Nathalie Gurgel is from the northeast region of Brazil, which is one of the poorest areas of that country. Two years ago, she completed her graduation in law from the Federal University of the Semi-Arid Region and wanted to pursue a master's degree in Europe for a better career.
However, she needed a scholarship to carry on with studies in Europe.
She started searching for opportunities online. The way she looked for it was a scattered and cumbersome process. Rather than finding an appropriate programme for herself, she ended up grappling between university websites and their offers.
In the process, she accidentally stumbled onto the "Youthop" website. She was amused by it. There, she could find not only the information related to different scholarships, but the same site also provided her with information about different fellowships, seminars, conferences, and skill-enhancing online courses.
It saved her the trouble of hopping between multiple websites. She followed Youthop closely and within four months, she found an opportunity that suited her the best. Now she is doing her master's in Italy with a Fulbright scholarship.
Nathalie did not know Youthop was a Bangladeshi website. Nor did she know much about the country. Now, because of the service of the platform, she sees the country in a different light.
Youthop, the short form of Youth Opportunities, is a Bangladeshi online platform to explore and discover opportunities. Dedicated to young people, it presents the latest updates on international competitions, seminars, symposiums, and conferences.
The site hosts news about famous scholarships and fellowships, sometimes even online courses. It is a hub for everyone who is looking for international opportunities.
Initially, it solely concentrated on Bangladeshi students and provided opportunities that only they could avail. After a while, it expanded its area of work and thus reached beneficiaries worldwide like Nathalie.
These people not only praised the platform; they ended up lauding the innovative minds working behind it. It created an impact on the youth.
The platform's founder Osama Bin Noor received the Queen's Young Leader Award in 2016 for his contribution. In the same year, he also made it to the list of Forbes 30 under 30 Asia as a social entrepreneur.
Noor, along with his co-founder, started the journey way early when they had barely started their undergraduate studies. Both were involved in voluntary work since their school life, which introduced them to a diverse array of opportunities that they did not know existed.
"We realised a lot of qualified and talented minds were being deprived of better scopes simply because they were unaware of those," Noor told The Business Standard.
Access to information seemed like some sort of privilege, according to the founder duo, and their personal ideology contradicted with that. They felt that access to information should be a right.
They felt like doing something to make information more accessible to young people, who would be able to do better with certain opportunities. As their target audience was young people, they started by opening a Facebook page in 2011 when Noor was a first-year student at a dental college.
They used to post information on scholarships they knew about on the page. It drew a lot of attention from visitors.
In 2012, Noor visited Chennai for the South Asian Youth Conference. He made a lot of friends from other countries there.
"I believed we could make the world a better place with the right kind of scopes and access to information. I shared my thoughts and my page with my friends," he said.
One of his Sri Lankan friends proposed to him to post opportunities from their country and promised to help him source them. A few others came up with the same proposition and Noor decided to make the platform an international one.
They introduced the ambassador culture. Eager ones from different countries can play the role of country ambassador on Youthop. This helped Noor source opportunities from many different countries.
The popularity of the platform was growing exponentially. Yet, Noor chose to remain anonymous for a long period.
"I was just a student. I did not know how the platform would turn out. I was confused about what would happen if it collapsed. Above all, I thought revealing my identity in terms of nationality might impede a genuine review of the platform," he said.
Thus, both founders chose to work from behind the curtain.
Followers of their Facebook page rose to a few thousand and they were receiving at least 2,000 messages per day enquiring about prospects.
They realised it was the time to open a website, which was another challenge for the young founders, as none of them had a very sound knowledge of technology.
After procrastinating for a few more days, they created a website in 2014 with specialist IT help. With the introduction of the website, their work became much easier. Both national and international students were using the platform.
Tasnim Ava, who is now pursuing her master's at the University of Toronto, shared how the platform had introduced her to Yenching Social Innovation Forum and allowed her able to participate in the commonwealth summit.
The founders updated the website in 2017 for a better experience and introduced a mobile app the same year. Noor reminisced about how he used to research scopes and post them on the platform in the beginning.
"It has now been eight years since we started working in this area. And we have got a few recognitions. That is how we received affiliations from around 3,000 organisations. Every year, they inform us of their programmes through mail and permit us to post them," he said.
Sometimes, embassies and even government officials communicate with Youthop when announcing new programmes.
"Besides, there are organisations that declare programmes every year. We keep an eye on them," Noor said, adding, "We try our best not to miss any opportunity."
That is why they have developed an artificial intelligence system that looks for such opportunities online for them. That is how they source their posts.
Their goal is to create a better world with information, which is why they have kept their platform free of cost. Anyone searching for opportunities can visit their site and discover new scopes.
Though Noor is involved in running the platform, he has not stopped participating in international conferences. Everywhere he goes now, he introduces his platform.
He dreams of a day when his organisation will become an international name.