Startups, especially IT based startups, was a new concept introduced to me by Yarl IT Hub (YIT), an incubator based in Jaffna. Born to parents who are farmers in Jaffna, I had minimal exposure to the world of Information Technology. My experiences were restricted to books and sports. I didn’t have a laptop back then, or a smartphone for that matter. Thanks to the subject ICT, which was introduced to us during our GCE Ordinary Level, I learned the basics of a computer and its functions, and it broadened my world. When I stepped into my Advance Level, I wanted to pursue ICT as a subject because my introduction to it taught me that the future of the world lies in computing and technology.
I started my first year of the Advance Level in 2013, and it was the year that I stepped into social media- mainly Facebook. A few other IT enthusiasts were already networking through the platform, and a very good friend of mine introduced me to YIT. I started attending their meetups, and quickly became familiar with emerging startups in the region. Eventually, I started writing about Yarl’s events for ReadMe, an online magazine that covers tech events happening in and around Sri Lanka, and the young minds who are striving to become game-changers in Northern Sri Lanka.
Like myself, Jaffna and Northern Sri Lanka were exposed to the IT sector mainly after the war. It was not only the leasing and banking sectors that flocked to the North, but also technology and its influences. Initially, most of the citizens in the North were interested in using technology, but not in making use of it.
Although events like StartUp Weekend are happening in Jaffna, only a few organisations are taking constant steps to develop and support startups popping out from the Jaffna community. The YIT Hub is one of such organisation (I work with them), that is determined to make Jaffna the next Silicon Valley.
Yarl Geek Challenge (YGC) and meetups every three months are two major events of YIT. While YGC focuses on providing a platform for youths in Jaffna to bring out their innovative ideas and turn those ideas into businesses, the meetups are opportunities for such passionate youth to meet and get to know several like-minded individuals, enhancing their network in the process. The effort taken has shown positive outputs. Busseats.lk and SenzMate are two of such products of YIT that are now running successfully as independent startups.
Seeing the success of other startups in the region is now spreading a startup vibe among youngsters. Having investors from Colombo is forcing such potential to re-locate their companies and take their ideas to the country’s capital to access more resources. Although it is a drawback for some young entrepreneurs, who are passionate about their startup dreams, it’s definitely a sign of better things to come.
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