The business incubator/accelerator programme, Start-Up Jamaica (SUJ), is helping young technology entrepreneurs to develop innovative products and services for the local and international markets.
An initiative of the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining (MSTEM), the programme was launched in June 2014 and staged its first boot camp in September of the same year.
Chief Entrepreneurship Officer (CEO) of SUJ, Mark Hugh Sam, tells JIS News that the start-ups that participated in the boot camp focused on aggressive product development and sales strategies to get their business ideas to a point where the proposed product or service is commercially viable, prior to seeking investment.
“The idea is to prove the products locally and to export them globally. So, the ideas behind Start-Up Jamaica are global ideas. What we did was to modify the ideas to get them to create a minimal viable product,” he explains.
For one week at the camp, representatives from the US based start-up incubator/accelerator firm, Devlabs, facilitated training sessions with the tech teams in basic business and software development.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is to be signed between the SUJ and Devlabs in 2016 to formalize the partnership.
Meanwhile, State Minister in the Ministry, Hon. Julian Robinson, says the boot camp has given rise to a number of positive developments.
“What we focused on was getting their ideas or concepts to a stage where they had something that could be sold. In fact, some of them started to sell from the boot camp. They made contact with other companies, and some partnerships were formed. It was extremely positive in terms of the outcome,” the State Minister tells JIS News.
More than 40 start-ups from several countries throughout the Caribbean participated in the boot camp. Of the number, 25 successfully completed the programme requirements, and 15 of them will be selected to advance to the acceleration/incubation phase.
During that phase, the teams will engage in a number of business development initiatives to better align their products and services to international markets and learn how to operate in a global environment.
As part of the selection process, the teams were required to prove minimum viability of the proposed product or service, by selling these to local businesses.
The CEO reports that the teams achieved this objective, as the start-ups struck new deals with investors from the Caribbean, Canada and the United States, valued at US$6 million.
The SUJ Selection Committee is currently evaluating the teams to determine the finalists that will advance to the accelerator/incubation phase of the programme.
A key feature of the SUJ’s incubation/acceleration programme is the international exchange programme that is currently being developed to enable participants to get firsthand experience of these markets, so they will be able to align their services to the demands of these areas.
The incubation aspect of the programme will be conducted in Jamaica over a three-month period. This will be followed by the acceleration period, which is also slated to run for three months. At this stage, the start-ups will work with local and international mentors and companies to increase sales of their products and services.
In the initial stage of acceleration, five teams will be selected to travel to the Devlabs facility in Oakland, California, where they will engage in on-site training for a month.
Mr. Hugh Sam anticipates that this undertaking will open up new markets in the United States for the start-ups.
“We will be sending the teams there for one to three months for them to get exposure… and to understand what the markets are like,” he says.
“Devlabs (will) work with them to help modify their product for the US as well as their business model and sales strategy. So, they have to be able to make sales in the US. That’s the objective. They will be learning, but the objective constantly is on selling products and making sales,” he emphasizes.
At the end of the period, the teams are to return to Jamaica to further expand product sales in the marketplace.
Meanwhile, the other 10 teams participating in the incubation/acceleration programme will remain in Jamaica and work with local and international mentors and companies to increase sales.
The SUJ is currently in negotiations with Indonesia, Taiwan, Canada, Israel, Holland, the United Kingdom and the United States to develop a diverse international exchange programme.
For the remaining teams that did not advance in the programme, they will continue to benefit from the SUJ facilities to further refine their business plans and products for future entry into the incubation/acceleration phase.
The SUJ is a five-year public/private partnership between the Government of Jamaica and the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ), to provide business support for young technology entrepreneurs, with support from the World Bank project, ‘Youth Employment in Digital and Animation Industries’.
Local and international investors include the Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS), National Commercial Bank (NCB), FLOW and the Middle-Eastern start-up investment and business training firm, Oasis500.
Source: Jamaica Information Service