The soil in Sri Lanka is so fertile you can cast a seed on the ground and it will grow. The same can be said of the young minds I found working with the Yarl IT Hub in the Northern Province. Yarl IT Hub has been going for 6 years, having grown organically from an online community to a proactive group expanding its operations and ambitions continuously.

After my second visit I planted an idea into their Facebook group, and 6 months later I was presented with 2 solutions to the problem I had outlined.

This is a space where new ideas can flourish, so I encourage you to contribute to this community remotely, and provide them with new opportunities to grow.

The idea in question was inspired from my visit to Dambhula and Anuradhapura.

The first I visited and had to carry my backpack and luggage up the mountain, the second I booked myself into a hotel and then realised there was no other reason to be there after visiting the temple. What I really needed was a space to store my bags while I visited the tourist site, and then to hop on to a city or another attraction.

I outlined the opportunity in the facebook group, and forgot about it.

This year it was my privilege to attend the Yarl Geek Challenge as a Mentor, Judge and to help with the Documentation.

It gave me great insights into the success of this community, which I will go into later. I was also pleasantly surprised to see 2 separate business solutions addressing the problem I outlined.

The 1st was an Airbnb for bags model, with opportunities for showers, socks, umbrellas and packed lunches (hats and shoes are forbidden in holy spaces, yet you still have to manage hot rocks and intense sunshine). This idea was from a group from UKI. UKI is another initiative from Yarl IT Hub — a 6 month intensive course in IT, with complimentary soft skills development.

On my first visit to UKI students were so shy it was a challenge to even get them to speak, yet here they were on stage. Speaking confidently and defending their ideas to the panel. Yet still open to new inputs and criticism — as one judge and investor

Bahirathan Kanesu from the Lankan Angel Network commented: “that you respond quickly to feedback, means you will respond quickly to the market. From ideas, to feedback, the Jaffna Youth are eager to grow and adapt to the new opportunities they find.”

The 2nd group were Yarl Geek Challenge Alumni — Senzmate, already funded on 1 startup who’ve grown from 10-16 employees in 2017 for their IoT start up, and now back with a new project. Their system was an IoT locker system, complete with production quality prototypes.

The Yarl Geek Challenge differs from other startup events I’ve experienced with its depth of engagement. Whilst it culminates in a 2 day sprint before the semi final, teams form well in advance of the challenge and get access to each other through the community. Then there is a period of mentoring and reflection prior to the final in Columbo.

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