MANAGING Director of the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) Milverton Reynolds is hoping that the venture capital conference — 'Advancing innovation and entrepreneurship - Seeding Tomorrow's Opportunities' — on September 9 at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston will be "oversubscribed".
Reynolds said the conference, which is part of the educational thrust about the Jamaica Venture Capital Programme (JVCP), launched in February this year as a partnership between the DBJ and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), will answer important questions in the minds of stakeholders at all levels.
"In the last few years the DBJ has placed strategic focus on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). What we have been seeing is that, for a variety of reasons, access to finance continues to elude many of the SMEs that we would like to see in a position to access financing so that they can grow their business. This applies to not only established SMEs but also to young entrepreneurs who would like to establish themselves, but the access to financing keeps eluding them," Reynolds told editors and reporters at the weekly Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange at the newspaper's Beechwood Avenue offices in Kingston.
"Some of the reasons for their inability to access funding relates to their business models; a lot of them don't have the capability to put together a business plan so that they can go to the bank and access financing, some of them they are not registered or they don't have an account," he pointed out.
Yesterday, Audrey Richards, project consultant with the Jamaica Venture Capital Programme, said the conference would expose participants to expertise from across the globe as well as those available locally.
"We are bringing in a number of experts from different countries, mainly the United States, but included among them is Paul Ahlstrom, who is himself an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, and he has been involved in the development of eco-systems in a number of countries and he surely recognises what is needed for entrepreneurs," she said.
From the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) persons will share in the knowledge from Susana Garcia-Robles, principal investment specialist for the MIF, which has participated in a number of venture capital and private equity investments across Latin America.
In addition, the conference will benefit from the expertise of Cate Ambrose, who is head of the Latin American Venture Capital Association, which has members in Latin America and the Caribbean.
"They have developed a scorecard which they use to rank venture capital markets in venture capital industries in all of these different countries. Jamaica currently doesn't have a ranking, Trinidad and Tobago does. One of the things we want to be able to do is to be ranked on that scorecard to show where Jamaica is to the world. It is something that international investors would look to see so that is very important," Richards noted.
"We also have a number of local and other international presenters and fund managers, there are a number of companies, as well as individuals who have been involved in venture capital quietly. But what we have recognised is that there is a lot of interest, not just from corporate Jamaica but also institutions, because everybody now sees the need to diversify their portfolios because of the high percentage concentration in government of Jamaica securities that everybody is now seeking to diversify away from," she added.
The all-day affair, which officially kicks off at 8:30, will begin with registration at 7:30 and end at 8:30 that evening. It will be followed by a post conference networking reception.
"It's a very busy day, it's a lot of information, and what it is we want at the end of the day that there is an understanding of not only the programme we are embarking on but what the market and the investors are saying, what other countries have done and what we need to be doing here in Jamaica," Richards said.
Following the conference, the DBJ will pull together a number of stakeholders to finalise the areas pinpointed for development, Richards told the Observer.
"Based on that we will pull together a strategic plan to access funding," she said.