Nathan Sivagananathan has made a career out of innovation and disruption. At MAS, a ready-made clothes manufacturer, he led the innovation unit for years, developing products that blurred the lines between clothing and technology. He now works to develop the startup eco-system in Sri Lanka and hopes within ten years to help create ten Sri Lankan businesses in the Rs10 billion revenue level.
He co-founded Hatch, the enterprising co-working space, in 2018. The idea for Hatch was born out of his experience from the Eisenhower Fellowship in 2015. The fellowship provided one-on-one time with great business leaders in the U.S. Sivagananathan’s theme was looking at accelerators, incubators and co-working spaces, assessing how they function in the US and how that could be successfully localised back into a Sri Lankan context
“I’ll shoot you if you don’t make a decision.’ If you make the wrong decision I’ll stand by you, but you have to make a choice,”
Hatch’s flagship building in Colombo Fort has space for 1,000 people to work and they are opening another building next door. More than just a physical co-working space, the ethos of the company is to create an eco-system that will allow startups and entrepreneurs to flourish. In Sri Lanka, many businesses only think country-wide and lack exposure, so an important part of the eco-system they’ve created is mentorship from leaders in Sri Lanka and around the region. There are plans to grow the Hatch brand both around the country and regionally in markets like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Myanmar.
An engineer by trade, Sivagananathan’s career began in a graduate scheme at Unilever in the UK which defined his attention to detail and gave him the ability to make decisions based on only 60% of the information, something that still influences his leadership style today. “I always use the phrase ‘I’ll shoot you if you don’t make a decision.’ If you make the wrong decision I’ll stand by you, but you have to make a choice,” he says. Sivagananathan is also a venture capitalist.
He is a general partner of the Singapore-based VC Patamar Capital, is currently taking part in the international Kauffman Fellowship and is working on a $3.5 million Hatch fund to support startups. He would like to see the government do more to support angel investors and make it possible for venture capital businesses to exist here. He is also a non-executive director of Janashakthi Life and believes insurance is an industry ripe for disruption in the near future.