With an estimated net worth of $75 billion, Bill Gates, the richest person on Earth, would need to add another $925 billion to his fortune before becoming the first trillionaire in history. As implausible as it may sound, one Silicon Valley entrepreneur believes such an achievement isn’t just doable, but over the next several decades, inevitable — and it won’t necessarily be Gates who gets there. “We need to be ready for a world with trillionaires in it,” says Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator, the tech industry’s largest and most well-respected incubator for start-ups. “And that’s always going to feel deeply unfair. It feels unfair to me. But to drive society forward, you’ve got to let that happen.” Altman’s hunch is a solid one. Bob Lord, an inequality analyst and tax attorney, believes the shift in wealth could happen as early as 25 to 30 years from now. But it probably won’t be someone like Gates who makes it to 13 digits first — Gates is far too preoccupied with giving his money away, Lord says. “I think it’s going to take someone less like Gates and more like Rockefeller,” he tells Tech Insider.
The American Dream has changed; where once it meant landing a career, living in the suburbs, and owning a color TV, now we aspire to follow our dreams – start a business and work to live, not the other way around. However, passion projects-turned entrepreneurs often lack some of the business skills needed to succeed. That’s where Radify hopes to step in. Community Skis: Passion Becomes Livelihood Sawing, shaving, sanding, and waxing custom skis out of a tow-behind hut that looks like something from “Little House on the Prairie” is the kind of crazy idea that makes for a cool hobby. Hooking it up to run on 100 percent off-grid solar power and grow it into a viable business makes it just wild enough to inspire others who are passionate about the outdoors to follow their own “out-there” concepts. Community Skis – the brick and mortar descendant of that concept – built on what 333 Skis started. That company took the seemingly daunting leap from fledgling business, scrabbling together enough money to keep the lights on, to a full-fledged independent company with a stable revenue stream. Though it’s entirely doable, that kind of transition is what kills so many great schemes for startups. Enter Radify Development, a consulting and land acquisition/building firm that launched in March for other developers – the catchall term that refers to anyone looking to turn a plot of land into something that will host or attract people.
I spent a lot of my formative years in Norway, and have been periodically checking in on the Norwegian startup scene. The first time I went and had a look around was about five years ago, and what I found back then was pretty dismal. So, when I headed back to Norway this week to take a deep dive into the Norwegian startup scene at the Startup Extreme conference, I have to admit: My expectations weren’t that high. And boy, was that unfounded. In just a few short years has gone from been a pretty bleak affair to being a real — if nascent — startup ecosystem. Norway has been a bit of an underdog in the Scandiwegian startup scene for a few years. Need proof? Quick! Name one Norwegian startup that isn’t the obvious one… But despite not basking in the limelight, it hasn’t exactly been withering away in the shadow of the relative successes of its other Scandinavian brethren either. For one thing, partially in response to the cratering price of oil — on which Norway has traditionally been heavily reliant — the Norwegian government has doubled down on supporting startups both financially and through training and advice, with what appears to be one of the most supportive environments for startups I’ve come across yet. A strong level of support is going to be important for a number of reasons: In a lot of successful startup ecosystems, there’s a strong drive to help new startups. This may take the form of ‘smart money’ (i.e. investors who don’t just drop money into the startup for equity, but also offer advice, contacts, or other ways of championing their investments), procedural advice, or operational know-how. For example; if you are in a very active startup ecosystem, it’s possible to get a lot of advice around how to set up employee share options, how to deal with operational challenges, or how to deal with brand protection or patenting. Peer learning is a powerful first step to form a baseline for what to expect before getting swept away by lawyers and accountants — in a new ecosystem, the peer learning isn’t as readily available, and seeing the government working with the startup scene to help plug that gap is refreshing.
The Caribbean’s Tech Startup Ecosystem started with the first wave of Internet Startups in the mid 90s, inspired by, and at times clones of, the American success stories.
