TECH Beach Retreat has added Eric Sonnier, a Harvard Business School graduate, as a director of their accelerator programmes. Sonnier boasts over a decade of experience in building and scaling tech companies.
He joined the Caribbean tech connector platform in March 2021, charged with the responsibility of leading its recently launched accelerator programme, TBR Lab. The accelerator offers programmes for start-ups, corporates and governments, as well as professionals and SMEs.
Sonnier is a co-founder of two tech-based enterprises, a former CEO, and a graduate of several high-profile accelerator programmes, including Y Combinator which has been credited with launching over 3,000 companies with a combined valuation exceeding US$300 billion, including Airbnb, Dropbox and Coinbase.
“I understand the role accelerators play in building the entrepreneurial ecosystem in a city or region, and I was captivated by the opportunity to contribute to building the tech ecosystem in the Caribbean,” Sonnier says of his motivation for joining the team at Tech Beach.
His career milestones include launching the first tech accelerator in the US Virgin Islands; co-founding and serving as CEO of the enterprise software company Oliver Technology, which has several Fortune 500 clients; and co-founding Local Lift, an online marketplace that specialises in alternative lending for small and mid-size (or medium- size) business (SMBs).
He also held the role of strategy and operations consultant for Deloitte, where he worked on various projects for Fortune 500 companies.
Sonnier raised millions of dollars in funding throughout his entrepreneurial journey and leveraged his operational, marketing, and business development experience to help other overlooked founders in the United States develop, grow, and scale their ventures. Now he plans to do the same for businesses throughout the Caribbean.
Sonnier believes the region possesses the talent and ingenuity required to thrive. However, as an alum of worldclass accelerator programmes like the previously mentioned Y Combinator in Silicon Valley, Capital Factory in Austin, and Harvard Innovation Lab, he is aware there's a lot of work to be done to harness the region's raw potential.
“I think the Caribbean is on the cusp of being the next region to create a significant tech cluster, but there hasn't been enough focus on building the infrastructure and sharing knowledge and best practices for early stage tech companies,” says Sonnier.
“The Tech Beach Retreat founders seem to have a big vision that can help diversify the Caribbean economy and I want to be a part of bridging that gap.” Sonnier has worked with founders of all backgrounds throughout his career and carved out a niche for himself, applying the proverbial “venture capital playbook” to traditionally under-represented founders.
TBR Lab's inaugural accelerator programme recently welcomed its first cohort of 38 start-ups from 11 countries, and Sonnier looks forward to doing the same for them. “I'm most excited about building a startup ecosystem in an area that is often overlooked, and it starts with getting the talent in the same room — virtually or in person — to accelerate innovation.
That's exactly what we're doing at Tech Beach, with the ultimate goal being increased opportunities and competitiveness across the region,” he says.
According to Tech Beach co-founder Kirk-Anthony Hamilton, “We are extremely excited to have Eric on board TBR Lab. Our hunt for [someone to fill] this position was extensive but very specific, as we needed someone with strong global experience combined with an understanding of local context in the tech and innovation space. Eric is therefore a rare find and a great fit for the role, and our programme participants are already benefiting from his deep insight and connections.”
With TBR Lab's first start-up accelerator programme well underway, Sonnier's next area of focus will be corporate entities as Tech Beach prepares to host its first Corporate Innovation Programme for executives and senior management from June 7 - July 2, 2021.