DBJ launches 12-month mentorship programme for Jamaican start-ups

Twelve Jamaican start-ups stand to benefit from a pilot yearlong mentorship programme that provides up to JM$1 million in technical assistance for each firm.

Through the Jamaica Venture Capital Programme (JVCAPITAL), the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) recently launched the 12-month Mentors for Innovation & Entrepreneurship Programme (MIEP) with a view to connecting micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) with a network of local and international industry experts who can guide them through reducing and removing barriers to growth.

Against this background, DBJ is bullish on this initiative being 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,” Audrey Richards, project coordinator for JVCAPITAL, noted.

Project coordinator for the Jamaica Venture Capital Programme Audrey Richards (right) gestures while speaking at the launch event for the Development Bank of Jamaica. Looking on are businessman and former Chairman of the DBJ Joseph Matalon and Therese Turner-Jones, general manager of the Country Department Caribbean Group at the Inter-American Development Bank. (File photo)

To this end, will provide each participating entrepreneur with a JM$1-million grant to cover products or services necessary to resolve challenging product and business development issues.

The selection process

So far, DBJ has selected 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.

A website page for Queritel, one of twelve start-ups selected for the 12-month Mentors for Innovation & Entrepreneurship Programme. (Photo: Queritel)

Beginning in April and ending in May, the selection process was extremely competitive as a panel of seven highly regarded tech entrepreneurs and ventures capitalist assessed each start-up using standard angel investor criteria.

In order to qualify, each entrepreneur also had to indicate their commitment and full participation in the 12-month-long programme. Moreover, the companies had to prove that they fall within the classification of an MSME at the pre-seed, seed or early growth stage of development — not generating more than JM$30 million.

Oji Jaja of Jaja Culinary Services and his team (Photo: Ahebre)

In addition, companies must be tax compliant and have a new product or service with the capacity to grow and scale regionally and internationally.

What to expect

For the next 12 months, the MIEP will guide the start-ups using three levels of mentorship: a mentorship council, programme mentors and business advisors.

“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.”

— Audrey Richards, project coordinator, Development Bank of Jamica

The mentorship council will include members from the selection committee who will act as advisors and administrators of the programme. At the next level, the programme mentors will provide “on-the-ground” mentorship services to the firms for a three-month period.

At the same time, business advisors will work directly with entrepreneurs while supporting the programme mentors in “hand-holding” the company heads on a daily basis. Using international standards, they will also advise entrepreneurs on how to keep accountable to following through on the instructions of mentors.

Ready for the next…

According to DBJ Managing Director Milverton Reynolds, “At the end of this pilot period, we expect these start-ups to be adequately armed, knowledgeable and ready to take on the world. At that time, the initiative will be evaluated, and a decision made regarding its continuation. We are committed to the success of the initiative, the start-ups and the business

Managing Director of the Development Bank of Jamaica Milverton Reynolds (File photo)

The initiative is one of the deliverables of a technical cooperation agreement (TCA) between the DBJ and the IDB Lab to support the development of an early-stage and entrepreneurial ecosystem for
Jamaica. Through JVCAPITAL, DBJ also aims to create a venture capital and private equity industry in Jamaica.