Over the years, we’ve seen talented youth from the Northern Province entering the local IT industry. Realizing the underlying potential for this part of the island to be the next Silicon Valley, Yarl IT Hub (YIT) was formed in 2011. YIT was initiated with the goal of inspiring, supporting, and fostering the upcoming generation in the North in the fields of technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
In their own words, “its operations are carried out by the community, for the community”, on an entirely not for profit basis. They aspire to empower over 10,000 students with digital education and provide at least 1000 of them with jobs in the field of tech. To help them achieve this, the following are some of their ongoing initiatives:
- Uki– A programme dedicated to training students towards pursuing a career in the tech industry
- Aki.Coach – A digital education platform in Tamil for students.
- Hatch Kalam – A state of the art co-working and maker space in Jaffna, open to all
- Cutar – A program designed to encourage and support women in technology and entrepreneurship
- The Yarl Geek Challenge – The Yarl IT Hub’s flagship event, the annual competition invites young minds to tackle some of the world’s toughest problems with the use of technology. Established in two categories, YGC- Senior takes place with the aim of creating a healthy startup ecosystem. Its counterpart, YGC – Junior is a school level IT competition designed to encourage the use of students’ creativity in the field of IT.
The Yarl Geek Challenge Accelerator
Historically, the Yarl Geek Challenge has been a gateway for its participants into the startup ecosystem. Offering the participants mentoring, networking opportunities with industry leaders, and additional resources. The competition allows them to learn the basics of generating revenue and necessary entrepreneurial skills for success. Now with the launch of the Yarl Geek Challenge Accelerator, the initiative aims to offer everything young entrepreneurs need to rightly accelerate the growth of their enterprise.
The Yarl Geek Challenge Accelerator will run for a period of 6-months for a selected cohort of early stage startups twice a year. During these 6 months, the startups will be offered training, mentoring, seed funding, and networking opportunities. In doing so, the accelerator aims to help its entrepreneurs generate revenue, acquire the skills needed to build a startup, expand their networks, and to be investor-ready.
When initial applications were called, the Yarl IT Hub received 15+ applications. Following an initial filtering, the shortlisted startups were called for an interview. Finally, 6 startups were accepted into the 1st cohort of the Yarl Geek Challenge Accelerator programme. These 6 startups are as follows.
In 2019, a local media firm had reported a potential crisis that could arise in the country’s poultry industry. Due to a mismanagement of parent stock, there lies a potential for excess breeding of chicks for broiler chicken harvesting. Chicke is a focused automated system designed to streamline the incubation and hatching of eggs in the country; thereby aiming to eliminate anomalies in the breeding of poultry.
Cookoo eats is a locally developed food delivery platform designed to bring the customer’s order right to their doorstep from their selected restaurant. With over a year in development, the platform has been recognized by the South Asia Connect program run by the US Department of State in New Delhi.
Working with clients from the US, Europe, Singapore, and Australia, HUEX STUDIO is a design agency that conducts psychological research through experiments to deliver new “human-centred” UI/UX solutions. They specialize in mobile and web app development, and brand design for businesses of all scales.
The palmyra plant has been a staple in many forms to communities in the north. Olai Shop is an online store developed to provide customers from around the world with access to all kinds of palmyra products.
Sri Lanka is home to some of the most premium types of wood and is known globally for its local craftsmanship. Inspired by the global giant Ikea, Treety provides an online platform for customized furniture products and craft items made from wood and coconut shell. In doing so, the elegance of Sri Lankan furniture is to receive its due diligence with a spot in the global marketplace.
The global pandemic gave birth to so many enterprises that began with the monetization of hobbies. Simple, yet innovative, Thoori Store provides global access to a Sri Lankan marketplace of customized handmade jewellery.
The journey, demo day, and what’s next?
The programme officially kicked off in mid-2020. Over the 6-month period of the accelerator, the startups were paired with mentors whom they had regular interactions with. At the end of this period, a demo day was held where the startups pitched their businesses to investors. The event saw 50 investors and well-wishers from several countries. With its first cohort having graduated from the programme, the YGC Accelerator has already kicked off its second cohort with 9 companies now going through the programme.