreneurial mindset throughout their organisations that is to solve problems and add value. More people should be encouraging an entrepreneurial mindset irrespective of being a startup, corporate or SME.

We believe that places shape behavior, and behavior over time is culture.

Furthermore, since the pandemic, Hatch has really listened to the demands and desires of the working world and introduced flexible packages that allow teams to come into work on a rotation basis. Since humans are collective and creativity is a team sport, remote connection works well so far and while it will change businesses, it doesn’t substitute for the fact that businesses thrive on that face-to-face collaboration to find the best solutions for their clients. Not because you can’t find a way of making it work, but because it’s not the best way it works. As for startups, you need to think not just big but broad, all the time.

So it’s really important to know people who do really different things, and not to stay in your lane. Hatch provides a complete ecosystem whereby startups can get the relevant exposure and help they need while being in an environment where they feel this isn’t a journey they have to walk alone. Our Open House Weekly even offers virtual one-on-one mentoring sessions free of charge on a weekly basis. Startups have access to our Hatch Mentor Network for a period of 4 months.

Innovation and entrepreneurship are two core areas that have been impacted by the pandemic. What’s the Hatch strategy to positively push forward in these most challenging of times?

Brindha: : In 2021, we have exciting plans to expand our programs. We will be opening registrations for women entrepreneurs to submit their applications for series 5 of the Hatch Kickass Bootcamp. We are also looking at setting up a women’s accelerator program, Hatch X HealthTech/ EduTech, and innovation programs for the private sector. This together with the programs that we already run and the setting up of the Council of startups will help imbue a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation. As a nation, we can no longer depend on the innovations of other countries, it’s time for us to foster this culture locally. Hatch is committed to ensuring that this happens. Women make up roughly 50% of the population. If we are to grow as a country and improve our GDP, it’s important that women are empowered.

This is why we are looking to set up a female accelerator program and have launched the kick-ass Bootcamp for women. Our bootcamps and programs featuring women are designed to address some of the unique issues faced by women entrepreneurs and to create a diverse and inclusive community within hatch. This is a journey we need to take together and Hatch is creating an ecosystem in which anyone regardless of social status, privilege or capabilities can thrive.