Creativity and a spirit of entrepreneurship are ingrained in Caribbean culture, giving rise to incredible business ventures. However, several barriers to entry present significant hurdles for Caribbean startups. Sourcing funding is one of them. Tech startups, in particular, often require complex technology and highly skilled staff, making substantial investment a requirement for sustainable success. In developing regions like the Caribbean, investors are not as common as in major markets, but several startups have proven that attracting funding is not an impossible feat. TechBeach reached out to several TBR LAB alums whose companies have recently received injections from regional and international investors, to gather key insights into what Caribbean startups can do to attract investors.
Build a strong team
Kiran Mohammed, cofounder of the pharmaceutical platform, medl, stresses the importance of recruiting a strong team that can meet the early needs of the company. Dispelling the notion that a startup should be developed based on the skills of its founders, Mohammed instead encourages founders to go the extra mile to get the best people to fill key roles. “Give up equity and bring the right people. We've done that now (our team is incredible) but it would have saved us a lot of stress if we did it earlier. Finding the right team is the number one priority for a startup.”
Focus on Scalability
Zwede Hewitt, cofounder of the social network marketplace, LUHU, believes a major factor investors take into consideration is a startup's potential for sustainable growth. “One of the things that make a company attractive to an investor is scale. Meaning, the potential size of the business and it’s ability to replicate and grow the business model. How big can you go?” To that end, Hewitt encourages entrepreneurs to place significant emphasis on clearly mapping out their company’s growth trajectory when pitching to potential investors.
Solve a Problem
Michael Pemberton, CEO and cofounder of Avera Tech is a firm believer in the solutions aspect of startup businesses and considers this element to be a deal maker or deal breaker with investors. “At every successful company’s core, they have to be solving some problem that exists. They have to be addressing a need in some way i.e. you can’t sell ice to an Eskimo. Once a company is able to demonstrate that they are addressing some need that exists, then an investor is going to look at whether this company has the right approach to solving that problem.” To that end, Pemberton encourages founders to chip away at their idea until they get to the core functions their startup should focus on.
Bonus: The Journey actually begins after gaining investors
One common, fatal error many companies make is to hit the brakes once they achieve a major investment milestone. The early 90s dot com bubble was a perfect example of just how wrong things can go even after getting the required investment for your startup. The journey of a successful business does not end after you attract your ideal investors. In fact, according to Hewitt, the work has only just begun. “Business is a long term engagement. So even if you hit profit goals, or let’s say a merger or acquisition from another company, essentially the show is on now. This is when business starts. You get operational and you need to maintain this business over a ten or fifteen year lifecycle. So as you start to make profits, one of the things to consider, I believe, is innovation.”
Nurturing an “investible” startup in the Caribbean might be challenging, but these entrepreneurs have proven that it is not impossible. If you are in the process of securing funding for your startup, we encourage you to take a page from the books of these successful startup founders.
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