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SilverStripers 10th-anniversary interview with Nivanka Fonseka

SilverStripers 10th-anniversary interview with Nivanka Fonseka

It seems like yesterday and it’s hard to believe that we have reached 10 years. This 10th anniversary is not just a number, it’s an occasion that signifies all our hard work, commitment and dedication. All of us are honoured and glad to be a part of this glorious occasion.

To make this occasion extra special than what it is, I decided to have a casual interview with the architect behind this success, which is our CEO, Nivanka Fonseka.

1. What’s the inspiration or the thought that sparked you to create SilverStripers?

When I was studying at my university I’ve always had a passion and love for open source technologies. I have been actively following, and still do many open source projects including Silverstripe.

The passion I had got me involved in a couple of startups before starting SilverStripers, one was a huge success and the other is meh.

With a couple of projects, I started working on this new idea of building a specialised development agency for Silverstripe. Work started to gain momentum and I started signing contracts.

While all this was happening I realised that companies are going ahead with various technologies, (Drupal, Shopify, are a couple of names) and they manage to grow with it as well. So I thought to myself why not go ahead with this young technology which has its own domain and brand name.

2. When you started the company did you think that you would be able to go so far?

Literally, I had no clue that we would reach this far. Before I began this company I was having a permanent job and I was working part-time on Silverstripe projects. At some point, I had to quit my full-time job and focus on SilverStripers. At the initial stages, there were only two part-time developers, remotely working with me. We used to meet once a week. However, it only took about 6 months for me to set up a proper office and hire more developers to be working with.

I think at the time we’ve been focusing on how do we complete the projects we have in hand and how do we keep on top of the bills. I think for any young business understanding where you are now and having smaller goals is very important. But time to time we’ve had goals, and we’ve been growing every year.

3. We have seen Silverstripers grow. Despite its success, what are the major challenges the company faced within these 10 years? And how did you overcome them?

Finding the best developers has been my biggest challenge. I have a software engineering background, and I know how it works from top to bottom. I can see when a project is going in the right direction or not. So I’ve been very careful with who we hire. I’ve used this strategy which worked for me to find young developers and train them to be better.

The other biggie is to keep the team together and have a good vibe in the team while we are under pressure. The projects we’ve done are complex, millions of lines of code so freaking out is normal. But you need that strength and confidence to face it.

4. Every successful business has its own key moments which an entrepreneur is proud of. Similarly, I am sure you also have key moments which you are proud of, isn’t it?

I think every time we won a tourism job was a key moment. Like I said coming from a tourism solutions background and having a special love towards building those solutions it was important to have that momentum in having projects and clients we love working with. That's the key for us to be motivated and exile at something where we can add true value to our clients. I am sure I have designed more than a hundred tourism, entertainment software projects. And these are for big names.

5. What are the values that you like to maintain going forward?

Looking at the team and keeping the team happy. Our team is our strength, and we have an amazing collection of individuals. Even during the last few months during Covid-19, we managed to get through as we all were working together at a common goal. We never had a time before where the whole team was working remotely. But everyone understood what they are doing and that has been our key to success.

The second is the passion towards learning and always raising the bar higher. We’ve adopted new technologies all the time, and now we worked with other technologies like React, Gatsby, NextJS, headless CMS’s, etc.

Third is the quality of what we produce. The quality of our work is the true value for our clients. We take a number of measures to make sure we are doing great.

6. What are the things that you think that your employees know about you but in reality, it is only known to you?

My team knows that I am a bit crazy for four-wheel-drive vehicles but in reality, I want to have an electric four-wheel drive. Unfortunately, electric four-wheel drive vehicles don’t exist, however Tesla is working on one isn't it ?

7. What has Silverstripers got in store for the upcoming years to come?

We have been working with a lot of agencies for the past 10 years and we have made a large number of destinations and booking websites. Although we worked with them we still can’t reveal them to the public (non disclosures haha). However, those sites are known by many.

The main focus in the upcoming years is to directly work with tourism operators and destination management organisations and have our own white label products to support them.

8. Where do you see Silverstripers positioned in another 10 years time?

We want to become market leaders in the booking and tourism website business. Tourism industry is needing digital backing now more than ever before. This surely will create us opportunities to help those amazing businesses. So here are a few things.

  • We are working on our own destinations management systems
  • There will be a new property management solution we are looking to complete by mid next year.
  • We’ve been making a new event management solution which we believe will power many entertainment companies.

9. Lastly, how were you planning to celebrate this occasion with your employee if not for this pandemic?

Because of the pandemic, we have not been able to have the fun that we used to have but it is a blessing in disguise because many of our team members are going to become young parents and that is happy news for us.

Last year we had a kickass party and if not for the pandemic we would have done the same or we would have gone on a trip or I would have the team to plant trees in my plantation during the morning hours and have some fun in the evening.

Anyway doesn't mean we won't celebrate, that's the first thing in the bucket list when we get back after all this chaos.