Three days in Jaffna: What we saw at the Yarl Geek Challenge Season 5

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By now you probably know what the Yarl Geek Challenge is. The three-day hackathon now in its 5th season is organized by the Yarl IT Hub in its efforts to turn Jaffna into the next big tech hub. For those of in Colombo, it’s a long and tiring 8-hour journey by bus to attend the Yarl Geek Challenge Season 5. But nonetheless, as Digital Media Partners since the beginning, we happily obliged.

And so, we got on a bus and set off to Jaffna on a Thursday evening. When we arrived in Jaffna, the clocks on our phone read 04:30. As tired as we were, we cleaned ourselves up, got some rest and then made our way to the HNB Metro Green Auditorium in Jaffna. Once we got there, we found the teams walking in and registering, while the organizers were setting things up in the background.

Day 01: The Yarl Geek Challenge Season 5 kicks off

Some snaps of what we saw on Day 01 of the Yarl Geek Challenge Season 5
Some snaps of what we saw on Day 01 of the Yarl Geek Challenge Season 5

Once the teams took their seats, the proceedings of Day 01 began. Following the welcome address, we saw the teams take the stage and introduce their ideas.  As expected, we saw a salad of ideas by teams coming from all corners of the island. After the teams introduced their ideas, the spent the rest of the day, fine-tuning their idea with their mentors. With that, the main proceedings of Day 01 came to an end.

Day 02: The practice pitches and everything else

Fast forward to Day 02, the rest of our team finally arrived in Jaffna. After a protein filled breakfast, all of us made our way back to the HNB Metro Green Auditorium. When we walked in, we saw the teams at their tables hard at work.

On Day 02, the teams were hard at work with their mentors to refine their ideas
On Day 02, the teams were hard at work with their mentors to refine their ideas

One set of members were working on the slides for their pitch. The others were working on their prototypes. Meanwhile, the mentors were busy, visiting each table and offering their advice to the teams. Fast forward to 10 AM and it was time for the practice pitches. There were no judges here. Just the organizers and the teams.

One of teams during the practice pitches on Day 02 of the Yarl Geek Challenge Season 5
One of teams during the practice pitches on Day 02

The teams gave their pitch and the organizers evaluated them, sharing with them what they did well and where they should improve. These practice pitches started at 10 AM and ended around 4 PM. Needless to say, it was a long tiring process. But come the next day, many teams of the Yarl Geek Challenge Season 5, took the advice they got and refined their pitches before the finals.

Day 03: The final pitches

Finally, it was on the third day that we saw the ideas in their final form. On the third day, the Yarl Geek Challenge Season 5 moved one floor up, into the auditorium of the HNB Metro Green Building in Jaffna. Inside the hall, we saw teams working hard finalizing their pitches. But once the clock struck 10, the pitches began and it was time for the teams to showcase their ideas.

SmartValley

The TechErupt pitching Smart Valley at the Yarl Geek Challenge
The TechErupt pitching Smart Valley at the Yarl Geek Challenge

This is a platform that wants to connect startups with investors. Typically, many startups and young businesses fail in the first few years. SmartValley wants to change this. They do so by helping startups simplify the process of meeting investors and obtaining funding. We saw them share a demo of the platform, which was a simple website. A noble idea, but the devil lies in the details execution of it.

TruckBook

Logistics can be a challenge when trying to transport goods.  This team wants to conquer this challenge. This team has a database of trucks to help you deliver anything you want to any corner of the island. Additionally, the team also plans on offering tracking features. The judges liked the idea and even commented it could grow into the Uber for packages. However, logistics can be a messy and challenging business. This is why we see very few startups disrupting the sector. During their pitch, the team didn’t touch these challenges.

CureMe

An inaccurate medical diagnosis can cost people valuable time and money. What this team offers is an app that would help avoid such diagnosis. It does this by being a hub that contains every detail of your medical history. This data is then shared with both doctors and hospital laboratories for their reference. But how much does it cost? 50 cents per day for patients. No, we aren’t related.

Avina

Team QuadCore pitching Avina at the Yarl Geek Challenge
Team QuadCore pitching Avina at the Yarl Geek Challenge

This startup wants to change billboard advertising. What they are offering is a billboard advertisement with holograms. An interesting concept and they showed off a great prototype that projected a hologram on a small glass box. However, according to the team, they can also project holograms on other surfaces like fountains and smoke.  But how much does it cost? Avina has multiple packages. The prices of the packages vary depending on how many calls their API gets and the price of each ad.

The UoJ Robots

There are many deaths almost every day due to vehicle accidents. This team took the stage at the Yarl Geek Challenge Season 5 and wants to help change that. What they’re proposing is a device that helps drivers avoid accidents. If a driver is driving dangerously, then the system sends a text message. This text message will go either to the vehicle owner or a designated emergency contact. The device in question would cost Rs. 40,000.

