I got an email recently asking me to join forces to do bootcamps, pitch competitions, selection and connection of the best Caribbean startups to Silicon Valley. Now, over the least 10 years I’ve been doing bootcamps,pitch competitions, tech startup related events, plus I’ve listened to and judged over 1,000 Caribbean Startups from 10 Caribbean countries and the Diaspora UK, and USA and even recommended a few entrepreneurs for funding locally and internationally. A couple have worked out.
That said here’s my thing.
I don’t believe access to Silicon Valley is a magic pill for the Caribbean.
PLAYING TO OUR STRENGTHS.
Silicon Valley is to be massively respected, revered even- but, it is no longer the global epicentre of innovation…there are so many hot and emerging spots of innovation now- especially since countries and regions are acknowledging and accepting what they do best, doubling down on them, seeking funding from varying sources (yes including Silicon Valley and other sources outside of their ecosystem) and making things happen right where they are.
Without question, Silicon Valley was and still is in some respects the benchmark on how to spot, support and break out awesome digital talent and innovation – but nobody has to move there anymore to make things happen. That changed a few years ago. You only have to Google Global Startup Ecosystems and Global Innovation Hot spots and you will learn a lot. And having travelled to, spoken in and spent time in ecosystems around the World – from Chile, to Kenya, Florida to London, New York, Denver, Atlanta and Silicon Valley – it cements my point of view even more so.
Yes, Silicon Valley has their way of doing things, and there is a tonne of value in learning from them, build relationships with them, yes even seek some funding from them – but that cannot be our singular or primary goal. I’m am an unapologetic believer that each country and region in this world – has its own unique culture, digital talent, unique processes of innovating, unique strengths that can breakthrough locally, regionally and globally. The Caribbean is no different, but do we believe it?
There’s lots going on elsewhere in the world- Silicon Alley ( NYC), in Florida ( Check Felecia Hatcher), Denver Colorado for Cannabis and eHealth…Israel for Cybersecurity….Barbados with Bitt is gunning to be the Caribbean’s Blockchain central…and I could go on and on.
IF WE’RE SERIOUS ABOUT CARIBBEAN INNOVATION
So, if we are in the Caribbean are truly about spotting, supporting and helping to breakthrough Caribbean startups, if we are serious about Caribbean Innovation – I’d like us to first start by acknowledging and accepting our strengths and double down on them.
I’ve always been a great believer in that. Afta nobody no more than we?!!
Over the last 3 years especially, – whether I’m In meetings, when I am speaking locally, regionally and internationally, in the blogs I’ve written – I’ve always posed this argument..
…why aren’t we acknowledging what Jamaica has its unique advantages – what are our clear and dominant strengths- then let’s look at how tech can help us be more innovative, dominant, problem-solving, revenue generating. I’m talking about the intersection of Tech + Sports, Tech + Culture, Tech + Cannabis, Tech + Food just to name a few.
We need to be more mindful, confident and strategic in our approach to innovation – starting from the inside out and not the typical way of outside in – where we allow others to determine and tell us what we are good at, what they think is best for us…fuck that!
I am a big believer in playing to our strengths and negotiating and playing from that position. Our emerging #DigitalJamaica, #DigitalCaribbean must be created by US to the world, not fed to us by the World.