CDB’s Project Manager, Daniel Best, presenting Fanta Pierre-Sandy (centre) and Tiffani Patterson of Sandy’s Bath and Organics with their 1st Place Award in the Scale-Up Category. (C.Pitt/BGIS)

The Caribbean Tech Entrepreneurship Programme (CTEP) is a virtual hub for Caribbean start-ups and entrepreneurs, helping small businesses to unlock economic transformation through digital innovation platforms.

CTEP’s Manager Troy Weekes explained that its main aim is to stimulate technology entrepreneurship in the Caribbean. It is funded by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), and implemented by Orbit Innovation. 

This is done through a series of business incubation and acceleration activities, where Caribbean entrepreneurs in CDB’s 19 borrowing member countries connect online with mentors and facilitators, who are experts in their respective fields.

Mr. Weekes stated that another aim of CTEP “is to help Caribbean countries address unemployment and underemployment by leveraging opportunities within the virtual economy”. 

He added that as technology has made the world smaller, it is a pre-requisite that our regional entrepreneurs possess the required skills to compete on a global scale.

Cohort 2 of the programme, which ran from September to December 2019, concluded with an award ceremony for winners in the programme’s three categories of businesses. 

Those categories are: Ideation Stage – entrepreneurs that have a business idea, but do not have the adequate business acumen and skills to transform the idea into a viable business.  Validation Stage – start-ups that have invested in their business idea to the point that they have a prototype or minimally viable product, a business plan, a team with roles and responsibilities, and possibly some paying customers.  The Scale-up Stage – start-ups that are already in business and looking to expand, also have a proven product, a comprehensive business plan with clear organizational structures and well-defined processes, and consistent sales and revenue streams.

To determine the winners in each category, businesses were required to submit pitch decks, demo videos and presentations. These submissions were evaluated by a remote panel of regional and international judges from technical, business development and investor backgrounds. Their scores were combined with their CTEP participation, attendance and grades.

Twenty-two out of the 90 start-ups in Cohort 2 were selected to compete in the regional finals.  Christopher Harper, a judge, said: “As usual, the standard of the businesses and ideas presented were high.  What I noticed this year was that there were a higher number of businesses seeking to address more social issues, for example, those relating to nutrition and education, while trying to ensure that the disparity between the classes is closed.”

During the recent prize giving and award ceremony held in Barbados at the Accra Beach Hotel and Spa, Rockley, Christ Church, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce, Esworth Reid, stated: “We live in an era where the face of doing business is changing rapidly and radically and technology drives the process of production in industry. 

“As industry becomes more and more subject to this modern day industrial revolution, production processes in goods and services are becoming more and more mechanized and high tech.”

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce, Esworth Reid, presenting Barbadian Marc Gibson with his Award for placing 2nd in the Validation Category with his mobile subscription-based platform ‘Alluhwi Comics’. (C.Pitt/BGIS)

Mr. Reid pointed out that the dictates of rapidly changing consumer tastes, habits and expectations are requiring that for existing businesses to attract new markets, increase market share, or stay in business; they must always continually assess the viability of their existing products; monitor changes in consumer preferences and expectations; identify demand gaps in the market; and engage in continuous research and redevelopment.

Thanking the CDB for providing not just funding, but technical support to Orbit Innovation, Mr. Reid stressed that creating an enabling environment that would encourage start-ups and foster the growth of micro and small enterprises is not an option, but a must, if we are to grow our economies and enable the people to reap the benefits of globalization.  To do otherwise would be to risk having an adverse impact on our economic and social development for time to come.

CDB’s Projects Director, Daniel Best, in his address to the awardees noted that 2020 was nigh, and would bring the world into a new decade, the final decade in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

He pointed out “for the region to be able to accomplish the ambitious goals it has set to improve the lives of Caribbean people, it will need to fully and capably embrace digital innovation”.

Mr. Best highlighted that regional economies were struggling to achieve meaningful and sustained economic growth above two per cent and the time had come for regional leaders to decide on the most effective, inclusive and appropriate ways to stimulate our economies.

To assist, he said the CDB has strategically positioned itself to support greater use of technology by micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and hopes this provides the tools to finally break the cycle of sluggish economic growth that has plagued the region for far too long. 

The Project Director also emphasized the importance of MSMEs to the future financial growth of the region and declared we could not continue to ignore or defer addressing issues that affect the sector and impact their survival, and by extension competitiveness. 

Mr. Best challenged the entrepreneurs present to fully exploit the opportunity afforded by their participation in CTEP and to recognize that it is accompanied by a collective responsibility, not only to make businesses better, but also communities. 

“I want you to be the engine of change in your communities; continue to strive for excellence; innovate, and think about how you can help in transforming our region,” Mr. Best said, as he encouraged the winners. 

He also reconfirmed CDB’s commitment to continue working with firms that have benefited from the CTEP programme and to increase support to the Technology Sector, which is an area of extremely high economic potential for the region.

Winners in the CTEP Cohort 2 pose with CDB’s Projects Director, Daniel Best (centre, back row) and CDB staff; CTEP’s Manager Troy Weekes (4th from right); and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce, Esworth Reid (7th from right). (CTEP)

Mr. Best expressed the hope that the technology developed by CTEP’s participants would be adopted by other MSMEs, and as a result, would see their businesses growing exponentially, creating more jobs, and kick-starting the biggest social transition of our generation. He implored the entrepreneurs “to think big and unleash your potential for excellence”.

First place winners in the CTEP Cohort 2 Ideation category were La Quelle’s Agrozee Company Limited out of Trinidad and Tobago. The company has created locally made organic food for babies four months to two years.  Secondplace went to Relaago, a Grenadian company which invented an all-in-one mini massager that comes with a mobile app, the only massager app in the world which includes everything to simulate relaxation therapy wherever you are. Third place went to Geion Group out of St. Lucia, which developed biodegradable labelling paper and edible food packaging, using one of the Caribbean’s nuisances Sargassum Seaweed.

In the Validation category, the first place winners were Guyana Animation Network (GAN) Inc., an all-female company out of Guyana which provides creative, ‘edutaining’, and innovative opportunities for children and youth in the Caribbean and South America, by teaching animation and digital media. Second place went to Alluhwi Comics, a Barbadian company which provides a mobile, subscription-based platform for emerging and existing millennial fans seeking authentic Caribbean comic books.  The third place validation winners were JMVI Realty out of Antigua and Barbuda; the first tech-based real estate company to use a mobile app to create a real estate marketplace with an online auction house that facilitates live bidding.

The final category Scale-up winners were: Sandy’s Bath and Organics out of Tobago, which took first place. The company’s owner, a nurse for over a decade, produced an organic African black soap for both males and females ages two to 70 to meet their skincare needs. This includes reducing acne and stretch marks, minimizing wrinkles and soothing skin irritations while obtaining a brighter, smoother skin complexion.  The second place winner was Antiguan company Project Jaguar Inc., which offers online courses designed for online teachers to assist them in keeping their students engaged. Gabatti Investments & Consultancy Limited out of Trinidad and Tobago took third place.  This company enables Caribbean people to digitally transact a sou-sou, through a mobile app.

Start-ups and small businesses interested in gathering more information on the Caribbean Tech Entrepreneurship Programme may visit the CTEP website.

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