Tue | Sep 26, 2017

Intriguing journey - Friends hurdle bureaucratic obstacles into technology

Published:Tuesday | May 16, 2017 | 5:44 AMJovan Johnson
Marvin Richards (left) and Odaine Williams display one of the apps that the group developed - the Larceny Tech App.
Marvin Richards (left) and Odaine Williams during an interview.
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Three young friends from rural Jamaica, each of them age 21, have accepted the challenge to embrace entrepreneurship. Along the way, they have experienced the usual bureaucratic hurdles that the authorities have long acknowledged, need to be removed to create an enabling environment for business to thrive. They overcame some to win a major business competition at the University of the West Indies and now share their story. Odaine Williams is the narrator.

 

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts."

- Winston Churchill.

It is sometimes the belief that the road to success is easy, but, is it? It was definitely not easy for us as young males trying to carve our way through the labyrinth of society. I have been fortunate to be a part of an amazing group of individuals. This group consists of Marvin Richards who is currently a student at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, Ricardo Gaynor who is currently enrolled at the University of Technology and me, Odaine Williams who is also at the UWI. Our journey champions the belief that anything the mind can conceive and believe can be achieved.

"Our intriguing journey as a group all began in 2008 at Edwin Allen High School in Clarendon. I was in the same class with Ricardo but was introduced to Marvin on the Schools' Challenge Quiz team. From those encounters, we knew that our friendship would be a lasting one, as we recognised that we shared similar interests related to science and technology and we were constantly brainstorming new ideas. Furthermore, we were active members of the science club and were also instrumental in the formation of a business and technology club at the school. That passion took us to the 2015 annual 4-H national competition, where our anti-praedial larceny project captivated the attention of many people. However we were not victorious but that project proved that nothing beats hard work.

 

Setbacks

 

"We were not perturbed by the setback and with the help of Mrs Norma Sinclair, the 4-H teacher, and Herod Howell another team mate, we managed to cop the first place prize in the entrepreneurship category the following year. That achievement was a catalyst, as we were featured in The Gleaner, on radio and on TVJ's Smile Jamaica for our Jaagro marketing mobile application.

"Post competition was where we were to received our fair share of challenges.

For one, we encountered many bureaucratic blocks in trying to partner with the Government so our solution could be implemented on a large scale and unfortunately, we were not successful.

"We went to the Ministry of Agriculture and we were told that wer were thinking ahead of out time ... that there was no infrastructure in placefor our platform."

...Developing mobile app to help fight crime

Odaine Williams continues the story about three rural youngsters climb into tech's big league

"In 2016, we entered the 4-H Competition, this time with Larceny Tech - an anti-praedial larceny app that would go on to win the first place prize and sparked the interest of the Minister of Agriculture, but because of bureaucratic hurdles again, that project is still on hold. Our spirit was never deterred; we copped the top prize for the annual Denbigh Agricultural and Industrial Show app competition two consecutive years 2015 and 2016.

Balance

"It is important to state here that, we were able to strike a balance between extra-curricular activities and academics, as we graduated with passes in all our subjects.

"I can vividly remember Ricardo's statement when we met Marvin on campus, who had matriculated to university a year earlier than us. He said: "Odaine, this is the place to shine." We laughed but knowing our resilient attitude, we knew great things were in stored for us.

"Marvin and I, with the help of Andrea Maxwell, and our mentor, entered the UWI Mona Vincent Hosang Business Competition where we managed to capture the best elevator pitch prize (the shorter version of the overview of their idea), which earned us our subsequent invitation to the National Business Model Competition.

"Although we did not win, to represent Jamaica in Silicon Valley in the United States, we are currently working on our mobile application that we hope to help alleviate crime not only in Jamaica but in other developing nations and ultimately the world."