Increasing youth employment in ICTs in Jamaica
To engage youth in the global market for ICT applications, senior leaders from Jamaica’s Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining (MSTEM) and its partners sought to develop and launch a regional technology incubation hub providing seed capital, training, and networking opportunities to entrepreneurs to bring their ideas to market.
What was the objective of the exchange?
To engage youth in the global market for ICT applications, senior leaders from Jamaica’s Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy , and Mining (MSTEM) and its partners sought to develop and launch a regional technology incubation hub providing seed capital, training, and networking opportunities to entrepreneurs to bring their ideas to market. Officials, however, had insufficient knowledge on how to translate their vision into action, and were keen to learn how other countries had developed such hubs. Based on consultations with the Bank, they opted to learn from Start-up Chile (SUP), a government program providing financing and incubation services to domestic and international entrepreneurs, accounting Start-up Chile’s solid track record and the country’s similar challenges.
What has happened so far?
In May 2013, twelve officials visited Santiago to meet with staff from the SUP, and its partners and client entrepreneurs. The delegation included the Minister of State in MSTEM; Technical Advisers from MSTEM and the Ministry of Industry, Investment, and Commerce; and a representative of the Development Bank of Jamaica in charge of the Venture Capital Program. It also included three young Jamaican tech entrepreneurs who were winners in the Digital Jam 2.0 competition, two women involved in the local start up community and an incubator at the University of Technology, and staff from the World Bank. Through meetings with SUP’s founder and managers, delegates learned how SUP had engaged public and private partners to establish an entrepreneurship program reducing red tape and common financial hurdles, by providing young entrepreneurs with $40K in seed capital, visas, a work space, and opportunities to network with colleagues and partners in the public and private sectors. Delegates gained insight into SUP’s marketing strategies, and interviewed SUP-supported entrepreneurs, who praised SUP’s coaching, business trainings, and partnerships with businesses, which can test applications and serve as initial customers. The Jamaican delegation came away impressed with how the SUP had cultivated a culture for innovation, and were eager to apply lessons to build a hub and an ecosystem for entrepreneurship in Jamaica.
What results have been achieved?
The exchange increased officials’ capacity and confidence to develop and launch a business accelerator for youth entrepreneurs in Jamaica called Start-Up Jamaica (www.start-upjamaica.com):
- Officials strengthen their skills to design a business accelerator accounting for key success factors, such as collaborative office spaces, an international orientation, business trainings, mentorship programs, and linkages to partners, including networks of angel investors.
- After the study tour, follow-up consultations with Chile, including a visit of an SUP manager to Jamaica in March 2014, helped officials to fine-tune the design and roll-out of Start-Up Jamaica.
- Ongoing engagement with Chile, the World Bank, and donors helped pave the way for a Bank-financed project supporting youth employment in the digital and animation industries. Approved in June 2014, this US$20 million project provides funding for Start-Up Jamaica, including for marketing, trainings, start-up boot camps, and entrepreneurial demo-days.
- The vision developed by the Jamaican delegation generated interest among Jamaican private sector partners. Start-Up Jamaica consequently received significant cash and in-kind contributions from the Development Bank of Jamaica, the Jamaica National Building Society, LIME, National Commercial Bank, and the Caribbean Export Development Agency.
Officials issued a first call for entrepreneurs in July 2014, and launched Start-Up Jamaica – and its slogan “Get-up, Start-up” – in September 2014. The first call attracted more than 200 concepts. To-date, 66 entrepreneurial teams have been selected for start-up boot camps, and 32 teams are being considered for investments.
Interview with Julian Robinson - Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining (STEM) Jamaica
What was the situation prior to the exchange?
We recognized the potential for Jamaican entrepreneurs to tap the global ICT market, as technology has lowered barriers to entry in the apps economy. This created an opportunity for Jamaican entrepreneurs to create apps and solutions for an international market, with the potential to earn foreign exchange. Entrepreneurs, however, faced two main challenges: 1) difficulty in accessing funding, as the traditional source of funding through loans from commercial banks had high collateral requirements; and 2) the lack of a supportive business environment providing mentorship and support to move their ideas to the next level. Though Jamaica had supported small-scale incubators and innovation challenges, such as Digital Jam 2.0, we had not yet put in place a broader ecosystem for innovation, including a full-scale hub supporting all steps of entrepreneurship, from generating and funding ideas, to developing and testing products, to marketing them. We had a compelling vision, but wanted to learn what was needed to make it happen, especially how to work with government and partners.
What were the results from the exchange?
The visit, and follow-up collaboration with Chile and the World Bank, helped us to translate our vision into a design for Start-Up Jamaica. For example, we understood the importance of getting the physical space right to facilitate interaction among entrepreneurs, and adopting an international orientation to tap the global market. We learned that supporting our entrepreneurs to engage with the community and partners was critical to building an innovation ecosystem. At the same time, we clarified how to tailor Start-Up Jamaica to our needs. For instance, as our funding environment made a government-funded model less viable, we engaged local and international private sector partners to support the establishment of Start-Up Jamaica. Two local partners – Jamaica National, a building society; and LIME, a telecom company – provided physical facilities as well as equipment and furniture. Oasis 500 from Jordan will run the 100 day accelerator process to invest in the entrepreneurs’ companies. We also introduced a shorter, 100-day period to move from ideas to a solid business concept.
What would have happened if you didn’t have the exchange?
Without visiting Chile, we would not have had as clear a vision on how to proceed, and particularly how to work with partners. We likely would have face difficulties translating our vision into concrete steps for designing and implementing Start-Up Jamaica. We might have risked spending more time, and even money, endeavoring to put in place this new program.
Links for more information on exchange and Start-Up Jamaica: