The Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) has pledged financial support towards the launch of Start Up Jamaica, as part of the Regional Private Sector Development Programme (RPSDP) funded by the European Union under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF), in efforts to accelerate development in youth entrepreneurship, with a focus on the technology sector. Start-Up Jamaica (SUJ) is a facility through which select start up technology companies can access seed capital, training and mentorship in return for equity in the company.
SUJ, a project of the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, aims to support talented and technologically savvy young people to tap into the growing global market for technological innovations, and further serves the social demand for more employment opportunities not only in Jamaica but also in the wider Caribbean. Caribbean Export’s Executive Director, Pamela Coke-Hamilton expressed that “this initiative has the potential to be a regional game changer in the transitional development of the regions savvy young people who are bursting with ideas, into our future entrepreneurial successes”. The support offered through the programme is intended to grow the ideas of innovators and entrepreneurs from the region into marketable products and services, while also increasing employment and generating foreign exchange. The strategy aims to transform Caribbean people from being “technology consumers” to “technology creators” over the next few years, and to position Jamaica as the hub for entrepreneurship and innovation in the Caribbean.
‘Start Up Jamaica’ is modelled on the very successful ‘Start Up Chile’ programme, which at pilot stage in 2010 attracted twenty-two start-up companies from across fourteen countries, and now is on track to meet its target of one thousand participants at the close of 2014. Start Up Jamaica, which will be the first of its kind in the region, attracted one hundred and ninety two applications, from across the region.
Start Up Jamaica hosted a five day boot camp for tech entrepreneurs from September 8th to 12th, 2014 that mentored and prepared participants for the full SUJ programme. From among these participants, ten teams will be selected to work with SUJ in partnership with Oasis500 in October 2014. Oasis500 is the pioneering early stage and seed investment company from the Middle East, which supports entrepreneurs with funding and training. They will also be delivering the training for the Boot Camp.
Through SUJ, participating start-up companies are expected to be better prepared to pitch to equity investors and receive investments to achieve business growth. Consultations with leaders of a number of similar experiences worldwide have confirmed that a physical hub such as Start Up Jamaica is crucial to the development of a thriving tech entrepreneurship which is vital for job creation and generation among youth in the region. Other partners in the venture include: The World Bank, LIME and Jamaica National Building Society Foundation.