The Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) is set to take entrepreneurs into overdrive with its new Accelerator Programme scheduled to be launched during the first quarter of 2017. Althea West-Myers, Business Advisory Services Manager says the programme is the only one of its kind offered locally, targeting high growth potential Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs).
“JBDC has for some time operated a very structured programme of development for entrepreneurs, a guided development plan that is informed by gaps in the operations of our entrepreneurs, by what’s happening in the eco-system, as well as industry trends. We use that to develop a programme that our clients can use. Our existing programme of incubation currently includes over 200 enterprises receiving assistance through our Business Monitoring Programme,” explained Mrs. West-Myers.
JBDC’s business monitoring programme is designed as an eighteen to twenty-four-month hand-holding intervention. Entrepreneurs who seek business support from the JBDC are assisted in starting, managing and growing successful, profitable enterprises. The programme specializes in helping fledgling businesses make a turn-around. The monitoring programme has been effective in achieving significant up-scaling of enterprises since its formal inception just over two years ago.
According to Mrs. West-Myers, the Accelerator Programme is the next big step. “One of the main pillars of entrepreneurial success is the individual behind the business and so when people ask me about the reason for business failure, I tell them more often than not it is the person behind it. Therefore, we are very invested in developing the entrepreneurs themselves and helping them to inculcate as a part of their being in the entrepreneurial mindset. Also the development of markets; facilitating movement in the domestic market but global market development, creating pathways to capital for our entrepreneurs, as well as giving them a sound networking facility,” she said.
As such, the JBDC’s Accelerator Programme will seek entrepreneurs in the marketplace with unexplored potential. “The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor tells us that Jamaica is the fourth most entrepreneurial nation in the world, yet we are not seeing it in terms of the GDP results we want to see. So we believe that if we can harness that, it’s critical to the success of the entrepreneur and the nation as a whole,” she added.
Mrs. West-Myers says although there are other accelerator models being offered to local entrepreneurs, the JBDC’s programme is unique in that it offers a comprehensive suite of business development services which are available only together at JBDC. “Nowhere else in Jamaica can you find a comprehensive suite of business development services. For example, the average accelerator whether here or across the world will help an entrepreneur on the business development side. Often times persons are prepared and they get to the stage where they are given a pitch but the product itself is not market-ready, has not been market tested, has not been screened and they have done no customer development. So what we are offering as our accelerator is a balance of both. When you get to the stage where you’re pitching to an investor, you have a product that has been screened, that has been market tested, we would have helped you to prepare a minimum viable product - some kind of prototype that you’re going take into the marketplace,” she explained.
With divisions such as Project Management & Research and the Incubator & Resource Centre, the JBDC is equipped with experts and facilities to assist with market research and product/customer development respectively leading to full blown business development at the Business Advisory Services Department where the necessary pivoting is done on the business model. “What’s the unfair advantage in this accelerator? While others are offering coaching support, we are offering you access to capital. We just saw the signing of the MOU with First Angels. This accelerator is the medium through which you get to the place where you’re pitching before First Angels and other investors. It is a detailed 6-month curriculum which offers you mentorship, connectivity, workspace, an executive in residence programme, advisors in residence, a black box of support systems and access to professional pro bono services,” she added.
There will be a rigorous selection process using an online filter to enroll a cohort of 20 persons who must course meet the evaluation criteria, agree to some branding stipulations and allow JBDC to take some programme entry metrics. Participants will be exposed to mentors, business model testing and validation, assistance with creating a minimum viable product, preparation to access funding, start-up weekends, boot camp training, networking events, and preparation for pitching at the end. The graduation will entail either a pitch before angel investors or a demo day. The JBDC will also take metrics at the end of the programme and participants will also be required to allow the organization to do evaluation up to two years after they’ve exited the accelerator.
Mrs. West-Myers says the success of the programme will be evaluated based on outcomes from both the client and JBDC. “So for clients, we are going to be looking at their traction – number of early adapters to your product, increased sales/revenue, the amount of matched funding with angel investors and the new markets that you have entered. We will use metrics to assess ourselves in terms of the number of clients who have accessed funding, the number of business models we’ve validated, the degree of scaling during and after the programme, and the expansion of the sector,” she said.
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