The judges liked the idea, but they’d like to see a complete centralized solution. For fleet owners, the judges believe that it would be easier for fleet owners to have it in that form. The judges also recommended that the device prevents a vehicle from being started if the driver is drunk.

Jarvis

No this isn’t Ironman’s assistant. What this team is proposing is an app, to make your dining experience at restaurants better. There are two sides to Jarvis here. The first is a mobile app that shares various deals at restaurants with you. The other side of Jarvis is a touchscreen table that helps you place your order and shares some ads with you.

We saw a demo of their app at the Yarl Geek Challenge Season 5. With this demo, we saw that when placing an order, you can customize even minute details. By minute details we mean you can customize each layer of a burger. However, the judges had a few doubts about whether restaurants will be keen on sharing their recipes.

Helpmate

This team also wants to help startups grow in their initial stages. What they’re offering is a massive directory. This directory would contain a list of people who can offer marketing services, legal advice, accountants, etc. But it goes further than a directory, it also helps connect startups with people offering these services.

Team Kryptonite pitching Helpmate at the Yarl Geek Challenge
Team Kryptonite pitching Helpmate at the Yarl Geek Challenge

During their demo, the team showcased this. They showed us how an entrepreneur looking to register their company can place an appointment with a list of lawyers. Once the entrepreneur has selected a lawyer they like, the lawyer will see a request when they log in. Interestingly, they team is not planning on making money. They want to execute this idea as a social service. Nonetheless, the team will be taking a percentage of money the experts earn to survive.

Billboard.lk

They call themselves, “the Uber of billboards.” Billboards are owned by agents but these agents only control a small percentage of the billboards. So if you want an ad to actually reach people on billboards, you’ll need to speak with multiple agents. This team wants to help eliminate this problem.

They’ve built a web app, which has a map that shows the locations of all the billboards in a given area. The platform also contains the important details about the billboards such as its size and price to place an ad. In a nutshell, they connect advertisers with billboard agents. The team has grander plans, though. Today they’re pitching at the Yarl Geek Challenge Season 5. Tomorrow they want to build IoT devices and offer better analytics services for advertisers.

Eaglei

This team wants to help solve the problem of finding parking slots. It does this by taking CCTV feeds, and identifying if a car park is free or not. But if it’s not available, then it will depend on the users of the app. The app will have two versions: a free version with ads and a paid version with additional features. Additionally, they’ll also be selling their features via an API, which they’ll charge developers to use.

At the end of the presentation, the judges had a few privacy concerns since they were taking CCTV feeds. The team responded by saying that they would be putting up their own CCTV cameras. Despite the additional cost, the team believes their business is still viable.

Rat

Team GC demonstrating their rat at the Yarl Geek Challenge
Team GC demonstrating their rat at the Yarl Geek Challenge

“Good morning everyone, we made a rat”, is how this team opened their pitch. Immediately afterward, they played a video which that got rid of the confused look on our face. They built a mouse that automatically moves around like a rat. What you have to do is catch it. It’s not aimed at solving a serious problem. Rather, it’s a gift aimed at geeks. The team had other  gift ideas as well. However, as geeks ourselves, we wouldn’t be interested in opening our christmas presents and finding this rat inside. Unless of course, you’re evil and planning to play a prank on someone.

Eventerlainer

Organizing events can be a challenge. Yet, there are countless events organized monthly in various venues. This team wants to simplify the process of obtaining the venue to organize an event. What they’re offering is a platform that helps you book an event. In exchange, they take a 2% – 8% booking fee on all orders placed through the platform.

Auto-Self Care

The final team to pitch at the initial rounds of the Yarl Geek Challenge Season 5, wanted to help you take care of your car. What this team offered is an app that helps you know the status of your car and how to take care of it. In a nutshell, they want to make mechanics obsolete. However, the team wasn’t very clear as to how they would get the necessary data to monitor your car.

The teams we’ll see at the Grand Finale

Once the last team had given their pitch, it was time for the lunch break. As everyone else was enjoying a filling lunch, the judges had a daunting task. They had to select the teams that would go on to the Grand Finale. An hour later, everyone was back in the hall. The judges walked in a bit later, with the results. So what are the products we’ll see at the Yarl Geek Challenge Grand Finale in Colombo?

  • SmartValley
  • Avina
  • lk
  • Jarvis
  • The UOJ Robots
  • Eaglei
  • Eventerlainer
  • CureMe
  • Auto-Self Care

There you have it, folks. After three days, of constant hacking, preparation, and coffee in Jaffna, these are the products you shall see at the Yarl Geek Challenge Grand Finale. This Grand Finale will take place on the 19th of November at the Dialog Auditorium from 1 PM onwards. To register, simply head over here and fill this form.

The initial rounds are over. Up next: The Grand Finale
The initial rounds are over. Up next: The Grand Finale

If you can’t attend the finale and will be missing the chance to see the refined products by these young startups from Jaffna, worry not. As always, we at ReadMe as Digital Media Partners will be there to bring you the latest from the Yarl Geek Challenge Season 5 Grand Finale.

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