World Bank programme to make 100 firms investment-ready

BY AVIA COLLINDER Business reporter collindera@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, December 10, 2015

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Ganesh Rasagam is a trainer under the World Bank Group’s Entrepreneurship Program for Innovation in the Caribbean (EPIC) – a seven-year, $20-M programme funded by the Government of Canada. EPIC seeks to build an enabling environment for high growth. It held its first joint Hub and Spoke Workshop from December 2-3 in Kingston.


Rasagam, speaking with the Jamaica Observer, said that the strengthening the capacity of 100 entrepreneurs, including at least 30 female entrepreneurs, was priority under the programme. The end result is to make them more bankable.


"In general, Caribbean nations have experienced low economic growth and high unemployment for several decades. The region is highly exposed to economic shocks and natural disasters, and many nations are dependent on tourism and natural resources, rather than high-growth, knowledge-based sectors. This affects the size and the preparedness of markets for entrepreneurs in the Caribbean," he said.


"Underlying the growth gaps are low levels of productivity and competitiveness across the region, which call for a boost of private sector capacity to drive economic growth. EPIC promotes sustainable economic development by creating an enabling ecosystem for innovative, technology-enabled enterprises, whose growth has a multiplier effect across participating countries."


Training, he stated, will make the targeted firms become more investable. EPIC’s programme also includes delivering a capacity-developing programme to 10 business enablers across the region (including three from Jamaica) to better serve entrepreneurs. It is also focusing on assistance to the newly formed Caribbean angel groups which are expected to increase the sources of capital for entrepreneurs.


"The two major challenges identified under the Entrepreneurship Program for Innovation in the Caribbean are access to capacity building and training, and access to finance," Rasagam said.


He noted that 69 implementation partners and policymakers improved capacity through business incubation management trainings, and over 250 entrepreneurs so far benefited from incubation services under EPIC.


Rasagam said EPIC’s efforts on building angel investor capacity have laid the foundation for an emerging early stage financing ecosystem in the Caribbean.


"EPIC has catalysed three Caribbean angel groups and the first set of angel investments in the region. These groups are Trident Angels (Bridgetown, Barbados), First Angels Jamaica (FAJ –Kingston, Jamaica), and Alpha Angels (Montego Bay, Jamaica). All groups have operating models and due diligence processes, and are currently meeting on a regular basis and actively review enterprises in the investment pipeline. As these angel groups are evolving, they serve as a source of early stage capital to promote entrepreneurial growth in the region," he said.


There are now 35 angel investors engaged with the first three angel investor groups in the Caribbean. Over 20 entrepreneurs were matched to investors/investment opportunities. Locally, FAJ has completed two investments: in DRT Communications, a marketing communications and media monitoring company; and Billodex, a company developing mobile ticketing solutions.


"Angel investors are often the first round of outside investment for entrepreneurs, and in the financing continuum come in before venture capitalists. In a sense, our work is helping to develop investment pipeline for venture capital funds,"Rasagam said.


 

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