15 Caribbean Technology Start-up Companies participate in CDB/World Bank Bootcamp

Starting and running a successful business is a challenge for any entrepreneur, but for first time start-ups, one of the major issues that they face is a lack of knowledge of basic business tools and where to turn for advice. For at least 15 technology start-up companies from Barbados, Trinidad and the Eastern Caribbean though, this is no longer an insurmountable challenge, as they recently participated in a 3-day bootcamp geared towards providing them with key tools to launch and grow their own software-based company.

Hosted by The World Bank, in partnership with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Devlabs, and Startup Jamaica, the bootcamp took place during February 14th-17th at the Accra Beach Hotel in Barbados. It provided participants with the basic business and product development tools and techniques needed to start a software-based company. Participants also developed actionable business plans, created websites for their products, and learnt how to scale their sales processes and generate revenue quickly.

Lisa Harding, Operations Officer at CDB, noted that facilitating entrepreneurship, particularly for firms using technology as an enabler, has the potential to contribute to economic growth and diversification of the region. “This is a focus area for CDB, because of the role it can play in employment generation for the region’s youth, while promoting the ICT as a channel for economic diversification. These emerging sectors are environments in which we can compete in on a global scale, as success is not driven by the size of the countries or economies, but rather, by our intellectual ability and creativity.”

CDB’s support for the bootcamp is part of a wider Caribbean Animation and Technology Capacity Building Programme (Carib-AniTech), designed to promote the growth and development of the animation and mobile applications software development sectors. Carib-AniTech is a 2-year programme which will leverage the development framework currently available in Jamaica to enhance outreach to include Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. The World Bank has overall responsibility for the execution of Carib-AniTech, with support from CDB.

Fabio Pittaluga, World Bank Senior Social Development Specialist for Latin America and Caribbean, noted that the intention is to significantly accelerate the development of sectors that have potential for growth. “We are investing significantly and widening the pool of potential candidates that could come up with creative ideas and finding solutions, that, while they may be created here– may have a global reach in terms of markets…our intent is to foster the growth of alternative sectors.”

This bootcamp was the first of two, with the second scheduled to be held in Saint Lucia from February 22-25th. At the end of both bootcamps, the top teams will have the opportunity to participate in the Start-up Jamaica Accelerator Program, where they will have access to mentors, seed funding, advanced training and access to potential equity investment.

For 18-year old entrepreneur Kristian Payne, participation in the Barbados bootcamp was the catalyst to take his team’s business idea to the next level. “At the start of the camp, we were three kids with an idea. By the third day, we knew the proper channels to go through, what avenues to take, and what we needed to start ourselves as a legitimate business.” Along with two other partners, Kristian has created a software product called Bartech, which will assist doctors and clinics by allowing quicker access to patient information.

His sentiments were echoed by fellow participant Roberta Straker, whose company, Summo Gradu, provides educational videos to institutions. “The bootcamp helped us to really clarify what our business model will be like moving forward, and also, it showed me that I was seriously undercharging for my services.”

CDB has long recognized the importance of supporting initiatives which encourage innovation and improve the Region’s competitiveness in the ICT sector. In 2014, CDB contributed to the financing of a programme dubbed Digital Jam, which provided an opportunity for young mobile applications software developers to enhance their skills, and provided a platform to showcase the creativity of mobile applications software developers in the Caribbean.

The Bank is also supporting KingstOOn 2016, a 2-day Animation Conference, Marketplace and Film Festival, scheduled for March 12-13, 2016, in Kingston, Jamaica, which is aimed at encouraging the growth of the animation sector in Jamaica, and the wider Caribbean.  Support to KingSTOON follows similar initiatives by the Bank including  partnering to stage the first Animated Ideas Bootcamp, held during the Animae Caribe Festival in Trinidad in October last year.