JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Representatives of three Jamaican ‘start-up’ companies are currently receiving global business training in the Middle East, to make their ventures more successful.
  • They are Mannin Marsh, Alecia Aris and Tajhlois Laidley from The Vinelist; Dave Oakley of CrimeBot; and Ricardo Gowdie, Oshane Gooden and Warren Robinson from RevoFarm.
  • All three companies are involved in technology.

Representatives of three Jamaican ‘start-up’ companies are currently receiving global business training in the Middle East, to make their ventures more successful.

They are Mannin Marsh, Alecia Aris and Tajhlois Laidley from The Vinelist; Dave Oakley of CrimeBot; and Ricardo Gowdie, Oshane Gooden and Warren Robinson from RevoFarm. All three companies are involved in technology.

The seven new entrepreneurs are part of the Government’s Start-Up Jamaica programme, which received significant assistance from local and overseas partners, including local banks, the World Bank and a Jordanian based investment company, Oasis 500, where the Jamaicans are currently based.

Oasis 500 is a leading early stage and seed investment company, which started out building a platform for Information Technology (IT) entrepreneurship in Jordan and the Middle East by helping ambitious entrepreneurs start their own companies. Assistance includes entrepreneurship training, business incubation, mentorship guidance and follow-up investment and funding.

Participants are also schooled in how to transform ideas into ‘start-up’ businesses and help is extended to  existing entrepreneurs to further develop and grow their companies with the help of an ‘angel investor’ and mentor.

Minister of State in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Julian Robinson, who has been keeping track of the young entrepreneurs in the Middle East, said feedback from the young people has been quite encouraging.

“The feedback has been quite positive. There was some minor cultural ‘adjustment’ but in terms of the experience, all have been very positive, especially as it presented an opportunity to work with other entrepreneurs across the world,” the State Minister tells JIS News.

He informs that Economic Consultant with the World Bank, Fabio Pittaluga and himself will  be travelling to Jordan in July to meet with the Oasis 500 team to discuss the next phase of acceleration for Start-Up Jamaica.

Mr. Robinson says he is quite happy with how the Start-Up Jamaica programme has evolved and believes that it will be able to attract and support young entrepreneurs and innovators who currently utilize Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to develop their own businesses.

The programme began with 218 applicants, 60 of whom were chosen for a boot camp. During the camp, 15 teams made investment pitches, of which six received offers.

“Three took it up, which included an investment of US$30,000 in exchange for an equity stake in the company,” Mr. Robinson notes.

It is these three teams that are now in Jordan to fine tune their products and services for the marketplace, the State Minister says.

He adds that the others have gone on to improve their services, hiring staff and launching out on the local marketplace.

The Start-Up initiative is being undertaken over a five-year period and seeks to move Jamaicans from being primarily consumers of technology to becoming producers; and to position the country as a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship within the Caribbean region.

Support is also encouraged through what is called an ‘Angel Investor’ (friends, family or friendly supporter) who at a very early stage will give monetary support to a company.  This is usually done before the larger ‘equity investors’ become involved.

Among the companies playing an important role in the Start-Up Jamaica Programme are local telecoms provider LIME, Jamaica National (JN), National Commercial Bank (NCB) and the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ).

The State Minister says each has played a significant role in the life of the project. He also recognises the important role that the World Bank plays in facilitating contacts and relationships and opening doors at a global level.

“They continue to play a very active role in the management and oversight of Start-Up Jamaica. Quite honestly, we would not have gotten this far without their support, which has made Start-Up Jamaica what it is,” he says.

He adds that the initiative can be a source of growth and partnership with the private sector, affording them the opportunity to mentor and employ the entrepreneurs and invest in their businesses.

The State Minister tells JIS News that success for the three ‘techtrepreneurs’ in Jordan will be significant.

“Success for us means that these businesses get established, earn revenue and employ people, because [as a government] we want to see economic growth and development. We want to provide the assistance for them, so that they can build businesses and solve problems, not just in Jamaica but across the world,” Mr. Robinson says.

World Bank Consultant, Ivan Gonzalez, says that the success of the Start-Up programme is important, because “everyone is looking into their own sectors.”

“Costa Rica, Mexico, Nigeria and others are looking into these sectors and are looking at the results that are achieved in Jamaica.  It’s still early but all these countries are willing to replicate, to get a loan from institutions similar to the World Bank and do something similar.  It’s definitely something that they are very, very interested in,” he tells JIS News.

He explains that out of a search for solutions for youth unemployment, and the creation of opportunities in the island, the Bank, through an innovative programme called ‘Youth Employment in the Digital and Animation Industries Project’, facilitated the Government’s roll out of the various strategies.

“The World Bank’s involvement has basically allowed the Government of Jamaica to identify those sectors with high potential for investment. This is one of the key projects in the World Bank right now, a sector where the bank has never invested before.  It’s a kind of  pilot and a lot of countries are looking at Jamaica right now to see how this will evolve and whether they can do something similar,” Mr. Gonzalez says.

Start-Up Jamaica had its genesis in a World Bank programme under component one of a five-year US$5 million grant programme with the Government of Jamaica.  Digital Jam 2.0, a festival to identify specific ‘App’ development talent, was the fore-runner. That was followed by Digital Jam 3.0. The success of the programme led to a specialized ‘boot camp.’ Now there is Start-Up Jamaica.

Mr. Robinson says not everyone will be able to “hit a six out of the park” through their involvement in Start-Up Jamaica, but it is critical for the Government to provide the opportunity for entrepreneurs to have access to mentorship, networking and funding.

“We just want to give our entrepreneurs the opportunity to excel and grow globally,” he explains.