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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Follow the money

There is no doubt that the Caribbean is a serious challenge for an entrepeneur. Given that our laissez faire culture and the size of our markets do not usually encourage venture confidence you have to ask, why bother ?

The other issue is that there is no such thing as angel investing or VC funding in the Caribbean. Sure, some people list themselves as being VC funds but none of those Trinidadian based or Barbados based orgs are really entrepeneurial focussed. Had a chance to deal with one recently and the company had an aversion to a face to face meeting and gave no criteria as to what would encourage them to invest.

In another life I was a due diligence specialist for ICG Internet Capital Group. I was actually the CTO of one of their seed companies, Breakaway Solutions, in the UK, and spent time doing due diligence on people like Inreon in Switzerland, CargoBiz in Germany, FOL in Leicester (Farming online).

Now you wont hear of any of those companies today. They have all gone under. Of course ICG is still there, whilst all the people who used to work for these companies and the entrepeneurs who set them up, are gone.

The story is that banks and vc companies take calculated risks, but their rebound factor is high. Entrepeneurs dont have that luxury most of the time.

While I was at BWAY, the stock went up to as high as 178 bucks. We had 1000 plus employees at one point. The wasteage was incredible. I remember staying in the Old Colonial Inn in Concord , Mass, with FOL, a venture which was something of a reverse online auction system being built to operate as an online B2B venture. It tanked of course.

Many of the US colleagues went on to form Greenbeacon GreenBeacon Solutions and they are increasingly successful. The strange thing is that Breakaway had some of the brightest people I knew.

The gist of this blog entry is that life is a risk and the inability of Caribbean institutions to think beyond their nose might be one of the reasons why young people are literally being bred to run away.

The worst part of this is that it isnt worth the while for most VC's to do DD on the Caribbean. New large scale ventures in the Caribbean are few and far between. Digicel perhaps ? After that everything else is a first world outpost with a Caribbean representative.

Our impression of ourselves is not good. Its Liat Airlines. How do you expect people like CFSC and DFL Caribbean to take any risks in any enterprise.

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