The story starts in Jaffna. 2 Days of brainstorming, hacking and fine tuning; repeat. With the backing up from the mentors and the judges, the teams worked on solving their problem. On day 3; the demo day, they pitched their idea of course followed by a demo of their product. This was the 4th Season of the infamous Yarl Geek Challenge.

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From the many teams that took part, 6 teams managed to go the next phase, coming to Colombo. The finals happened at the Dialog Auditorium, undoubtedly this place must have seen hackathons more than any other you can think of. No coding or such thing, just they had to pitch their project in front of the distinguished panel of judges who will select the top 3 and walk away with the trophy. (actually they didn’t get trophies, that’s just to make it sound good.)

Read the full story here: Poittu Vaarom Yalpanam

The Grand Finale

It’s fairly simple; pitch your product, show the killer features during the demo, show how you are going to get to the first x number of customers, say how much you want as the initial investment, show your numbers. Done and dusted. Well, they say it’s easier said than done. After the welcome note followed by the video story that we composed for YGC Season 4, the pitching began.

Team Arima – Timograph

SLCG was happening concurrently to YGC though we left BMICH hoping that we would reach Dialog in time, we were wrong. If it was just SLCG, it might not have been an issue, but there happened to be a lifestyle fair happening at the other end of BMICH. An explanation about traffic wouldn’t be necessary, in fact, the whole Bauddhaloka Mawatha was jam packed. As a result, we missed their presentation. But we had a small chat with them after the proceedings.

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Photo Courtesy: Malshan Gunawardane

This team came up with a product called Timograph which lets you recall how your appearance has changed over time using pictures. In the end, it will generate you a small clip compiling these pictures together. When we asked whether they did any tweaks or is it the same as we saw at Jaffna, they said that they have integrated a video feature which is synced with their website. This gives you the opportunity to share your transformation clips with public. While the technology is interesting, one has to wonder whether this idea has viability beyond being a gimmick.

Bitmasters – Amplus

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Photo Courtesy: Malshan Gunawardane

It was a killer presentation. Period. From the product demos, financial presentations to Q&A, Bitmasters ruled the stage. Practice makes you perfect they say. Amplus is a next generation advertising platform with facial and emotion recognition capabilities. It is indeed a state of the art smart system for targeted advertising.

During their presentation, they gave out several points that told everyone that they were ready to be a startup. In other words, they showed clips and stats from their deployments. They have partnered up with Singer Sri Lanka and have run a couple of different tests at supermarkets. This is proper product validation. They even have applied for a patent for their very own emotion detection algorithm. Not only that, during our interview with them; the boys said that they are in the process of developing a custom hardware unit to replace their current system made using  Raspberry Pi and Arduino.

We are eagerly awaiting to see Amplus once again not as a product at another hackathon but as a million dollar business in the real world.

Team Gideons – Collaborator

Collaborator is a Sinhala, Tamil and English speech to speech translator. It will recognize speech and synthesize the translation in any desired language of your choice. They even started off their presentation using the same product. They believe that their app will be the solution to connect the local sellers who aren’t literate enough in English with the tourists.

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Photo Courtesy: Malshan Gunawardane

During their research, they have come to know that their target users to be shops, hotels, taxi service providers and tourist service providers. Answering a question raised up by the panel regarding where the burning need for this, the team said they plan to deploy Collaborator in Colombo and Galle during the first phase.

Loosers – Digitro

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Photo Courtesy: Malshan Gunawardane

IoT being the next big thing, it’s becoming a common thing to see at least one IoT-based project in a hackathon. This team presented Digitro, an IoT system that will measure and report the electricity consumption of each outlet in your home or office. Digitro uses the popular microcontroller Arduino with a bunch of sensors and transmitters for the data exchange.

The web-based system is capable of measuring the power in real time, performing graph analysis, alerting and power line switching if the consumption tops. According to them, their key difference is that their device is significantly cheaper while the devices from their competitors may cost hundreds of dollars. But the question is, can they sustain themselves in the long-run?

SiRA

That level of confidence and belief in your brainchild, ‘sirawatama’ amazing. SiRA is an auto respondent system which sends intelligent replies to commonly received messages utilizing a natural typing language. This team expects to hit 1 million users at the end of their 1st year. Despite the bold claims, the team has yet to launch their product which will be in 3 months.

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Photo Courtesy: Malshan Gunawardane

During their presentation they did an in depth comparison of the features available in their competitors versus SiRA, it’s actually promising. According to this, what we understood is that they are just missing two features from their feature list at the moment while everything is working fine. In fact, the geo-location based response and adventure mode features are still under development. Interestingly, the judges also questioned them as to why they don’t validate their product as they already have an MVP.

Team Titans – FindMyBus

Last team to pitch on stage but certainly not the last in the competition. An app that solves a real problem; an efficient way for people to use the public bus system in Sri Lanka. FindMyBus is basically an app which provides real time locations of the buses so that the users can identify the most efficient route and plan their trip.

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Photo Courtesy: Malshan Gunawardane

The app is powered by self-learning algorithms to come up with the best possible prediction time for the bus to reach the user’s location with referencing to the traffic conditions. You might be guessing that this involves an installment of hardware components in buses, surprisingly did you know that our buses already have them? This team has spoken with the authorities and will be utilizing the same data to generate the map.

The awards

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Photo Courtesy: Malshan Gunawardane

With the presentations concluded, we saw Thusyanthan Arulsodhy sharing the story behind the Yarl IT Hub. They have first started with a Facebook page where many turned up to volunteer. Then they came up with YGC with the model of a reality show, where teams get eliminated during each round. “Two seasons went on, but we felt something is missing.” He stated that it became yet another hackathon,  no startups were born. That’s when the Lankan Angel Network partnered up where they helped build businesses through investments and mentoring. After 3 successful seasons here we are at the 4th season where they introduced the Yarl Geek Junior targeting the bright minds young minds.

Champions: Team Bitmasters

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Photo Courtesy: Malshan Gunawardane

Team Members: Lakmal Buddhika, Chanaka Lakmal, Dinuka Salwathura, Madhawa Vidanapathirana and Chathusha Wijenayake.

Runner up: Team Titans

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Photo Courtesy: Malshan Gunawardane

Team Members: Vindula Jayawardana, Keet Malin, Dimuthu Kariyawasam, Buddhi Ayesha and Malsha Ranawaka.

2nd Runner up: Team Gideons

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Photo Courtesy: Malshan Gunawardane

Team Members: R. Layansan, S. Sharmilan, S. Aravinth, C. Bhanujan and S. Babithra

Wrapping up

Today they might be a bunch of kids in their undergrads, but with the right amount of commitment and passion, nobody can’t possibly say that they would not someday shine in the limelight of the tech industry. Thus bringing proud to our motherland Sri Lanka and contributing to “Make Jaffna, the next Silicon Valley”. See you again next year.

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