The region had, and in some cases still has, its own eBay (jamdeal.com), Yahoo (top5Jamaica.com), early social networks (caribbeanmassive.com and vibesconnect.com),online dating (caribsingles.com),alumni networks (ackee.com), its own Search Engine ( is4we.com), Online Ad Network ( caribclix), Car Classifieds (trinituner.com) and so much more.
It was a time when entrepreneurs bootstrapped, squeezed alot out of DSL Internet speeds, and without the help of accelerators, hubs or incubators, used primarily online advertising and affiliate marketing to make money. Some failed, learned and evolved; some made money, and others sold their websites for major money.
There was a little bit of a quiet period, even as there were still a number of entrepreneurs still starting up, then another wave came and inspired events like Kingston BETA , Jamaica and the Caribbean’s first Tech Meetup which was launched in February 2007; the Caribbean’s first Tech Entrepreneurship Conference – Caribbean BETA in 2011; since the first Startup Weekend in the Caribbean in Martinique, first Startup Grind in Trinidad, first Caribbean wide hackathon and Open Data Conference in Developing the Caribbean ( DevCa) in 2012— so much has changed and evolved. The level of activities and attention has increased significantly over the last 4 years.
The words Entrepreneurship, Startups and Technology have become sexy and are becoming part of mainstream conversations and policy decisions. These topics have been leading governments, universities, corporations and development agencies to pursue the massive opportunities emerging, for the Caribbean’s young populations in the blossoming Digital Age. There is a palpable rising belief that Tech Entrepreneurship can create economic and social change for the region.
This list of Top Caribbean Startups to Watch in 2015 is a marker for where the region is now and how much further, it has to go.
THE PURPOSE OF THIS LIST
Our goal in the Top Caribbean Startups to Watch in 2015 list is:
The Caribbean is at a point in history where it can truly lead, share, connect and inspire young people and women and we at SiliconCaribe.com, believe that sharing information and the stories of others, is crucial to contributing to the growth in entrepreneurial mindset, collaborative problem-solving and the culture of Entrepreneurship and Technology, as drivers for new businesses, innovations and jobs. The intention is to inspire and help create the next generation of technology and business leaders who will leverage Technology, Entrepreneurship and Community – to create, launch and prosper through their startups and develop a stunning future for themselves and the Caribbean.
The Caribbean is a region of 25 countries, many with a large population of young people, as well as many on-the-ground tech community leaders, who have been supporting fellow entrepreneurs, developers, designers and college graduates for awhile. More recently, many other organisations, governments and development agencies have launched initiatives, supporting further growth. We want to further connect them and strengthen the relationships, so as to increase the positive impact this all can have regionally and yes, globally.
Over the last 4 years, activity in the region has increased significantly. We at SilionCaribe.com, want to continue to document what’s happening in the Caribbean Startup Ecosystem, through a series of reports on developments, key players, challenges and a view of the future. Then we want to share these reports to benefit everyone in the Caribbean Startup Community as the region grows, to take our place in the Global marketplace.
HOW THE LIST WAS CREATED
The list of startups was chosen through a process of submissions by on-the-ground Caribbean tech community leaders, innovation hub managers and startup experts. We also looked at the winners of key Caribbean wide competitions and of course there were a number of wild cards that we discovered.
Thanks to Nerissa Golden (Entrepreneur/Startup Coach), Matthew McNaughton(Hub Founder), Byron Gibson ( Entrepreneur & Hub Founder), McKenzie Slaughter (Entrepreneur, Investor), Bevil Wooding (Internet Consultant), Gerard Thomas (Hub Founder) and others who were part of this process.
The list is made up of startups based in the region and startups headed and co-founded by Caribbean nationals around the world. The maturity of the startups vary, from companies already in the market, to those in public beta and others with compelling prototypes.
The Caribbean Tech Startups span the sectors of Internet of Things, eLearning, Online Media, Mobile Gaming, Mobile Surveys, eAgriculture, eHealth, Social Shopping and more. The list represents what Caribbean Tech Entrepreneurs are thinking and some of the problems they are seeking to solve.
