Friday, 24 April 2015

SMART START: First Angels Jamaica launched to support growth-oriented entrepreneurs

HEAVEN SENT: First Angels Jamaica members, including Joseph A. Matalon and Sandra Glasgow (left), with DRT Communications' Danielle Terrelonge-Irons (centre), enjoying a light moment at the launch.

The challenges that Jamaican entrepreneurs regularly face in accessing growth capital - and the need to fill a critical gap in the ecosystem for venture capital in Jamaica - are the twin factors that led to the birth of First Angels Jamaica (FAJ), a new local-based angel investor network, which has the backing of partners like international financial giants the World Bank Group and the Inter-American Development Bank.

Though First Angels Jamaica was created back in July of 2014, it was officially launched inside the Jamaica Pegasus' Legacy Suite on Wednesday morning during an intimate ceremony that attracted a number of young entrepreneurs and established names from the local business community. In a nutshell, the FAJ network is geared towards helping growth-oriented entrepreneurs by providing them with access to start-up capital and mentorship.

But what exactly is an "angel network"? By definition, it is a formal group of high net-worth individuals who make direct investment of personal funds into early-stage businesses. "[They] play a critical role in helping start-up or early-stage ventures achieve above-average growth," explains FAJ Chairman Joseph A. Matalon. "They not only provide patient capital but play the role of coach, mentor and board member, introducing entrepreneurs to potential customers, helping them solve potential problems, and gain credibility in the marketplace."

Fast out the blocks, First Angels has already recruited 13 investor members and two associate members. The network has so far held three pitch events and viewed presentations from seven entrepreneurs, from which the team, including Sandar Glasgow (Managing Director of BizTactics Limited) have picked their first candidate, a Jamaican start-up, for investment. They have selected DRT Communications Limited, a company that specializes in developing comprehensive communication strategies for regional and international clients. The investment process will be concluded later this month.

The way Glasgow sees it, the Jamaican economy, one characterized by low growth and high debt, is in need of new innovative sectors driven by private-sector-led entrepreneurial activities. "We really do believe," Glasgow says, "that small-business growth and development in Jamaica is critical to the overall growth of our economy."

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