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Jamaican Startup Creates App To Boost Child Literacy

Jamaican Startup Creates App To Boost Child Literacy

Posted by PanamericanWorld on November 28, 2016

A JAMAICAN tech entrepreneur is planning to use technology to help children struggling with literacy.

Kenia Mattis, co-founder of startup ListenMi Caribbean, is developing a series of apps to help children with literacy, using animated and interactive word gameplay.

Earlier this year Mattis won a prestigious pitch competition that saw her win a $15,000 prize which has enabled her to develop the apps. 

Mattis beat thousands of other entrepreneurs in this year’s Spark the Fire Pitch Start Up competition held as part of the annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) hosted by the US State Department. 

Thirty three-year-old Mattis was among four Jamaican entrants and her business pitch for the development of apps to help children with literacy, using animated and interactive word gameplay, was the winner from among 5,000 participants. 

Mattis started ListenMi Caribbean, which sells advertising and marketing products in addition to multimedia educational tools, three years ago after creating ListenMi News, a TV show which delivers the news to music, and also an animated comic aimed at the education market called League of Maroons. 


It tells the story of the history of the Maroons of Jamaica and serves the purpose of both keeping alive folklore memory and educating future generations.

Speaking about her achievement Mattis told The Voice: “In the book God Never Blinks, author Regina Brett said ‘Over-prepare, then go with the flow’, and that pretty much sums up my preparation and three-minute pitch.” 

However one-time songwriter and lyricist Mattis, whose credits include work with global reggae artists such as Andrew Tosh and Etana, added that she doesn’t remember much about the actual pitch. 

“While backstage, I was so nervous I had my headphones on dancing by myself to release the nervous energy and when they called my name to go up next, I just thought ‘breathe, you’re going to be OK.’ I don’t remember much of the actual pitch, but when it was over, I do remember sitting down thinking- well, I’m just excited to be here!”

The summit was attended by many of the Silicon Valley heavyweights, and included Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg among the keynote speakers, as well as US President Barack Obama. Although she didn’t meet President Obama, she was “very impressed with how positive, focused and motivating he is on the issues of entrepreneurship, youth and development”.

VISION: Mattis plans to use technology to improve children’s ability to read

Asked what it is about the Jamaican character that might help with the entrepreneurial drive she replied that it may be down to “our strong ability to peddle, hustle and strive in the face of adversity”.

Jamaica is ranked number seven in the world for number of entrepreneurs per head of the population.

So how did Mattis get the idea for League of Maroons? “After a casual conversation with my grandparents I discovered I was a Maroon descendant and realised how few kids today know about our ancestry. As I shared this with my co-founder Donald Medder on a drive to the country one day, we decided we should tell the story but make it contemporary, adventurous and educational.” 

The company’s latest ventures include Greater Cakes, which aims to provide children with a platform to tell their own stories. 


ListenMi along with 27 other start-ups is the recipient of a Development Bank of Jamaica Ignite grant, which the company was awarded after Mattis’s triumphant return from GES.

However Mattis is the first to admit that the startup scene in Jamaica has a way to go yet but notes that the country “now has incubators and business service intermediaries whose goals are to help innovators who want to solve real problems get the mentorship, training and capital they need to thrive and reach profitability”.

She added: “It is important for the government to foster talent. We need to build an entrepreneurship ecosystem which includes policy framework, training and mentorship, and access to capital.”

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