The Startups and the countries they are from, also mirror the level of activity and community development that’s been trending upwards for the past 4 years especially. Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados are currently the “hot spots” in region at the moment, with the Dominican Republic, St Kitts, Haiti, Martinique/Guadeloupe coming up. We expect this could change in a few years.
Additionally, based on current and developing trends in the growth of the Caribbean’s Startup Ecosystem, we expect to see, more Caribbean startups overall over the next 3-5years, with a number of global contenders among them. As a result, this list is a snapshot of where things are now and a glimpse of the region’s bright future.
We know this list may stimulate quite a bit of debate and we welcome it all. Did we miss your startup? We also want you to submit new names of startups worth considering for the follow-up list. Email email@example.com to have them considered.
The list of 25 startups is published in alphabetical order.
THE CARIBBEAN STARTUPS TO WATCH IN 2015 ( Done by Alphabetical Order)
Agrocentral | Jamaica ( eAGriculture)
AgroCentral is Jamaica’s first digital agricultural clearing house utilizing Web to SMS/SMS to Web technology to connect small farmers and businesses. Businesses have the ability to source large amounts of crops directly from farmers and farmers are able to sell their available produce directly to businesses. AgroCentral removes the middleman who drives up prices and cuts the suppliers out of their share of the profit. AgroCentral is a product of the first Startup Weekend Jamaica event in 2013. They have two co-founders and one of them is a woman.
Antullia| Jamaica ( Travel Search )
A travel search engine to make vacation experiences searchable in ways that match up to the imagination and sophistication of today’s travelers. The search criteria includes the purpose of trip, special interests and budget. The search results are visual and in the context of the purpose of trip.They cut through all the clutter by summarising content while surfacing the relevant information that helps you make a decision. They are currently in the coworking office at the Government-led accelerator StartUp Jamaica.
Auto Data | Jamaica + Belize ( Auto Data)
Auto Data is the Caribbean’s first online vehicle history and valuation service. The car history provides a cost-effective solution to determining the fitness and all-round state of any motor vehicle. It is Jamaica’s equivalent to the American online vehicle history service, known as CARFAX. The eHistory compiles its data from the consolidated databases of Jamaica’s leading motor valuators, assessors and vehicle mechanics. Its platform can boast of having access to over one million records covering up to 90 per cent of the vehicles in Jamaica, including those imported from the United States. It is based in Jamaica and Belize.
CaribWatch | Jamaica ( Mobile)
Want to monitor disasters in the Caribbean? There’s an app for that. CaribWatch is a Caribbean emergency alerts and disaster monitoring app. It is a system for sharing crisis information in the Caribbean via a free smartphone application and the supporting use of social media. Its purpose is to enable people throughout the Caribbean & its Diaspora, to help each other in times of crisis, by providing a hub for information and a focal point for relief efforts. It’s founded and run by a Jamaican woman.
CamsFormer | Jamaica + USA ( Camera Device)
CamsFormer, just made high speed photography easy and wireless! CamsFormer technology is the worlds first to combine many different technologies in to a single easy to use device, that is controlled wirelessly using a smart phone, tablet, or computer. CamsFormers technology helps photographers be more creative, by using its internal sensors to trigger an everyday camera to take great pictures that are almost impossible using normal human reflexes.
The hardware itself uses embedded Linux operating system, with the camera application running on the hardware. It generates its own wireless WiFi network (like a wireless router) so that the iPhone and iPad can connect to it to control the camera through it and the USB port. This Startup with a Jamaican co-founding team is based in USA and just raised 600% over its funding goal on Kickstarter.com
CrimeBot | Jamaica ( Mobile)
CrimeBot is a mobile app focused on crime fighting. It was developed to involve the public in alerting incidences of crime and identifying crime hotspot areas. CrimeBot focuses on anonymous reporting along with user confirmation feedback to verify incoming reports. In so doing, it maps crime hotspots around any specific community or country. With this information, users can view crime directly around them as well as report crimes and search other locations for crimes. The application won top app among 160 entries from the region at the Digital Jam 3.0 Crimebot has 4 Co-founders on their team.
