The Agents Of Youth Opportunities

The Agents Of Youth Opportunities

The Story Of Two Bangladeshi Building A Global Opportunity Discovery Platform For Youth

Youth Opportunities is a global opportunity discovery platform for youth that accumulates and disseminates news and information of youth opportunities across the world. Founded by two Bangladeshi youth, YO attracts around 90 thousand monthly users from all over the world and one of the largest of such platforms. The platform hosts information and news about opportunities i.e. scholarships, exchange programs, internships, conferences, competitions, and more from across the world for young people. The purpose is to build a discovery platform for young people to ensure that everyone gets access to opportunities that can improve their lives, if not change it, says Osama Bin Noor, Co-founder of the platform.

Started as a Facebook page back in 2012, the platform is now a team of 3 people and receives submissions from all over the world. “The idea was to share information about opportunities”, says Osama, and “it seems such a tiny work to do. But I was somehow convinced that information can change life and many young people out there don’t have access to opportunities just because they don’t know about those opportunities.”

Journey of an idea

2010: the year Osama got into “Building Bridges through Leadership Training”, a four month-long leadership training program offered by BYLC. “It was a very good opportunity for me”, says Osama, “to some extent it changed my life for better and I learned tons of things.”

That’s when Osama started to comprehend the idea of how access to opportunities can change a person’s life. He realized there are many young people like him who don’t have access to the same opportunities just because they don’t know such opportunities exist. “I thought if we could somehow manage to inform these young people about this new world of opportunities, it would create huge impact in their lives,” says Osama.”

After completing the BBLT program, Osama went on to convince his friends and close ones and shared his ideas but no one took him seriously. “They all thought what difference would sharing opportunities on Facebook bring”, says Osama, “there are more important and pressing issues to tackle but I was convinced myself.” He stayed with the idea and in 2012, after almost two years of conceiving the idea, Osama and his co-founder Makshud launched a Facebook page to share news of opportunities.

“As soon as we launched the page, we received huge response from young people across the world. The number of page like started to increase every day. It was not incremental growth. Rather it sort of exploded. There was a time when we got 15 thousand likes in a month and response was coming from all over the world,” says Osama.

This was a sort of validation for the team YO and it felt good. Osama and Makshud kept pushing the page. “Initially, we spent couple of hours a day to find news of opportunities and then posted those on our page. Since we received huge response we started to think about a more sustainable plan. We felt that there is a need for this thing and there is no such platform across the world. Thus the idea of a web platform generated and finally we launched our official website,” says Osama.

After completing the BBLT program, Osama went on to convince his friends and close ones and shared his ideas but no one took him seriously. “They all thought what difference would sharing opportunities on Facebook bring”, says Osama, “there are more important and pressing issues to tackle but I was convinced myself.” He stayed with the idea and in 2012, after almost two years of conceiving the idea, Osama and his co-founder Makshud launched a Facebook page to share news of opportunities.

screencapture-www-youthop-com-1447250415784

Hard things about hard things
Osama and his co-founder Makshud have other priorities. Osama was [and is] a student. Since YO was a voluntary project and making no money, it was difficult for them to arrange money to make a website. “We planned a lot but failed to do anything,” says Osama, “finally in 2013 we convinced one of our friends to help us with the website. He was generous enough, we bought the domain and hosting thing by taking a small loan from a friend, and he made us a free website.” Unfortunately, the website went down for few times right after the launch because of excessive traffic load. Team YO had no money to invest for a dedicated server and all. It was a very bad time.

“We felt very bad after that incident, says Osama, “it was more so because we uploaded lots of news and information on the website and all of those things were gone. After that we did not try to re-launch the website because of financial constraint. In the meantime, one of my elder brothers, Ashraful Amin, who graduated from Khulna University, proposed me to develop a website for Youth Opportunities, says Osama. He regularly asked me about update and wanted to meet me and talk about it. Finally Osama gave in and met him and he expressed his interest of developing the website. But I thought he was considering us for our cause, says Osama, so I continued to take more time saying that I would get back later.”

After couple of months, Ashraful invited Osama to meet him at his newly founded startup Hootum. Osama went and he asked about the problem, why YO team is not making a website. Osama explained the situation.

After few days of that meeting, “he bought us hosting and domain and also made us a website, says Osama.”

But that was not end of the problem! After few weeks of re-launch, YO website again started to show problem due to traffic overload. Then there was no other way than going for a dedicated server but Osama and his team had little money.

“Again Ashraful bhai, says Osama, came forward to rescue us. He helped us to get a dedicated server and said we could repay him later.”

Right after re-launch YO saw a spike in traffic. Now it has around 8-10 thousand daily users.

“Once we saw we have steady growth we put few adsense adverts to keep the platform going and manage the expenses” says Osama. We managed to repay our loans and now YO can run by itself from the money it earns from adsense but still it is very nominal and just enough to keep the platform going, he adds. Team YO is now a four member family and all of them are working voluntarily.

Youth Opportunities

Youth Opportunities

Thoughts become things
From day one, YO has been a global platform. Many people even don’t know that it is founded by two Bangladeshi and is run from Bangladesh. “Majority of our readers come from aboard,” says Osama, and it is a global platform. Probably South East Asia has the highest users.”

After all this hard work, things are looking bright for Osama and team YO. Now the platform is recognized by most organizations that work with youth. Consequently, people now submit opportunities to the platform instead Osama and YO searching web and putting opportunities together from the web.

“Now we receive huge amount of submissions from the international community, says Osama, ADB to Japan Embassy send news of youth opportunities to YO”.

They have also created an option on the website where anyone can post an opportunity. “At the beginning we used to let people upload without any screening but after few unwanted incidents now every submission has to go through an internal approval process.”

Over the time, Youth Opportunities aims to make the platform more collaborative and participatory.

After all this hard work, things are looking bright for Osama and team YO. Now the platform is recognized by most organizations that work with youth. Consequently, people now submit opportunities to the platform instead Osama and YO searching web and putting opportunities together from the web

Looking beyond the horizon
Osama and Makhsud work part time at YO now but “we plan to start working full time as soon as possible, says Osama, “we have decided to take it as a full time profession I’m done with my studies.”

Team YO has other expansion plans as well. They want to get into offline programs and take these opportunities to people who don’t have the access to the internet. There are many young people who don’t have access to opportunities and internet but they are capable and want to contribute, says Osama, we want to take YO to them as well.

“We plan to work with young people more closely, says Osama, “we believe it is all about opportunities and chances we come across in life that change our life for better or worse.”

YO aims to become a catalyst of that change.

“The vision of Youth Opportunities is to connect youth from all spheres and create a platform for equitable and sustainable youth development. We can only achieve this goal by reaching out to millions of youth who are deprived of their rights to information. We, at Youth Opportunities, want to build that global network of sharing and caring.” adds Makshudul, one of the co-founders of Youth Opportunities.

Update: 

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the ‘Building Bridges through Leadership Training (BBLT)’ program of Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center. It has been corrected. 

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Note: Interview by Ruhul Kader. Story By Ibrahim Mahbub. Edited by Ruhul Kader and Omar Faruk. Image: From left, Osama Bin, Makshudul Alom, Co-founders, Youth Opportunities

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