Thu | Aug 17, 2017

JBDC starts drive to turn out $100m companies, partners with First Angels network

Published:Friday | June 16, 2017 | 6:00 AMSteven Jackson
Althea West-Myers, manager of business advisory services, Jamaica Business Development Corporation.

 

The state-run Jamaica Business Development Centre (JBDC) wants to start churning out $100 million companies through its recently launched accelerator programme.

It marks a shift in the agency's focus from assisting start-up companies in its incubator programme to one which positions them to grow, and comes with a new effort to help them source financing.

In its initial cohort, currently under way, 16 small and medium-size companies are undergoing six months of training with opportunities for market access, financing and mentorship. These businesses are in the field of alternative energy, automotive products, electronic recycling, agro-processing, air-filter manufacturing, and hospitality.

"One business operates a hotel," said Althea West-Myers, manager of business advisory services at JBDC, in an interview with the Financial Gleaner on Thursday.

West-Myers described these businesses as fast growing with the potential for further growth, locally or internationally.

"We want them to work on their entrepreneurial attitudes so they do not to think of growing 10 per cent, but rather 10 times over," she said.

JBDC and First Angels Jamaica investor grouping signed a memorandum of understanding to fortify the accelerator's objective. It will see these 16 entrepreneurs getting access to pitch their businesses to these high net worth individuals for funding or access to enter coveted distribution channels or hotel markets.

"These companies have the potential to earn over $100 million in revenues. They are high growth companies," said Althea West-Myers.

The mentors in the programme include Oliver Townsend of Knutsford Express and Michelle Chong of Honey Bun. Both are founders of fast-growing companies listed on the junior market of the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE). The participants also receive training from academics and business organisations.

JBDC liaises with the another state-run operation, the Jamaica Venture Capital Programme of the Development Bank of Jamaica, on its initiative. It formally launched the accelerator programme in March after starting last November.

West-Myers explained that the accelerator forms part of JBDC's mandate to support the growth and training of micro and small businesses.

The JBDC initiative comports with how others offering similar services are thinking. Earlier this month, the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship launched its own accelerator programme with access to a team of equity investors led by Proven Investments, with the support of PanJam Investment, GraceKennedy, NCB Capital Markets, Norbrook Capital, along with two or three private individuals.

"We are not duplicating other accelerator programmes. The space is large enough for everyone. We are doing our mandate," West-Myers said.

Ideally, JBDC wants to sign up 20 participants every six months for its programme. Businesses apply online and are filtered by the corporation.

The programme will cost JBDC roughly $2.5 million every six months, said West-Myers, but participants pay nothing.

The JBDC will evaluate participants up to two years after the programme to measures sales, employment growth and other metrics.

Typically, JBDC offers incubator start-up services along with its business monitoring programme, which seeks to turn around fledgling businesses. The company argues that its monitoring programme has been effective in achieving significant upscaling of enterprises since its formal inception just over two years ago, but that it needed to expand to offer services to address companies at other tiers of development.

International studies such as the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor have ranked Jamaica as the fourth most entrepre-neurial nation in the world. However the quality of businesses pursued remains largely for sustenance rather than wealth creation. That's something, JBDC wants to change.

"Big things are going to happen," West-Myers said.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com