Featured Photo: Naudia Banton of Communitech (second left) and Lisa Cummins of University of West Indies Consulting (third left) engaging entrepreneurs at a female Founders Bootcamp in the TEN Habitat hub
By Pamala Proverbs
Barbadian entrepreneurs now have a global network of startup support and a structure designed to expedite the development of their ventures with access to funding, all using a diverse community framework. The 4000 square feet multi-purpose facility is located in Bridgetown and is envisioned to be the home for all local entrepreneurs to be able to co-create, learn and innovate together.
The approach is the design of TEN Habitat, a non-profit setup to develop investor-ready businesses and is being backed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Barbados through its Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) to the tune of US$576 750.
The funded project, ‘Catalysing Regional Innovation and Diaspora Investment in the Start-Up Ecosystem’ is the first of its kind in the region and uses an innovative approach specifically developed for the region called a Hybrid Accelerator. The Hybrid Accelerator takes ventures through a development process over eight months at the end of which they are able to pitch to investors or access other funding sources. Its structure focuses on community support for startups to take them through an organic process to help them build out viable ventures before exposing them to diaspora investment. It is executed in collaboration with a number of global partners in Silicon Valley, Waterloo Canada, United Kingdom and Africa to expose Caribbean entrepreneurs to a really global perspective and approach of startup design, launch and growth..
TEN Habitat believes that surrounding entrepreneurs with a diverse community to nurture local innovation and entrepreneurship, will lead to more viable ventures that can assist long-term economic growth, and foster job creation on the island and beyond.
Selwyn Cambridge, Founder and Executive Director of TEN Habitat watches on as Country Rep IDB Barbados Juan Carlos De la Hoz Vinas signs project contract
Speaking at the official launch of the Hub, Selwyn Cambridge, Founder and Executive Director of TEN Habitat, said the project was a significant step forward in the entrepreneurial landscape. “This is a project that will create a paradigm shift in how we deliver support to our entrepreneurs; we’re looking to create investor-ready teams, rather than self-employed individuals. We at TEN Habitat are immensely grateful to have received the support of the IDB – they were the first on board and ready to support us. A lot of what you will see rolled out over the next couple of months is because of their initial support and assistance in making this vision a reality,” he said.
IDB, Country Representative Juan Carlos De La Hoz Vinas said the IDB was proud to partner in the project and was committed to helping increase job opportunities in the region. “We have always tried to connect people in Latin America and the Caribbean to improve lives, and we believe in the power of youth and in the power of technology to help do this. By promoting a strong start-up ecosystem like the Innovation Hub, we believe that we can help nurture innovation, attract new talent and develop new market opportunities in order to increase regional competitiveness, economic growth and jobs. This aligns strongly with our institutional and country strategy,” he said.
Paul Husbands, from start-up company ‘Selecta Charts’, also attended the launch and said the Innovation Hub was the perfect space for entrepreneurs to be able to meet confidentially in a professional environment. “This is a dream come true. This new space will assist me to be able to move my business forward and to push my business faster than I had expected. The great thing about the Innovation Hub will be having a quiet and private place to meet, rather than having to rely on a cafe or public space to host a business meeting,” he said.
The Innovation Hub is a dedicated space for entrepreneurs, open seven days a week, that can accommodate up to 60 persons at a time. Community members pay a membership fee to gain access to the facilities which includes fixed and ‘hot’ desks, free coffee, free snacks, free Wi-Fi, as well as access to a global network of other entrepreneurs and mentors. The space will also be used to host business building workshops and events.
The IDB assists the Government of Barbados in restoring sustainable growth in Barbados’ economy by supporting greater private sector competitiveness, as well as with the overall development of Barbados. This project supports these initiatives and is aligned to the IDB’s Group Institutional Strategy and Barbados Country Strategy which support the following:
- private sector competitiveness
- catalyzing of partnerships
- innovation and financing for start-ups.