Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 23rd 2016 Contents BG4 COVER STORY
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt JUNE 23 • 2016
Entrepreneurs from T&T are among scores from
across the region who have already signed on for
an online accelerator programme due to be
launched next month. Called CaribbeanStartups,
the programme is aimed at revolutionising the
region's business ecosystem and positioning the
Caribbean as a centre of innovation. It gets going on July 11 with
the first quarterly sessions for regional entrepreneurs.
The training sessions will take place over three evenings from
7 pm to 9 pm. So far 89 startups have signed up for the inaugural
session, with just a few days to go before the close of registration
on June 30. The launch programme is free for the first 100 start-
The driving force behind this venture is Christine Souffrant,
a Haitian-American entrepreneur with more than seven years
of business management experience who was is listed in the
2016 Forbes 30 Under 30 comprising young innovators, entre-
preneurs and leaders who are transforming business, technology,
finance, media, culture and more.
Creator of Vendedy, a mobile app that has transformed the
lives of street vendors around the world, Souffrant, 26, is now
focusing her energies on connecting Caribbean entrepreneurs
to resources and best practices for global reach and success.
"The goal of CaribbeanStartups is to prepare Caribbean entre-
preneurs for local impact and global influence via our quarterly
online accelerator, demos with influential investors and partners,
" she said, in a teleconference from New York.
"The Caribbean has a lot of great entrepreneurs but generally
they don't know how to link with the right investors and pro-
Souffrant, who graduated in 2011 from Dartmouth College,
said, at present, only two per cent of the region has incubators
and accelerators to support local businesses. Her aim is to bring
that number to 100 per cent within the next few years by con-
necting Caribbean startups to global investors and networks.
Through the accelerator programme, participants will get
training in business fundamentals, product management and
how to manage opportunities. They will get guidance on how
to position themselves as Caribbean entrepreneurs.
Commenting on the challenges most startups face, Souffrant
explained: "Generally people don't expect applicants from the
Caribbean. They get rejected because they don't know how to
craft an application.
At the end of the July accelerator, the top ten companies will
be selected to pitch to investors.
"The aim is then to funnel all of our graduates to their respective
country incubator/accelerator programmes. Which means, if we
received 20 startups from Jamaica in our programme, once they
complete our accelerator, we connect them to all incubators/accel-
erators/programmes in Jamaica,
" Souffrant said.
In addition to the quarterly accelerator programmes,
CaribbeanStartups will also be hosting monthly roundtable
meetings of the region's incubator community. The first one is
scheduled for July 7 at 10am
"This is a way of linking Caribbean incubators, getting them
to talk with each other and work together,
" said Souffrant, who
has set a target of 2020 for the centralising of all the resources
and information of the Caribbean startup ecosystem in one
place. This is essential, she said, if the region is to be established
as a centre of innovation.
Born in New York, Souffrant's entrepreneurial spirit was nur-
tured during her childhood in Haiti. Several generations of her
family, including her mother and grandmother, were street
vendors. That experience inspired her to found Vendedy, a unique
network that allows vendors and artisans to sell their wares
online using their mobile phones. The vendors take 80 per cent
of the sale price, paid via text message once the product is
delivered. Vendedy pockets 20 per cent, five per cent of which
is spent on business's costs.
The start-up was launched in 2014 while Souffrant was
studying for a master's degree in international business and
social entrepreneurship at Hult International Business School
in Dubai. Global experience gained as a Bill Gates Millennium
Scholar---she visited 22 countries in four years---helped Souffrant
fine tune her plans for Vendedy.
She said: "It was an amazing opportunity. In every country
I went, I interviewed street vendors.
She also did a term at the University of the West Indies (UWI)
in St Augustine where, she said, for the first time she "got the
In fact, it was in T&T that Souffrant got the inspiration for
CaribbeanStartups while facilitating a workshop at the Arthur
Lok Jack Graduate School of Business.
On May 24, she sent out emails inviting startups to be part
of the first accelerator programme. Startups already registered
represent a range of sectors, from agriculture to tourism and
social media. Souffrant is excited by the responses for far.
"My goal is to co-ordinate the entire Caribbean startup ecosys-
More information on the accelerator programme and roundtable
meeting is available at caribbeanstartups.com.
Connecting regional entrepreneurs
with the global firstname.lastname@example.org
Some of the startup founders who will
be joining the July accelerator are:
• Ain Earle, of T&T, The Fashion Arch, a brand-consulting en-
tity aimed at assisting designers with branding, quality control,
promotions as well as ensuring their work is well-known and
accepted by clients, buyers and retailers. Fashion Arch curates,
creates and promotes a brand story that produces a connection
between each piece/product/service and its customer.
• Wagging Brands Ltd of T&T, is the Caribbean's first pet-care
technology based company. Its products are Wagging Box, a
pet care subscription box and Wagging Pal, a pet adoption mo-
bile application on Android and iOS.
• Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown, of Jamaica, Carry On Friends. Using
the power of technology and her voice to unify and inform the
Caribbean diaspora, Kerry-Ann has combined her extensive
knowledge, expertise and life experiences, to equip the
Caribbean American community with the resources and con-
tent that informs, inspires.
• Renee Williams, of Jamaica, Pzaz Photography a full-
fledged, one-stop-shop mobile, go-green, creative studio that in-
corporates other creative arts and thrives on innovation,
creativity and continuous improvement.
• Pierre Stanley Baptiste, of Haiti, Ayisyen Pozitif (Positive
Haitians), a publishing platform and monthly event which
trains, motivates and inspirex future leaders and entrepreneurs
in Haiti.The company uses Haitian creole o leverage content to
a larger audience.Guest speakers are small business owners
who are not well-known, but are very successful. The vision is
to develop an App where young Haitians can access Haitian cre-
ole resources to help them improve as leaders and entrepre-
Brown, of Jamaica,
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