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iCreate looks to global horizons with IPO cash

Published:Wednesday | March 13, 2019 | 12:08 AMHuntley Medley - Senior Business Writer
Tyrone Wilson, CEO of iCreate Limited and eMedia Interactive Group Limited.

Armed with $70 million from its IPO, creative training institute iCreate is on a drive to upgrade its teaching facilities and instructional equipment and expand beyond its modest classrooms in Jamaica and Miami to other markets overseas.

iCreate sees itself as a local company with global ambitions, but achieving the latter will take time and more planning.

In the meantime, the training company is well down the wicket with an international partnership and the setting up of a new branch in Portmore. It also has a presence in Kingston and Montego Bay.

“With the development of that city and what is coming, people from Portmore and Spanish Town will not have to venture into Kingston to create opportunities for themselves. iCreate will tap into that,” said CEO Tyrone Wilson in an interview with the Financial Gleaner.

The training institute is otherwise preparing for a foray into community colleges and the sixth forms of high schools that Wilson sees as part of the next frontier, which he describes as an underserved market for short courses that can provide young persons with immediate marketable skills.

The company offers hands-on instruction in disciplines such as advertising design, animation, digital content marketing, digital video production, graphic design, creative writing, photography, and project management.

And it has other electives lined up in areas such as user experience design, mobile app development, mobile gaming, live TV production, interior design, reggae music, media planning, and entrepreneurship.

Through its early collaboration with the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean, it is delivering certificates, diplomas, associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and master’s-level training.

Exclusive partner

The institute’s horizons have expanded even further through a partnership since January 2018 with Irish Digital Marketing Institute (DMI) which has licensed the Jamaican outfit to deliver its courses in the Caribbean and Florida. Then in December, iCreate became DMI’s exclusive agent for courses in Jamaica, Barbados, Grenada, and Trinidad & Tobago for three years, according to its prospectus.

Wilson says that iCreate’s nimbleness gives it an important marketing and recruitment edge while its institutional backing provides the quality assurance that higher education seekers are looking for.

With this, a big part of its market strategy is targeting businesses and other organisations with custom-built training modules to upskill their workforce. In this way, iCreate has built up a notable corporate and institutional clientele, among them Digicel and its digital advertising and communication arms Trend Media and Loop, University of the West Indies (UWI) and National Commercial Bank.

Wilson, 32, studied business and finance at UWI and started creating online magazines through his other company, eMedia Interactive, right after his studies ended.

Sagicor Investments Jamaica was an early financial backer of eMedia Interactive to the tune of US$350,000 in 2012 and later took a 19 per cent stake in iCreate, which was launched in 2016. eMedia Interactive is now the holding company for iCreate Limited.

Christopher Williams of Proven Management was another early investor from the time he served as head of NCB Capital Markets, providing $1 million in personal funding. Prior to listing on the junior stock market, Wilson raised $10 million for iCreate via a convertible note from GK Investments and also received backing from businessman Andrew Pairman.

iCreate became the first business of its kind to list on the Jamaica Stock Exchange in February. The stock listed at $1.01 per share, but after an initial spike to $1.19, the stock price has fallen to 95 cents per share, valuing the company shy of $188 million.

With the IPO, eMedia’s ownership in iCreate is down to less than 51 per cent; the holdings by Sagicor Investments was to fall to 11.9 per cent; and GK Capital and Pairman were to take equity positions that together, amount to another 12 per cent of the company.

Wilson says that he has been able to attract some financing and other support, having set out from early in the day to put in place for his business the kind of governance structure that reflects a serious corporate outfit keen to build its profile, protect its integrity in the marketplace, and safeguard its shareholders’ investments.

Byles as mentor

Former Sagicor Group Jamaica CEO and now chairman, Richard Byles, served as board chairman for eMedia, largely in a mentoring role from 2012 to 2017.

The chairmanship of iCreate and eMedia Interactive Group is now held by Sandra Glasgow, angel investor, manager, and cofounder of FirstAngelsJA and founder of the Technology Innovation Centre at UTech.

The 15-member board she leads includes businessman Kenny Benjamin, commercial director at Caribbean Producers Jamaica Rhys Campbell, business strategist Sheree Martin, Jamaica Employers Federation chairman David Wan, Babson College assistant professor Dr Jennifer Bailey, and Branson Centre CEO Lisandra Rickards.

The financials produced for iCreate’s IPO – a portion of which remains subject to audit – show the company earning revenue of $29 million over nine months to September 2018, but making a net loss of nearly $2 million. For this year, the company is aiming for revenue of $147 million and net profit of $8 million.

Wilson is surprised at how quickly the full share capital was taken up, the offer having closed some 36 hours after opening with subscriptions that were twice the $69.99 million targeted from the market.

“I know that iCreate was on its way to being something special and growing into its own as a company, but to see so many people participate is an indication of our capital market and also an indication of the brand iCreate,” he said.