BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Thursday November 30, 2017 – The Caribbean could discover its very own Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, when 300 people from the tech industry, including power players like Jack Dorsey, CEO, Twitter, convene in Jamaica from today to December 2, for the second biannual Tech Beach retreat.
A US$35,000 grant provided by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) will make it possible for 16 young entrepreneurs and innovators from across the region to attend the event, through scholarships.
The two-day retreat will focus on teaching participants how to build successful fintech, medtech and consumer tech companies, with special features on cybercrime and data security, robotics and automation, artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies.
“Often, aspiring youth within the Bank’s Borrowing Member Countries (BMCs) lack opportunities for accessing angel or venture capital investment, even though they hold potential for contributing to the building of a home-grown, multi-million dollar technology industry,” said Dr Justin Ram, Director of Economics at CDB.
“The beneficiaries have been selected from existing programmes with strong vetting processes, such as PitchIT Caribbean. The selection process sought to ensure the identification of high-potential male and female entrepreneurs.”
Scholarship awardees will present their business ideas to key participants and a select group of speakers at the retreat, and will receive constructive feedback and mentorship. This type of access to global partnerships and potential investment is vital to the region making its mark, said Tech Beach Co-founder and director, Kirk-Anthony Hamilton.
Following the inaugural retreat in 2016, a post-event survey confirmed that 56 percent of the participants had gone on to establish joint ventures through connections made at the event. Hamilton is himself an example of what regional entrepreneurs can achieve with adequate investment and support. He was named one of the 75 Emerging Global Entrepreneurs by the then President of the United States of America, Barrack Obama in 2015.
“Caribbean tech startups fail because of lack of experience, limited networks and no safety nets to bolster them against the challenges of starting an innovative business. They are in critical need of a more robust and supportive ecosystem with greater global access to relationships, markets, capital, opportunities and ideas,” Hamilton said.
“Technology is global, so we need not only to increase regional connectivity, but the Caribbean needs to attract global brands, industry leaders and media to its shores, and our platform introduces these organizations to explore the possibilities in a non-invasive, non-capital intensive manner.”
Hamilton believes this approach will lead to international organizations having a greater and more permanent presence in the region through partnerships and investment.
Tech Beach Retreat’s scholarship programme, made possible this year by CDB, opens up a broader international network, access to insightful thought leadership and increased possibilities to Caribbean entrepreneurs. The programme is aligned with CDB’s strategic objectives and corporate priorities, and aligns with the Bank’s ongoing work to promote private sector development, competitiveness and innovation. It is also consistent with the Bank’s Private Sector Development Policy and Operational Strategy and the Caribbean Community Secretariat’s commitment to building technological resilience and engendering technology-driven economies and societies in the region.