Director of National Partnerships (Airbnb), Janaye Ingram, speaking to the audience at Innovate Barbados 2018. (Photo courtesy of the BIDC)
Innovate Barbados 2018 came to a close on Thursday, November 8, with Chairman of the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC), John Rocheford, deeming it a “successful and fantastic” event.
The conference with its theme: Engineering New Connections, saw speakers and business experts drawn from Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and the United States engaging over 300 delegates, who thronged the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre on Two Mile Hill, St. Michael.
Mr. Rocheford, pleased with the response, said: “The knowledge and insights they shared with us were packed with actionable solutions and takeaways. We are especially pleased this year to have been able to include our “inclusivity through diversity” keynote and workshop, since it underscores the message of inclusion of everyone in the building of a new Barbados – a strong, resilient Barbados, smart and sustainable, a small island on the road to achieving big dreams. When the décor and the last prop have been taken down there will remain many signature moments we all will take away.”
Thanking all who availed their time, he stressed it was not only about the knowledge and immersive experiences that BIDC’s Innovate Steering Committee “so ably squeezed into two days”, but also the interactions and collaborations that were engineered in the one-to-one connection zone.
As he recounted the shared moments, the Chairman said: “Over the two days, we learnt that we must turn our creative genius to the complex problems around us, innovating for needs that stretch beyond our borders. The vast potential of our sun, sea and land is clearly more discernible than when we gathered here on Wednesday morning [November 7].
“Innovation has met opportunity I believe; what we must do is carry this conversation, these connections forward using ICT as our springboard for transformation. If we have added one more person to this innovation movement, this push to change, to move from just passionate discourses to real-life solutions, then we would have achieved our mission.”
Team BIDC and the myriad sponsors were praised for their contribution to the success of the conference, and Mr. Rocheford also thanked participants for sharing the corporation’s enthusiasm and helping it “to advance Barbados’ innovation agenda”.
Kudos were also reserved for Kristian Payne, who emerged winner of the Race For Space competition, another signature event of the BIDC.
Mr. Payne came up against a field of equally talented entrepreneurs that included Daniel DeSouza with Cariblime; Cherry-Ann Boyce with Hello Naturalle; and Toni Thorne with her Sweetheart Sandals. He won with a conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI) named LARA that works as a digital brand ambassador across multiple channels and is capable of answering queries, booking meetings with potential leads and offering insurance quotes.
The 21-year old, who heads Intergen-Software, emphasized that LARA was expected to change the way businesses communicate by allowing them to connect across social media such as Facebook and WhatsApp and via telephone lines, letting the AI accept phone calls from more traditional clients.
While noting that LARA was initially launched with the insurance sector in mind, the young entrepreneur said he anticipates the company’s next foray would be in the area of retail banking and soon they would be partnering with telecommunications providers.
“We’re looking to see if we can help redesign their call centres to be more efficient…. LARA is not meant to replace humans in the workplace but to enable employees to do their work more efficiently while LARA takes on the more mundane tasks, like queries that may come in regularly,” said the Race for Space winner, who will gain resources and other support opportunities to accelerate the business.