CropGuard | Barbados ( Mobile)
CropGuard is an agriculture app that seeks to enhance food security by helping farmers to protect their crops through pest diagnosis, monitoring and control. They won 2nd prize in the Agrigack Talent Caribbean competition and they are now seeking to launch shortly.
ComeSeeTV | Dominica ( Online Media)
ComeSeeTV is the Caribbean’s largest portal for streaming original content. Over 11 million people annually access content created by churches, carnivals, governments and entrepreneurs. Clients can create free content, On Demand or Live Stream Pay Per View events.
Edufocal | Jamaica (eLearning)
EduFocal is an innovative social learning platform that combines study with play. It’s the first tool of its kind created for students at the primary and secondary level in the Caribbean. The mission is to challenge the status quo; changing the way students interact with students and the way students interact with teachers. Initially the platform has focused on students taking the Caribbean CXC & GSAT examinations, but is also expanding to SATs. It is a friendly online community where students have fun while learning. It is interactive, user-friendly, and students can earn rewards. The founder is a 24 year old entrepreneur and it was both bootstrapped and Angel funded.
EZLearner | Barbados ( eLearning)
EZLearner is an online learning platform that helps students to become confident learners, achieve better grades, and avoid unforgiving learning pitfalls. The platform focuses on helping students to improve literacy, reading, creative writing & problem solving. They are currently expanding their team and moving into regional market expansion.
eVisa (MOVA) | Montserrat ( Web App)
eVisa (MOVA) is electronic visa application system which provides approval on requests within 24 hours. It also allows the government to collect revenue directly via credit card payments and eliminates the current practices of using consulates in various parts of the world which can take weeks and also does not provide local income. This product is from Lavabits a software development firm based in Montserrat.
F1RST.com | Trinidad and Tobago ( Online Media)
F1RST.com is an online media startup with a web and mobile app that connects you to Caribbean experiences you LOVE and NEED – from Caribbean Food, Shopping & Nightlife, to big Deals & Discounts. It helps people navigate the Caribbean. So if you want to get information about any place, business, a doubles vendor in Trinidad to a pan chicken vendor in Jamaica, from a nearby gas station to your favourite local restaurant, you can use the app for that.
grik.ly | Jamaica ( Mobile/Web App for Events)
Grikly is an event planning, management and analytics service that used Bluetooth Smart and iBeacons at its core to enable booth holders to gauge foot traffic, give deals to attendees, frictionlessly collect details of attendees and the ability to store collected details in their CRM of choice. Event attendees can also network, frictionlessly, with fellow attendees, booth holders and add context to each individual and company they interact with. Grikly is the first product from the Startup Xormis. They have two co-founders and are based in Jamaica.
Jungle Escape | Jamaica ( Mobile Gaming)
Jungle Escape is a mobile gaming app for Windows Phone. The free app has been downloaded over 200,000 downloads since its launch. It was started by two university students who built the app between school and work. This gaming app was rolled out as a minimum viability product for first-time users, similar to a demo product.
M-Survey | Barbados + Kenya ( Mobile Survey)
mSurvey is a mobile survey platform driving decision-making for businesses across the continent of Africa and the Caribbean. mSurvey works with some well-known brands across the world; reducing churn, improving customer service, and increasing their Net Promoter Score. The Startup also seeks to solve the problem of customer service to market research with a technology and team that have deep local reach. MSurvey has 3 co-founders and is lead by an entrepreneur of Caribbean descent(Barbados) and is based in Nairobi, Kenya as well as Trinidad and Tobago.
