Jamaica has been described as unattractive to venture capitalists.
But that can be turned around if local entrepreneurs habitually create products and services that appeal to markets beyond their borders, and develop a culture of collaboration, by the reckoning of Paul Ahlstrom, chief executive officer of Alta Ventures.
"As a country, you guys would be amazing, unstoppable, if you got together and made this a countrywide initiative, but if you keep doing the same old things, you are not going to be relevant," said Ahlstrom, at the venture capital conference held Monday in New Kingston.
The private sector, Government and entrepreneurs need to pull in one direction in creating a sector that would attract investment to start-ups, he said, to overcome what he described as a "lack of collective will" underpinned by "mistrust".
He admonished local entrepreneurs to make their ventures globally appealing to boost recognition of the country and, by extension, the region as a "serious innovative force.
"Jamaica will be relevant to the extent that Jamaican entrepreneurs think globally," said Ahlstrom, a speaker at the conference hosted by the Development Bank of Jamaica.
"Venture capitalists are looking for large markets … but if Jamaica looks at the world as its market, then Jamaica can be very exciting. So if you don't limit your ideas to the island, but you think about the Caribbean, Latin America, the United States, there is no reason Jamaica couldn't build great companies with global customers," he said.
Alta operates a venture capital fund that has helped to launch 80 companies, its website says. The fund typically invests about US$2 million to US$3 million in the ventures it backs.
The absence of a flexible legal structure to support deposits into a fund to kick-start venture funding now, also makes Jamaica unattractive to investors, said Ahlstrom.
"You have little ways to go to get the fund managers in place and get the vehicle going," he said.
DBJ Chairman Joseph Matalon has said that a legal and regulatory review has been conducted and the recommendations would guide an appropriate venture capital regime for Jamaica.
Project consultant Audrey Richards said consultations with stakeholders revealed that while Jamaicans were interested in a joint-venture programme, one of the gaps that required urgent attention was a lack of knowledge of its workings.
Richards stressed the need for training and capacity building over the next three years in order to make the programme a success.
The Jamaica Venture Capital Programme is a government initiative funded J$12 million by state-owned DBJ and J$14 million by the Multilateral Investment Fund.