:Different Technologies, one of Australia’s hottest new global startups, has once again changed the corporate landscape in Sri Lanka. Starting January 2021, the company is offering all permanent employees equity in the firm, which is backed by Australia’s largest VC firm, AirTree Ventures, and Silicon Valley’s Foundation Capital.
The company is taking this decisive step because it believes that investing in its employees and ensuring their stability and security is not only the right thing to do, but also a smart business decision.
“Particularly in the uncertain economic climate that has arisen in the aftermath of COVID-19, we want our employees to think like owners,” said Co-founder of :Different, Ruwin Perera, a former Director at Softbank.
“We have built our company around people, and we want those people with us for the long run. Offering all our employees equity in our firm is a chance for us to let them grow with us, just like our investors. You can tell a lot about a company by where it focuses its resources and in our case we believe that investing in our employees will pay dividends in the long run. Ultimately, we’re building this company together and rather than simply paying lip service to this idea; we wanted to take action!” he stated.
“:Different has always been a great company to work for, but the new equity offer is just straight up amazing,” said Deegha Galkissa, a member of the Engineering team at :Different’s Colombo office. “Feeling that you’re a part of a team is nice but knowing that you’re a part-owner of the company you work for is something else entirely,” he also said.
This sentiment was also echoed by Mark Sinnathamby, another member of the Engineering team. “Giving equity to all employees is not something you see every day in Sri Lanka and I’m just proud to be a part of the company that has made it happen. Coming into work definitely feels different, now that I’m a shareholder in my company!” he noted.
:Different’s VP of Engineering, Hasitha Liyanage is no stranger to start-ups that eventually became big names in Sri Lanka, like MIT, Sysco Labs. Mr. Liyange spoke more on the rationale behind sharing equity and how it is also a personal decision for him. He stated, “I wish someone had offered this to me when I was a Junior Developer! It cannot be overstated, the best way to encourage employees to think and act like owners is to actually make them owners!”
:Different’s Country HR Business Partner, Kalpika Abayasekera explained that all current staff are automatically enrolled in this scheme, with a specific up-front entitlement to the equity on offer. “We felt it was absolutely necessary to reward the team that has been through the growing pains of a start-up. These shares are issued on a four-year maturity which also encourages the team to see their tenure as quite literally a long-term investment,” he said.
“We are following the same format adopted in Silicon Valley and in our Australian office, and thought it was about time that our Sri Lankan crew reap the same benefits as their counterparts abroad,” said Mr. Ruwin Perera.
:Different recently reaffirmed its commitment to Sri Lanka by doubling its stake in the country through a multi-million dollar investment in its Colombo office. This move strengthens the regional office by adding senior personnel and moving key operational functions, including real-time customer management, customer experience, maintenance and supplier relationships to Sri Lanka.
“The increased investment into the Colombo office, coupled with our new equity offer to employees underlines :Different’s commitment to harnessing the best minds in Sri Lanka to build a world-class technology company that places Sri Lanka very firmly on the world tech map”, said Mr. Perera.
Mr. Perera is confident that this new move will further strengthen :Different’s position as one of the most employee-friendly startups to work for in Sri Lanka.
He also said, “Recruiting and retaining the very best may be the most important part of building a company that will be resilient through the uncertain times that await us over the next decade, and this is doubly important as world economies recover from COVID-19. Our hope is that this move will encourage other companies to start seeing their employees as long-term investments, because that’s exactly what they are to us!”