I was asked to judge NCB’s first Digital Innovation Challenge this past weekend in Kingston, Jamaica and I said yes immediately. Being around Caribbean Tech entrepreneurs and developers and connecting them to the people and things they need to success has been one of the things I’ve been doing for the past 9 years. I get really excited about events that can give Caribbean Tech Entrepreneurs a platform to showcase their ideas and skills, plus get them closer to becoming successful.
So from just over 100 entries, 20% of which came from the Caribbean, the 14 final teams pitched to a panel of 6 judges. While listening to them all, I made note of the diverse Caribbean Fintech Ideas they brought.
Here are the top ones
1. Augmented Reality
2. Robo-Advisor Services
3. Siri-type Customer Service
4. Gamification of Financial Literacy + Planning
5. Tech-driven Micro Loan Processes
6. Cyber Security
Fed by the blogs and news headlines, when many people think of innovation – they typically think of ideas and tech businesses that create earth shattering, market disrupting technologies.
Yet, innovation can also be a perceptibly simple an incremental improvement that creates a huge impact on people and on markets and yes still make a lot of money.
Now I say this because I know when I tell you who the winners are and also share with you, the team that got my highest marks – you will see why I made that statement.
So the Trinidadians won. Yeah you read that right Trinidadians won what was in essence a Jamaican-based competition for a Jamaican-based bank. Team Teleois – made of of two Trinis and one Jamaican won the Challenge with their Customer Engagement Platform. Their idea is brilliant, their presentation excellent hands down.
The Team: Sean Hinds – Software Developer, Lorenzo Hodges, Business Development Manager, Grayson Alert, User Experience Designer
Their Winning Idea: “Our solution uses a mobile app to allow any customer to select a service they need and be issued a number. Through the app they can track what number is being served and what time they need to arrive at the bank. NCB can use the app to provide relevant data to the customer.” Yes an in branch solution that saves customers time and makes it convenient for them to do business with the bank and also gives bank data. Caribbean People who’s suffered through long and unnecessary bank lines will understand this. This team got my second highest score ironically.
The Team I gave the highest points and why
The Team I gave the highest overall points to was Team Invest The Change, they are a Jamaican team.
Team Members: Ryan Hibbert – Software Developer, Sean Wiggan, ERP Account Manager, Andrei Bennett, Attorney-At-Law
Their Caribbean Fintech Idea: The description: Invest the Change is one of the first steps in allowing users to develop disciplined saving and investing habits without feeling too much pain. Invest the Change allows a bank’s customers to first link their credit and/or debit cards to an IT Platform using a simple well-designed user interface. Then, each time the customer spends money using that debit or credit card, their total bill is rounded up to the nearest $10 or $100.00. The difference is sent off to another account maintained by the Bank. This solution removes the guesswork from saving because it is automatic, passive and rewarding.
Why did I gave them the highest number of points?
Yeah I know, it’s not an earth shattering idea like curing cancer, but if you are aware of the Caribbean’s economic landscape, are mindful of the need for a mission for Caribbean people/black people to build wealth – to be creators and builders vs primarily consumers – then you will understand.
And yeah I know it can be argued that banks tend to make more money from bad financial behaviour. Yet, with such a solution- a bank could increase savings volumes and investments still.
Now, their idea is awesome in its usefulness and simplicity in the way it seeks to leverage technology to make it super easy to save and invest with a couple of clicks.
Helping Jamaican and Caribbean peopñe to build wealth through savings and investing- is a massive problem and one worth solving. That’s why it stood out for me and even though they did not win, I hope they find a way to make it happen.
While I am a hardnosed capitalist, I also believe one can do well and do good.