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Three tech start-ups make their mark in business pitch to financiers

Published:Friday | May 29, 2015 | 5:00 AMNeville Graham

Jamaican tech start-ups got a chance to make the perfect pitch last Thursday.

Ten entities involved in the Start-up Jamaica Programme made five-minute pitches and fielded questions about their business as they sought to convince California venture capitalists Devlabs that their idea is the next best thing in technology. Less than a third made headway.

Devlabs co-founder Ruben Hernandez says he is encouraged by what he is hearing as it reinforces Devlabs' investment philosophy that the next great technological sensation will come from evolving tech markets.

"We believe that the next billion-dollar company in the next 20 years is not coming from Silicon Valley, it's coming from places like Jamaica. So we do a long-term investment in the people because we believe that many of the talented individuals here are undervalued," Hernandez said.

Devlabs is eyeing support for at least three of the 10 pitches - Smart Farm, a software-driven monitoring and maintenance system designed initially for greenhouses, developed by team Oldane Graham, Davian Anderson, Sean Miller and Bruce McKenzie; Jamaican Care Packages, created by Rory Walker; and Pantrypan, an online wholesale club that allows shoppers to pool for savings, created by Rafer Johnson, Horace Cunningham, Adrian Adman and Aldon Palmer.

Hernandez says it is now up to the techies behind the start-ups to persist with the development of their products and take advantage of the channels that have been opened for them.

He explained that Devlabs is in a constant search for technology start-ups that have a good idea bolstered by entrepreneurial drive. They then support these start-ups through access to funding, infrastructure and the networks necessary. Devlabs is eyeing Jamaica as a focal point, he said.

"Our strategy is to do a lot of exchange - entrepreneurs coming from the United States to an Anglophone country - so we see Jamaica as a possible hub of operations in the Caribbean for our model and our way of investing in people," Hernandez said.

The other seven pitches were by social shopping platform Vinelist, student management systems start-up iSims, games developers Pandosoft, DaiMangou and Working Enigma, job-seeking tool outfit Seek, along with medical and health-care services platform JaApps Medical.

The team from Devlabs met with the start-ups as part of a four-day working visit. They were also scheduled to meet with technological start-ups, angel investors and other venture capitalists, in addition to members of the banking community and government officials.

State minister in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Julian Robinson, said Devlabs recently established offices in Chile and is exploring the possibility of setting up an office in Jamaica.

neville.graham@gleanerjm.com