A start-up's journey with Start-Up Jamaica
A start-up's journey with Start-Up Jamaica
To make men of mice isn't a saying we often hear when we think of businesses and entrepreneurs. My experience and time at Start-Up Jamaica and its boot camp has truly pulled out the best in me and highlighted how much more I can grow professionally.
Ten months ago, seven eager entrepreneurs squeezed into a little living room in Vineyard Town to hear Marc, our lead developer, speak about a grand vision called Ultryea Logistics (SmartTaxi). We could not have reached where we were today without the support, infrastructure, and training provided by Sandra Glasgow, Desmond Mitchell, The Oasis500 team, and the other entrepreneurs.
IslandDeals.com...never heard of it? Probably because it was my first real attempt at running a business. I failed. Looking back, I can see the mistakes I made. If I had even half the experience I have now, I could have done better.
On September 8, 2014, on the sixth floor of the Jamaica National building in downtown Kingston, I stepped into a room filled with 59 other earnest faces. People on their laptops, people making fast friends, people sceptically eyeing the team of Sandra Glasgow and Oasis500. I felt a mere speck in the mix of it all. What could I learn from an experience like this one? I have always heard of accelerators like Y Combinator, Venture Hive, and a million others like them. So what could Start-Up Jamaica and Oasis500 possibly do for me that others all around the world have done for other start-ups?
The answer came quickly after Yousef Hamidaddin, CEO of Oasis500, started talking. What was being presented to us was an opportunity to grow our company in an environment meant to nurture it locally, with an eye on a global market.
Market segments, qualitative data, data integrity, growth, and focus were all disciplines I had acquired over my years as an entrepreneur, but this boot camp really forced me to take these talents and apply them efficiently to produce a higher quality of work. The methods of critical thinking and analysis we applied to our ideas allowed us to view things more critically. Over the next four days we began to learn the techniques that we must one day master in order to run successful companies, not just companies that are attractive for investors. Some of us persevered, some of us did not.
When we started Ultreya Logistics (SmartTaxi), the team had one goal in mind: to change the face of the Caribbean through the implementation of our technology. But to realise such a big vision we had to start somewhere. We started by incorporating in two territories (Jamaica and the US), making integral partnerships that would decide our company's financial infrastructural fate through MasterCard.
We decided early on that we may be just a group of seven budding entrepreneurs but we would make the world see us as a well-oiled and coordinated corporation. We had the team, we had the vision, and we had only some of the experience we needed to make Ultryea (SmartTaxi) successful. What we needed was a place we could go to focus more on the work, learn from others who have gone before us, and to grow as a team from the experience we would gain from such a place of enlightenment. We needed the people crazy enough to take risks in this economic climate and strong enough to actually pull it off. We needed Start-Up Jamaica.
After the boot camp, we were invited to take advantage of the facilities provided by LIME and Start-Up Jamaica, our resident soon-to-be boss Sandra Glasgow, and a really great surprise addition to the Start-Up Jamaica team, Desmond Mitchell.
Mitchell continues to reinforce everything we learned from the boot camp and has been running sessions with us about how to look at our companies, teams and businesses. He keeps us on our toes. He and Glasgow make it really exciting to come into the space every day as each conversation is filled with new information, positivity, encouragement, and the occasional reminder that we are indeed a community that thrives on each other's success.
It's been a gruelling four weeks, but I have never had a more productive September in my life...thanks to Start-Up Jamaica. I wish to also thank the Government of Jamaica and Minister Julian Robinson, as he has assisted us more times than he knows. A better mentor and facilitator than Sandra Glasgow I don't think I could find. Without Desmond Mitchell's key thoughts and conversations much of the things achieved would not have been possible. Much thanks to the Oasis500 team: Karim, Nidal, Yousef, Dina, and Omar. And much respect to the supporting agencies who have supported Jamaican talent: DBJ, NCB, LIME, and Jamaica National.
I feel really fortunate to have been a part of a programme like this and to be involved to a level where I can see my company growing directly because of Start-Up Jamaica. With or without investment, Ultreya is poised to grow, thanks in no small part to the efforts that went into the boot camp, the facilitation of our team, and the access we have had to resources through this programme. Thank you Start-Up Jamaica.... we'll make you proud.
Akua Walters is in charge of marketing, creative control and brand management at Ultreya Logistics in Kingston. He was a participant in the recent Start-Up Jamaica boot camp under a World Bank-sponsored programme.