Poittu Vaarom Yalpanam; Senior Selection Rounds of Yarl Geek Challenge Season 4

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In the darkness of Friday night, while the rest of Colombo was relaxing after a hectic working week, the ReadMe team was standing in front of the historic Lake House Building. With our bags packed with everything we needed to survive a weekend, we boarded a bus and so our journey began. Nine hours later, we were at the beautiful Jaffna Peninsula.  After some breakfast, we headed straight to the Sornambikai Hall of the Thiyahie Charitable Trust where the Senior Selection Rounds of the Yarl Geek Challenge was happening.

That was what happened on Saturday morning, however things had already started on Friday. Thankfully we had our undercover agent correspondent Yathusha to get all details. So what happened on Friday?

Teams from all across the island arrived at Jaffna along with the mentors and the judges. Once the teams got comfortable it was time for them to make the first pitch. Here the teams had to present a brief idea about the project that they will be working on. The mentors then chose a team which they’re willing to mentor based on the initial pitching. At the end of the day, each team was assigned a business mentor and a technology mentor. Interestingly the Ideamart team was very popular as many teams were planning on using the platform.

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Day 02: All We Need is Something to Hack On

Unlike the everyday Hackathons, YGC doesn’t happen overnight. Each team comes to TCT in the morning, hack during the day and go back to their homes or hotels in the evening.

As the teams hacked their ideas to life, the Lankan Angel Network held a session in parallel introducing Angel Investment to the participants. It was Mr. Arj Wignaraja, Head of Operations at Remote Sensing Metrics, LLC who took the stage. He began this session by defining angel investors as people who are entrepreneurs by nature that want to help bring your idea to life. Arj then proceeded to give us all a clear understanding of what exactly is angel investment.

“Somebody, somewhere is working on the same issue. What is important is that who is going to execute.” – Arj Wignaraja

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Photo Courtesy: Yarl IT Hub

Following the presentation, we saw a panel discussion. The panel consisted of Mr. Eric Wikramanayake, Founder / Chairman at Temartha Capital Pvt Ltd, Mr. Ruwindhu Peiris, Managing Director at Stax Inc., Mr. Prajeeth Balasubramaniam, Founding General Partner/Managing Director at Blue Ocean Ventures Pvt Ltd and Mr. Bahirathan Kanesu. At the end of the panel discussion, the teams then got a chance to have a casual conversation with the judges. Many teams discussed their project and got insights and comments from the judges.

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Straight after lunch was the trial presentations. This was a timed pitch, just like in the finals and was organized to train and warm up the teams. Followed each pitch was a Q&A where judges shared their comments. As the sun set and the last pitch was made, Day 02 came to an end.

Day 03: Demo Day

It was a gloomy and a pouring Sunday. We wouldn’t have gotten out of bed if we were home, but YGC definitely drove us. That’s how we found ourselves at the HNB Auditorium. As we walked in, we saw the teams speaking with their mentors to fine tune their ideas.

Photo Courtesy: Yarl IT Hub
Photo Courtesy: Yarl IT Hub

A short while later, the pitches had begun. What ideas did we see at YGC Season 4? Here’s the entire list:

  1. SiRA: Ever forget to put your phone on silent before an important meeting or a lecture? Have you gone through that awkward moment when your phone starts yelling during such situation? This team has a solution for you; an auto respondent system which sends intelligent replies to commonly received messages utilizing a natural typing language. Yes, this is the same team from ACES Hackathon. While we love the product, we didn’t see any significant development to the system since we last saw it.
  2. Promates: An interactive indoor advertising platform. This system also allows you to control the displays using the smartphone.
  3. Collaborator: A speech translation application by team Gideons which they believe will remove the language barrier. It’s primarily aimed at Sinhala and Tamil speaking individuals and the app will translate the phrases into the desired language. It is also capable of translations to other international languages. Developing this system is no small feat. However, we can’t help but wonder how it fares against Google Translate.
  4. Radical DJS: An online food ordering platform. This is not just an e-commerce website, their platform is just like a complete suite with 2 sides to it. It has one side for the customers and the other for the restaurant or food store owners. It seems to have some functionalities which we get from software packages that are currently being used in the industry, which in case comes with a higher price tag.
  5. Posit:  When it comes to deciding whether something is good or bad, one source we always trust is our friends. This team has come up with a platform to share reviews and information about goods and services that you have used. A handy system, but one has to wonder how they’ll fare against established platforms for reviews like Facebook and Yelp.
  6. Timograph: A photography app by team Arima that will actually let you recall how you have changed in appearance with time. If we use the same examples that they used: the stages a mom goes through during pregnancy and how your cute pup grew into a big boy. Aren’t those moments? A simple app, a simple concept, but can it actually be a hit? The team also mentioned that the user will have to pay after 10 photographs. Would this be a smart choice if you want the app to go viral? We have our doubts.
  7. Amplus: An advertising platform by team Bitmasters which also has face detection capabilities to analyze the viewers, yes you heard it right. The platform will give you statistics and analytics on how your ad is performing. This is smart. Conventional display advertising taken into the next level, giving you the chance to measure. We saw these guys too at a couple of hackathons. Despite not seeing many changes, we think this seems genuinely a worthy idea for immediate implementation. The only question we have for Team Bitmasters is, why are you still at hackathons?
  8. HardWhere.lk: A platform to find construction materials online. It’s basically a website where service/material providers could publish their information. A handy system for anyone looking to build a house or working in the construction industry. However, we doubt it would be of much use to anyone else.
  9. Zolmates: A mobile app development startup that aims to help and support small scale businesses. We actually found it difficult to understand their idea. Is it yet another development house or something else?
  10. Joomtrigers:  This is an API that aims to help you plan a tour around Sri Lanka in the most efficient way possible. It does this by analyzing the paths and giving you the final route without anything criss crossing. However, what we saw was just a prototype and looked like it still needs some more development. The judges were not impressed either as they had apparently told the team throughout the competition that the team didn’t identify how and to whom to sell their product.
  11. Event4lanka.com: This is an event planning platform. To be precise, this is a website where you can find vendors and service providers in one place to organize an event. It also comes with an e-commerce platform where you can place the orders. Go check them out, they are already live!
  12. FindMyBus: An IoT product by team Titans. The device utilizes GPS to track and locate buses. The system can be fixed into the bus and be monitored by your smartphone. If this system could be implemented properly, we see massive potential with this idea.
  13. Geo Lock: Concerned about people sneaking into your phone by guessing that pattern lock? This team got you covered. They pitched an app that will unlock your phone by using pre-placed markers on a map. Your phone can never be too secure.
  14. Team Loosers: Electricity bills going high? Need a smart and easy way to find out why? Team Loosers presented an IoT-based solution that will measure and report the electricity consumption of each outlet in your home or office. The measuring sensors will feed the data into their application which will then process and present you the power consumption details. With the bloom of IoT, projects of this nature have a high possibility of turning up into the next billion dollar business.
  15. Kloudmart: An app builder based on the Ideamart platform which allows anyone to build software without coding. Kloudmart gives you a simple interface where you can easily drag and drop services and create the processes. If the team can fine-tune their business plan then success might not be far. After all, Canva has seen huge success doing something similar with images.
  16. Trashcoders: The idea behind this app is to connect agro producers and whole sellers. A good initiative to support an untouched field.

Those were the ideas presented by the 16 teams that took part in Season 4 of the Yarl Geek Challenge. From these 16 teams, the judges selected 6 teams for the finals. These winners were selected not simply by how technologically advanced the product was, the ideas were also judged based on their business model and the sustainability of the project.

Throughout the event, there were 3 pitches. We believe that each pitch was a turning point for the teams since their concept was judged and commented each time. The ideas were interesting, but only a few were actually innovative. We say that because we have already seen some projects that were pitched and some ideas weren’t really revolutionary. To put it in the simplest form, some projects were like just computerization of the existing systems or they simply weren’t feasible. The question was always; ‘Do people want this?’

However, the effort that teams have put together is tremendous. We should be proud as a nation on the potential our Lankan youth possess. As they further develop their ideas, iterate by building new versions of their products, they will surely find success.

Award Ceremony: YGC Junior

Once the pitches had concluded, the awards were presented to the winners of the YGC Junior competition.

Photo Courtesy: Yarl IT Hub
Photo Courtesy: Yarl IT Hub

The winners of the YGC Junior competition are:

Overall Winners: Vavuniya Tamil Madhya Maha Vidyalayam for their Arduino based digital door lock.

Best Mobile App: Jaffna Methodist College (A school attendance system)

Best Web App: Vembadi Girls’ High School (A website for students following the technology stream)

Best Hardware Product: Dr. A. Thiyagarajah M.M.V. Karainagar (a notification system to identify if someone is in the footboard of a bus)

Who Comes to Colombo?

After considering all the aspects, judges decide that teams Arima, Gideons, Loosers, Titans, SiRA and Bitmasters as the best projects. With that, YGC in Jaffna came to an end and we began our journey back to Colombo. However, the Yarl Geek Challenge is not over yet. The selected teams will be coming to Colombo.

We wish the selected teams the very best. With the dream and a mission to make Jaffna the next Silicon Valey, we’ll see you again on the 28th of November at the Dialog Auditorium for the Grand Finale of Yarl Geek Challenge Season 4.

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