The Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) has embarked on a 12-month mentorship programme catering to high growth potential research/technology-based business start-ups with innovative products and services.
A DBJ project brief indicates that the recently launched ‘Mentorship for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Programme’ (MIEP) is among the deliverables of a technical cooperation agreement signed with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Lab to support the development of an early-stage and entrepreneurial local ecosystem.
The project is being executed under the entity’s Jamaica Venture Capital Programme (JVCP).
The IDB Group utilises the Lab to mobilise financing, knowledge, and connections to catalyse innovation for inclusion, in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Twelve entities will participate in the pilot over the next 12 months. They are MDLink, SmartTerm, Turner Innovations, Queritel, Appfinity/itineri, Outland Hurders Farmstead Creamery, De La Enzie Essentials, Jaja Culinary Services, Liquid Light Digital, Naturalis, Sankhard/Soups-on and Rush Alert.
They were chosen following a competitive process undertaken between April and May, during which they were assessed, based on standard angel investor criteria, and evaluated by a panel of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists based in Jamaica and the diaspora.
The eligibility and selection criteria are based on principals’ expressed commitment to fully participate in the programme for its duration.
Additionally, entities must be micro, small or medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) at the preseed, seed or early growth stage of development and be one to five years old, with revenue not exceeding J$30 million.
Further, they must be registered in Jamaica for at least one year and be tax compliant.
Importantly, entities should not be corporate spin-outs and must be operating in one of the following sectors: niche financial and educational services; information and communications technology; agribusiness and biotech; logistics and distribution; or consumer or industrial goods and services with regional or global demand.
The Programme will see the principals of the selected entities being linked with local and international industry experts who will assist them in reducing and removing development hurdles hindering the growth of their operations.
Additionally, DBJ will provide funding of up to $1 million to each participant to assist in paying for the requisite products and/or services to resolve these issues.
JVCP Project Coordinator, Audrey Richards, said the DBJ is “bullish” on the initiative, and anticipates it being a game-changer.
“As we look to the new normal of operating business in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean, we are focused on and committed to repositioning potential high-growth Jamaican entrepreneurs and businesses into world-class entities.
This mentorship programme is definitely designed to achieve that purpose,” she said.
Managing Director of the DBJ, Milverton Reynolds, noted that at the end of the pilot, “we expect these start-ups to be adequately armed, knowledgeable and ready to take on the world”.
The Bank has said that the initiative will be evaluated and a decision made regarding its continuation, following the pilot.
The MIEP involves three levels of mentorship that will guide the 12-month process.
They are a Mentorship Council, comprising seven local and international experts, that provides advice and administration to the programme.
Among the members are tech entrepreneurs and venture capitalists who were part of the start-ups’ selection.
The second level will see Programme Mentors, known to be subject matter experts, providing on-the-ground services to entrepreneurs for up to three months.
The final stage will entail Business Advisors working directly with the entrepreneurs, and supporting Programme Mentors by providing the ‘hand-holding’ and day-to-day accountability necessary to help individual beneficiaries execute the advice given by mentors.
This, while executing a structured, individualised programme of business development advising, based on internationally accepted standards.