Barry O’Brien starts afresh in Jamaica with new venture capital firm

Barry O’Brien starts afresh in Jamaica with new venture capital firm

BY AVIA COLLINDER Business reporter collindera@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, February 03, 2017

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New Caribbean Capital Partners (NCCP) — a freshly minted venture capital firm founded by Barry O’Brien — may prove to be a boon to entrepreneurs who are eyeing new Caribbean markets but are currently perturbed by the challenges presented.


NCCP — comprised of O’Brien and partners Ciaran Burke and Robbie Burns — is proposing to pave the way for companies which envision entering larger regional markets.


On the firm’s website, www.ncc-partners.com, the group is described as "the Caribbean’s equity specialists".


Headquartered in Kingston, Jamaica, NCCP aims to address the fragmented nature of doing business in selected sectors in the Caribbean by acquiring and then merging existing profitable businesses in multiple markets, thus creating pan-Caribbean businesses with scale.


The businessman told the
Jamaica Observer, "We are presently fund raising with an initial goal to raise US$20mllion. The money raised will be to acquire companies in multiple markets in selected sectors."


According to the website, the NCCP is also planning entry into underserved, disruptive business areas in the Caribbean, which already successfully operate in developed markets but are still to evolve in the Caribbean.


NCCP is currently targeting private equity investments in sectors such as ICT, marketing, advertising and financial services.


NCCP has identified its first project. Six current owners of businesses in Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, St Kitts and Grenada have expressed their willingness to discuss the sale of their individual businesses to create a pan-Caribbean business for a mixture of cash and equity in the merged business.


O’Brien indicates that a separate operational management team will be appointed for each pan-Caribbean business.


"Each investor will be given an equity state in that pan-Caribbean business prorated to the ratio of their investment amount to the enterprise value, and on exit will receive the same prorated return."


O’Brien told
Caribbean Business Report, "Post-acquisition and merger, we will manage the improvements in the trading position of the business by cross-selling non-overlapping services between markets, cutting costs through operational efficiencies and reorganisation, attracting global customers, and modernising the merged business to become the only pan-Caribbean business in the selected sector with the widest range of leading product and service offerings.


"Our goal is to double earnings of the merged business and thus the valuation of the combined business. Our initial exit is 24 to 36 months, but this is dependent on the time taken to improve the merged business, and we have modelled the business out to five years."


"Presently," he noted, "we have five in the management team, but this will significantly increase as we raise funds and acquire businesses. A separate operational management team will be appointed for each pan-Caribbean business.


"Presently we have largely found former Digicel talent — given my background — but I plan to broaden this, and NCCP is presently in discussions with two senior Jamaicans.


"The talent does exist in Kingston, and after nine years in the Caribbean I know of many talented persons here who I would be delighted to work with."


With over 30 years’ experience among them, the current team is headed by Group CEO O’Brien who has nine years’ experience in the Caribbean.


A certified electrical engineer, he is the management guru who piloted Digicel’s headquarters business in Jamaica from 2013 to 2015.


As CEO, he was responsible for the diverse telecoms operation, consisting of multiple mobile and broadband networks, ICT services, and a tier 3 shared-services data centre and media business.


O’Brien was responsible for establishing Digicel’s Fintech, e-Commerce and Jamaica’s fibre businesses while overseeing 22 subsidiaries of Digicel as a board director. Before this, he was CEO of Digicel South Eastern Caribbean, CEO of Digicel Barbados, and CEO ICT for the Eastern Caribbean.


He also led the acquisition of companies such as Paymaster, Telstar, Prism Holdings, Boom, Stronghold, Spectrum Loyalty, Streamline, and Magna Rewards, which formed the core of Digicel’s diversification strategy.


Before moving to the Caribbean in 2008, O’Brien was CEO of a major software and data company called The Now Factory in Dublin, Ireland. He developed this business from two people to a major corporation that was eventually sold to IBM for 115m Euro.


In December 2016, after nine years with Digicel, O’Brien has reduced his role with the telecoms giant to that of a senior advisor in order to free himself to work on personal projects.


NCCP’s Pan-Caribbean Business CFO is Ciaran Burke with 13 years’ experience in the Caribbean, including roles as former CEO Digicel M&A, CEO Grenada and Barbados, former CFO Digicel Eastern Caribbean and auditor with Deloitte and E&Y.


The company’s Pan-Caribbean Business CCO is Robbie Burns with 11 years’ experience in the Caribbean. Burns is CEO of SocialCore, and co-founder of the regional low-cost airline REDJet.


The company has also whipped together a stellar advisory board including Audrey Marks, Jamaica’s Ambassador to the US and founder of Paymaster Jamaica; and Gary Quin of Credit Suisse, founder of the Global Investment Federation, with 25 years as an international investment banker and private equity investor. He has raised more than US$20bn in bonds and US$12bn in equity.


O’Brien, 46, has a first-class honours degree in Electrical Engineering from University College Cork Ireland with multiple scholarships and a diploma in Business Management from the National College of Ireland.


He previously led many innovative projects both in Ireland and internationally when working as an independent management consultant for companies such as Ericsson, Motorola, Rohde Schwarz, Hewlett Packard and IBM.


Asked why he chose to remain in Jamaica post-Digicel, he answered, "I have come to love the Caribbean and Jamaica, and I see great potential here. The challenges are partly the reasons why the opportunities exist, especially where scalability is concerned."


He noted that international global businesses frequently have difficulties with the fragmented nature of the Caribbean due to the necessity to sign deals in many markets to gain pan-Caribbean access. NCCP is the answer to this challenge.


O’Brien is confident that the new company will continue to see funding inflows based on its design of bottom-up business plans with financial projections.


"We plan to prove that we will be successful with our first venture prior to raising additional funds, and the management team is key to this."


The CEO said partners are welcome. "We are seeking a mixture of Caribbean and non-Caribbean equity partners. Each equity partner will be given an equity state in the pan-Caribbean business prorated to the ratio of their investment and the enterprise value of the Pan-Caribbean business."


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