Medirevu | Barbados ( eHealth)
MediRevu is a healthcare technology company focused on improving healthcare through closer doctor-patient relationship. The MediRevu mobile health app empowers doctors and caretakers to easily manage patients between visits by tracking compliance with doctor instructions regarding diet, exercise and medication instructions. Patients use the free mobile app to access the doctor diagnosis and treatment instructions as well as automatic reminders which help them stay on-track. Founder is Barbadian and they just got secured their seed funding from Jordan based accelerator, Oasis 500.
Node420 | Jamaica ( Internet of Things)
Node420 is an Internet of Things solution for the Agricultural sector. It is a network of ‘Nodes’ which provide real-time updates to farmers on the status of their crops. This system, as a result, can provide realtime weather to other farmers in the area and predictive weather analysis for more accurate weather forecasts. Node420s system also provides recommendations per crop as to its optimal growing conditions and can be used to detect pests and diseases (excess water saturation may be indicative of root rot). The startup also recently won the first Agrihack Talent Caribbean competition.
On the Ground News Report | Jamaica ( Online Media)
OGNR is the Caribbean’s largest citizen powered news aggregator and citizen reporting website. It is currently reinventing its new site since the servers crashed via the coverage of the Kartel Trial Case. The startup has had a healthy social media following on Facebook and Twitter, it has 5 co-founders.
SmartPassant™ (EPsp) | Jamaica + USA ( Internet of Things)
SmartPassant™, a RFID hardware solution capable of relaying information about assets within a shared space. This information is processed to identify and track assets as they pass through supply chains. Using this information, along with several ancillary sources (e.g.,historical information), SmartPassant can actively make recommendations as businesses seek to increase efficiencies in their operations. SmartPassant is first product from EnPassant™, a Internet of Things (IoT) technology company based in Jamaica and the USA. They build the devices that collate information about the environment in which they are placed while providing the facility to control them remotely. With a compelling and working prototype, the product (including software) is expected to be in market by the end of 2015.
StartupRobot | Jamaica ( Company Registration)
StartUpRobot is a platform that makes it easier for business people to incorporate companies. They use shorter, simpler forms and do the runaround making it easy for you to incorporate a business in Jamaica. Company registration is a major pain point in Jamaica and the Caribbean and in many cases online registration does not exist. StartUpRobot has a team of four co-founders and was got seed funding from Jamaican and American Angel investors.
TheVineList | Jamaica ( Social Shopping)
The VineList is a Social Shopping App – a service that brings the merchants/stores to you instead of having you search around for the things you want to buy. Simply post to the #thevinelist the products you want to purchase and we will handle the rest to let you know the various stores around you that sells your product. VineList is currently part of the Government-led Startup Jamaica Accelerator.
NotesMaster | Jamaica and UK ( eLearning)
Notesmaster is an e-learning platform that enables students and educators, from different countries, to learn and share materials, using familiar syllabus frameworks that reflect their own curriculum. Notesmaster operates in the Caribbean and African markets. The founder is Jamaican.
myCarnivalBands | Trinidad and Tobago ( eCommerce)
myCarnivalBands.com is where you can access and buy the hottest premium Carnival Bands and accessories to make your experience an unforgettable one, in whichever Carnival you choose – Trinidad, Tobago, Barbados, Miami, Toronto, Notting Hill, Brazil and a host of other places are available for you to enjoy this incredible celebration in all its different forms.
Talypso | Montserrat ( Voting Software)
Talypso is a voting software which cuts the wait time for results at cultural competitions such as calypso, soca and pageants. It gives real time information on a leader board as the show progresses and results can be announced within 20 minutes of the competitions ending. The team have also developed a Government document system which allows various departments to work on the same project and share documents while maintaining security. Talypso is a product of a Software startup Rovika, ran by two young men.
10PoundPledge | Jamaica ( Online Fitness)
What is 10 Pound Pledge? It’s an online in-home workout & nutrition programme if you want to lose 10 pounds in 5 weeks with fitness coach and sports nutritionist Kamila McDonald. The Online fitness Startup has 3 co-founders.