Outer Space Mindset: Working with a Long-Term Vision

A Profile of Buddhika Perera, Co-Founder and CTO of Plentyworks

Olympe Scherer
Staff Writer at Plentyworks

6 min read

Buddhika Perera was a small boy watching the Discovery Channel on Sri Lankan TV when he found his purpose in life. Led by a Sri Lankan professor, the space-themed program featured models of our solar system dancing across the screen. This was the mid-nineties. Today, he is a co-founder of Plentyworks and the CTO of Shoutworks, and deals primarily with plug-in tests in anticipation of Shoutworks’ product launch. Perera has worked in many sectors, such as filmmaking, academia, and video game development. His long-term goals are clearly intertwined with his interests: music, filmmaking, technology, and many more. But none encapsulate his drive in life quite as well as space exploration.

By the time Perera graduated from the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT), there were many software engineering jobs available to him. It is a little known fact that Sri Lankan companies help develop the back-end of multinationals such as Ebay or Expedia. Also, Sri Lankan software developers are frequently called on to work with British, Australian, American and Canadian companies. But Perera had a different path in sight.

“I didn’t want to work for anyone,” says Perera. “I wanted to build my own company.”

At the time, startup opportunities were scarce in Sri Lanka. The country’s 25-year civil war, which ended in 2009, meant there was little support for entrepreneurs until as late as 2013. That said, the bigger Sri Lankan software companies established themselves globally in the mid-90’s and early 2000’s when the war was quite intense. 

Perera started his own video game company, Lutendo, in 2013. He was talented at surrounding himself with people whose work ethic aligned with his. Perera would ask his potential employees what their life goal was, and this helped determine whether they were a good fit. If they answered “I want to be a manager,” Perera disclosed that he could not realistically help them achieve their goal. The “right” mindset was one that best matched Perera’s. The stakes for employing the right person were critically high when he started, because there was no extra money to spare.

In fact, Perera received support from neither investors nor the government. Starting a company with no funds, he stretched himself thin making a profit. He struggled to grow his client base and develop his products at the same time.

“It’s almost like you’re killing yourself,” says Perera. “You go into this cycle where you look for clients, but you can’t go back to build your product.”

One-year projects turned into two-year commitments. In the end, Perera was not able to secure funding to produce his own video games. Over the course of six years, Perera worked for small to medium-sized companies, which he enjoyed due to the experience he gained. Still, the idea of working for a huge tech company repelled him.

“I might have a comfortable life, a good car, a good house, but I don’t get satisfied from that, because I’m not creating anything.”

The idea of going into space lingered in the back of his mind, but he knew he needed to establish himself first. In 2017, he decided to move to Paris in search of opportunity. Perera obtained a Visa through a four-year program designed to attract entrepreneurs to France. There, he met Christian Pestroke and they founded Plentyworks. The R&D behind Shoutworks, currently Perera’s main project, is especially challenging because no such product has been created before. Although Perera acknowledges that this job doesn’t match his long-term vision, he is pleased with creating something new, something that benefits people. This optimistic pragmatism characterizes the way he approaches life.

“I’m in the first few meters of the race. It’s not a 100-meter, it’s a long race. I’m in a process of establishing myself.” says Perera. “If I’m poor, I cannot do anything I want.”

Space offers the perfect metaphor for his vision. When humans look at space, they can only see a fraction of what is actually there, and draw assumptions based on what they do see. Someone like Buddhika Perera is driven to reach full potential by discovering what we cannot see yet. He sees his journey as a ramp-up process toward the unknown.

“This is what I do now to get there. You need to have the end vision with you at all times.”

As he is running a test suite on his code, Perera listens to music. He listens to 80’s music, trance music, and old playlists. The idea, perhaps, is to transport himself back to that period of his life when the vision dawned on him. He stays true to his vision: he is self-employed and works on creating things that don’t exist yet. And even though it’s important to ask why space?, the answer perhaps has more to do with why not.

“I can’t think of why. It’s one of these things I had from childhood. Dj’ing, music, filmmaking. Going to space is about all of that.

Maybe I am not from this Earth.”

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