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Story Highlights

  • The Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining is in talks with several potential investors to provide funding and business development support for young technology innovators and entrepreneurs benefitting under Start-Up Jamaica (SUJ).
  • State Minister, Hon. Julian Robinson, said the Government is looking to partner with these investors in order to provide the budding entrepreneurs with a “broad range of choices” which they can approach for support.

The Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining is in talks with several potential investors to provide funding and business development support for young technology innovators and entrepreneurs benefitting under Start-Up Jamaica (SUJ).

State Minister, Hon. Julian Robinson, said the Government is looking to partner with these investors in order to provide the budding entrepreneurs with a “broad range of choices” which they can approach for support.

He was speaking at a pitch session held on Thursday (May 21), at SUJ’s downtown Kingston offices, for 10 of the 19 business start-ups currently operating out of the facility.

The session provided the entrepreneurs with the opportunity to make presentations to representatives of American technology investment group, Devlabs, which is among the investors being courted by the Ministry.

The Government has already partnered with Jordanian entity, Oasis500, which committed to providing US$30,000 to each of the start-ups currently in operation.

This provision is a combination of 50 per cent cash, with the remainder representing mentorship, training, and other business support, both in Jamaica and at Oasis500’s facility in Jordan’s capital, Amman.

While noting that the provision of financing is key, Mr. Robinson said, “more importantly, we want to build their (entrepreneurs) capabilities, so that people, who have (gained) international exposure, can come back here and share those ideas.”

“A lot of what these (fledgling entrepreneurs) need is not just money…but mentorship and guidance and in particular, international exposure,” he noted.

In that regard, Mr. Robinson said the partnership being pursued with Devlabs will be a “good fit.”

 

“If they (have an interest) in a company, they would invite them over to their facilities in California, they would spend some time there, (and on their return), continue to work and build their products,” he explained.

Mr. Robinson said he is “happy” with the level OF progress being made by the 19 entities, based on the extent of work carried out to date. The 19 were shortlisted from nearly 220 applicants to SUJ in July 2014.

“Some of (them) have actually established legal entities…they are actually earning revenues (and)…some of them have hired people,” he informed.

Mr. Robinson said it is anticipated that the entities currently operating out of the accelerator will “continue to grow…start earning revenues… (and) employ (more) people.”

Further that “more tech entrepreneurs will see Start-Up Jamaica as the home for their (business) development, and will want to come here,” he noted.

For his part, Devlabs co-founder, Ruben Hernandez, said based on Thursday’s presentations, he is, encouraged, and feels “positive” about the possibility of his firm’s input in Jamaica.

He said he is also impressed with the extent of work to develop the ecosystem for venture capital investment within the Start-Up Jamaica programme,

Mr. Hernandez said Devlabs is “very focused” on identifying teams with the talent and potential that would see them being invited to spend time at the entity’s facilities in California.

“So, we are working with the universities here to help us…(and) we are going to continue interviewing, looking at pitches, and looking at potential teams that can be investable in the future,” he informed.

The World Bank is a key partner in SUJ, and the international institution’s Senior Social Development Specialist in Jamaica, Fabio Pittaluga, also commended the work of the entrepreneurs operating out of the accelerator facility.

“I think it’s an incredible job (that) you…are doing. You may not be at the point of breaking the millions (in earning), but you have got to start somewhere; and so, it’s very encouraging,” he said.

Mr. Pittaluga also welcomed the partnership being pursued with Devlabs, pointing out that “it’s really important to have these connections with other entities, and it’s very important for the visibility, also, of Jamaica, and of the Jamaican tech entrepreneurship ecosystem, to really stand out.”

Start-up Jamaica is a five-year private/public sector initiative that will provide business support for young innovators and entrepreneurs to grow their ideas into marketable products and services, thus contributing to economic growth, increasing employment, and generating foreign exchange.

It is expected to attract a significant number of young persons, who can be inspired to create their own start-ups, particularly in technology development