Giving life to the golden ideas of our youth – Derana START UP 2021

July, 24, 2020

In relation to the national interest of fostering a culture of entrepreneurship among Sri Lanka’s youth, Derana START UP 2021, the much-needed entrepreneurial TV show has commenced its search for interested applicants. Implemented in Sri Lanka through a tripartite partnership between YouLead, USAID’s youth skill development and entrepreneurship program together with the TV Derena network and a Jordanian nonprofit organization, Partners for Good, Derana START UP 2021 seeks to create a culture of entrepreneurial job creators while promoting demand for entrepreneurship among youth across the island.

Addressing the need of the hour, statistics show that less than 5% of Sri Lankan youth who complete technical training advance to start their own business. This is partly because Sri Lankan youth are less inclined to pursue a path down the entrepreneurial avenue as a negative social perception exists towards youth who are seeking out to be an entrepreneur. Derana START UP 2021 seeks to breakthrough this unfortunate stigma through an exciting and competitive TV program. By attracting youth to share what could be potentially groundbreaking ideas to the masses, a culture of entrepreneurship will be introduced to Sri Lanka. Working for the man is no longer what drives our youth, being your own boss will become a reality through Derana START UP 2021 and youth unemployment will be an issue of years gone by.

To kick off the search, Derana START UP 2021 is calling out to all youth entrepreneurs below the age of 35 who have an innovative product or service with business operations not exceeding over 24 months. Applicants may represent any gender, ethnicity or religion and can hail from any one of the 25 districts across Sri Lanka in order to keep the applicant pool as diverse as possible. In addition to individual applicants, school level and group applications are also invited to participate in Derana START UP 2021. Following the deadline for application submission, all applications will be screened to find the most suitable 1,000 entrepreneurs. The selected 1,000 will then be filtered down to 100. The shortlisted 100 will then be given an opportunity to make individual presentations to the selection committee to identify a final 30 who will be contestants for the reality TV show.

The entirety of the selection phase shall be conducted under the guidance of the advisory committee comprised of 9 experts and thought leaders across various industries. Selections will be based on a number factors including but not limited to the level of innovativeness and creativity of the product or service, commercial viability, potential competitiveness, sustainability, employment generation, social acceptance and the potential to expand the business. USD 21,000.00 is available for the best three entrepreneurs for business expansion.

Throughout the progress of the show, all contestants will also be entitled to mentorship and guidance from appointed mentors. This will enable contestants to convert their business ideas into viable commercial products competing in the contemporary market. This process will be facilitated through one to one mentoring services provided by selected mentors and subsequently presenting them to the public to vote for the best project.

Derana START UP 2021’s end goal is to use this innovative approach to support innovation, increase the outreach, change behaviors, perceptions and increase demand for entrepreneurship while creating a support network, mentoring culture and access to resources which will in turn, provide the required support for youth to become innovative entrepreneurs. For more details on the application process, interested parties may visit