Saturday 15 August, 2020

DBJ launches mentorship programme for entrepreneurs, innovators

 Audrey Richards, Project Coordinator for the Jamaica Venture Capital Programme, which is being spearheaded by the Development Bank of Jamaica. (Photo via Jamaica Information Service)

Audrey Richards, Project Coordinator for the Jamaica Venture Capital Programme, which is being spearheaded by the Development Bank of Jamaica. (Photo via Jamaica Information Service)

The Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ), through its Jamaica Venture Capital Programme (JVCAPITAL), recently launched a 12-month mentorship programme for high growth potential research/technology-based start-ups with innovative products or services.

The initiative is one of the deliverables of a Technical Cooperation Agreement (TCA) signed by the DBJ and the IDB Lab to support the development of an early-stage and entrepreneurial ecosystem for Jamaica.

Titled ‘Mentors for Innovation & Entrepreneurship Programme’ (MIEP), the programme will see 12 start-up entrepreneurs being connected with local and international industry experts who will assist them in reducing and removing development hurdles hindering the growth of their companies.

In addition, DBJ will provide up to $1million in funding to each participating entrepreneur in the programme, helping them to pay for products or services needed to resolve problematic product or business development issues.

According to Audrey Richards, Project Coordinator for JVCAPITAL, the DBJ is bullish on this initiative and believes it will be a game-changer.

“As we look to the new normal of operating business in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean, we are focused on and committed to repositioning potential high-growth Jamaican entrepreneurs and businesses into world-class entities. This mentorship programme is definitely designed to achieve that purpose,” she said.

How to qualify

So far, the DBJ has selected the 12 start-ups that will participate in this, inaugural instalment of the programme.

The start-ups were selected after a competitive process, beginning in April and ending in May, in which they were assessed based on standard angel investor criteria and evaluated by a panel of seasoned tech entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, both locally-based and from the Jamaican Diaspora.

In order to be eligible for selection to the MIEP, the founder/CEO must express a commitment to fully participate in the programme for the entire 12-month period.

The company must be considered a micro, small or medium-sized enterprise at the pre-seed, seed or early growth stage of development and be one to five years old, with revenue not exceeding $30 million. Furthermore, the company must be registered in Jamaica for at least one year and must be tax compliant.

Importantly, the company should not be a corporate spin-out and must be operating in one of the following sectors:

• Niche financial and educational services: e.g. fintech, insuretech, edtech

• ICT: e.g. software or hardware creation and development

• Agribusiness and Biotech: e.g. exotic foods, nutraceuticals

• Logistics and Distribution: regionally and/or globally

• Consumer or Industrial goods and services with regional or global demand

The start-up should also have a new product or service with the capacity to grow and scale regionally and globally. There must be a prototype if the product is pre-revenue and the company must have done some market research on the product/service on offer.

How it works

The MIEP involves three levels of mentorship that will guide the 12-month process.

First, a Mentorship Council, consisting of seven local and international experts, that provides advice and administration to the programme. Members of the Council include tech entrepreneurs and venture capitalists who were part of the selection of the start-ups.

At the next level, Programme Mentors, known to be subject matter experts, will provide ‘on the ground’ mentorship services for up to three months to the entrepreneurs.

Finally, Business Advisors will work directly with the entrepreneurs and support the Programme Mentors by providing the ‘hand-holding’ and day-to-day accountability necessary to help individual entrepreneurs execute the advice given by the mentor while carrying out a structured, individualised programme of business development advising, based on internationally accepted standards.

The selected entrepreneurs are MDLink; SmartTerm, Turner Innovations, Queritel, Appfinity/itineri, Outland Hurders Farmstead Creamery, De La Enzie Essentials, Jaja Culinary Services, Liquid Light Digital, Naturalis, Sankhard/Soups-on and Rush Alert.

Milverton Reynolds, Managing Director, DBJ states; “At the end of this pilot period, we expect these start-ups to be adequately armed, knowledgeable and ready to take on the world.

DBJ is confirming that at that the end of the 12-month pilot, the initiative will be evaluated, and a decision made regarding its continuation.

The JVCAPITAL was established by the DBJ in 2013, through a Technical Cooperation (TC) Agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to conduct a market study and an accompanying implementation plan for the establishment of venture capital and private equity industry for Jamaica.

Following the successful completion of that TC, a follow-on Agreement was signed in 2016, which directly focussed on supporting the development of an entrepreneurial and early-stage ecosystem for Jamaica. It is under this second TC that the MIEP is being executed.

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