Columns

'Me a go' because I believe

BY ROXANNE WANLISS

Wednesday, February 26, 2014    

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This is the text of a testimonial delivered at the launch of Digital Jam 3.0 — Caribbean Edition hosted by Governor General Sir Patrick Allen towards the end of National Youth Month 2013. The project culminates with a 'start-up' conference to encourage youth self-employment at the Regional Headquarters of the University of the West Indies, Mona, this weekend, March 1-2, 2014.

ALLOW me to share a peek into what must have been the most exciting weekend in my life. Exactly this time last Friday I was at the culmination of an intensive mobile workshop in Washington, DC, at the World Bank Headquarters, pitching to angel investors. Less than 48 hours later, I sat my Project Management Professional exam, for which I studied all night --books in one hand, a pot of coffee in the other.

That Sunday afternoon, I transitioned seamlessly from exam candidate to entrepreneur as I attended another exciting workshop for start-up companies in Jamaica and the Caribbean. My weekend ended with a meeting with the team, which lasted until almost 2:00 am Monday morning. It wasn't until my mentor pointed this out, at our meeting later that Monday, that I realised that I had only slept for four hours over the entire course of this past weekend. It seems to me that I was fuelled by pure passion. This is what happens when you absolutely love what you do.

It all started 18 months ago when I was invited to participate in the Digital Jam 2.0 Mobile Application Workshop. I had no intention of entering any of the competitions, because I had absolutely no experience in mobile development. My only desire was to learn; taking advantage of the help that was available to learn this mobile technology and to build my professional skills.

Then we started to get excited about what we were learning, and the coaches encouraged us to look at problems that we could solve using what we learned. Our team focused on problems that we face when trying to get tickets to attend our favourite events. Thus, our solution, meAgo, our mobile ticketing application to easily and conveniently purchase mobile tickets for events. meAgo is Jamaican for I'm going.

The team that had entered the workshops with little or no experience with mobile technology managed to earned first place in technical excellence for the Mobile Application Development Competition at Digital Jam 2.0. And that same team, consisting of Kenrick Humber, Oneal Anguin, and myself showed up at the Sports Hackathon out of sheer curiosity and decided, at the 12th hour of a 24-hour Hackathon, to join the one-man team of Delton Phillips to develop the sporting social platform, Jugamos. We gained second place for that second competition -- I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that they had the only girl in the competition on their team.

Since then, team meAgo has been on an incredible journey. Earlier this year we made it to the finals of the Pitch IT Caribbean Competition, representing Jamaica, where we placed third in the People's Choice Awards. I represented the team in South America, where I learned from and networked with the global innovative entrepreneurs from the Start Up Chile programme.

And, just last week I was one of two Caribbean representatives at the infoDev Mobile Startup Camp in Washington, DC, where we spent a week undergoing training to refine our products and business strategies, networking with investors and other tech entrepreneurs.

Just over a year ago, myself and my other team members only had a desire to learn. For us, this was where it started. At Digital Jam.

Digital Jam has flung the doors wide open to a network of possibilities. I never thought I'd have reason to be sitting at a dinner table with the likes of Ingrid Riley from Connectimass, Sandra Glasgow from Biz Tactics Ltd, Dionne Palmer from the Technology Innovation Centre, Audrey Richards from the Development Bank of Jamaica, or even Minister Julian Robinson and Dr Stacey-Ann Wilson from the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining. And I definitely did not expect to be standing here today in front of you, being an advocate for opportunities for the young people of Jamaica through entrepreneurship, technology and innovation. And, just in case I haven't been clear about it, Digital Jam 3.0 presents that opportunity. This I know first-hand.

His Excellency Sir Patrick Allen, ministers and leaders of this great nation, ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of young Jamaicans everywhere, thank you for believing in us through your support of this noble initiative.

Thank you.

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