Sun | Sep 23, 2018

Banks too reliant on rich families, says Dehring

Published:Wednesday | April 4, 2018 | 12:00 AMSteven Jackson/ Senior Business Reporter
CEO of ReadyTV Christopher Dehring speaks with Tenille Hussey of Dale Carnegie Jamaica at the JBDC Lunch & Learn event at The Knutsford Court Hotel, Kingston, on March 28.

Chris Dehring needs US$3 million of financing to build out the next phase of ReadyTV, but appears unlikely to get the funds from the banks, even while talks continue with potential backers.

As a start-up, the cable TV company was financed with equity. But that was mainly due to circumstances, as no bank was prepared to lend to the business.

Now, Dehring, a tested entrepreneur and former investment banker, is facing the same dilemma in his search for capital to expand into a national operation.

"If I can't get start-up funding, by God, with my track record and how much money I am putting in, who are they lending money to?" he said incredulously as the guest presenter at the Lunch & Learn series hosted by the Jamaica Business Development Corporation.

But he also had an answer for that - "the same people over and over again".

Dehring believes the banks have become reliant on the same rich families, in their avoidance of risk. And it dawned on him that the status quo has remained largely unchanged from the 1990s when he, Peter Bunting and Mark Golding founded the first local investment bank.

"My God! The country hasn't moved forward," said Dehring. He noted that it was virtually the same set of entrepreneurs, the same people, and the same families getting the opportunities, from one generation to the next.

"That could never happen in the US because there is so much venture capital available that those families would still be successful throughout the years, but you would have innovation, which would create a whole new economy. So you have another economy built on the existing economy," he said.

The investment bank that Dehring cofounded was eventually sold more than two decades ago to Jamaica's No. 2 commercial banking group, Scotia Group Jamaica, a conservative, Canadian-owned operation. Dehring's track record includes a decade as CEO of ICC Cricket World Cup, founder of SportsMax, regional executive of Cable & Wireless Communications and chairman of Cable & Wireless Jamaica.

The ReadyTV venture, for which he and David Cassanova are co-CEOs, was launched after Dehring left Cable & Wireless.

Over his entrepreneurial journey, spanning more than two decades, Dehring indicated that he has risked it all in building his companies. "I do not just mean my financial resources, but I risk my reputation," he said.

ReadyTV now serves six parishes, including St Catherine and Kingston, but aims to cover all 14 under the US$3-million expansion plan.

Dehring expects to finalise financing of the project shortly, but did not go into details about the funding source. He hinted it may require dipping into more of his personal cash.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com