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UWI’s Ja Bio Plastics to Represent Jamaica and Defend Global Championship in International Business Model Competition

Ja Bio Plastics, a student-entrepreneur team from the University of the West Indies, has emerged as the winner of the National Business Model Competition (NBMC), securing a cash prize of J$2m and an all-expense paid trip to defend Jamaica’s 2018 global championship at the upcoming International Business Model Competition (IBMC) at the Brigham Young University campus in Provo, Utah, United States.

The duo, comprising Jordon Freeman and Samantha Williams, made their winning presentation offering a natural, degradable and compactable alternative to single-use plastic to a panel of private-sector judges in the final round of the national competition last Friday, beating 14 other teams from four universities.

Jordon Freeman, who is enrolled in the university’s Biotechnology programme, said, "It’s exciting, but the preparation to get here was very tiring. We are really ecstatic about becoming the winner to represent Jamaica. I am looking forward to work as hard as our coach is going to push us so that we can represent and carry the trophy back to Jamaica.”

Runners up were Re-Draft (first) from Northern Caribbean University winning J$1M; PreeLabs (second) from the University of the West Indies winning J$500,000; and Xermosol (third) from the University of Technology winning J$200,000. They respectively presented ingenious business models for an application that converts any hand-written document to a digital text format; an electronic drone-flown security camera; and a bacteria- and germ-eliminating device for public spaces.

This year’s staging of the IBMC will be held on Friday, May 10. Teams from scores of universities and business schools across the globe will compete for the grand cash prize of US$40,000 and the prestigious IBMC trophy, now housed at its current home at Northern Caribbean University’s Morris Centre of Entrepreneurship.

Freeman, detailing how he came up with his business idea, said, “My father was saying that he knows I’m an innovative person, so why don’t I do something as a solution for the plastic problem that Jamaica is facing, especially with the ban that was coming?” To this end, he and his team member began the Ja Bio Plastics project in early 2018 and got a breakthrough when they realised that they could modify the plastic.

The business provides a biodegradable solution to the popular petroleum plastic that pollutes the environment as it slowly degrades over an average time period of a thousand years. The proposed solution from Ja Bio Plastics offers an alternative that takes a maximum of six months to fully decompose.

Speaking to the local ban on single-use plastics now in effect, Freeman said, “I do support it because when these things happen, it pushes innovation. For one, persons such as ourselves go out of the boundaries to think up innovate solutions that were never thought about. I am working on the bio-plastics to produce some properties that, right now, would be beneficial to Jamaica and international at large.”

Business Modelling
The National Business Model Competition, which is now in its sixth year, is organised at the local level by the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) through its Jamaica Venture Capital Programme and the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica. Financial support this year came from sponsors IDB Lab, PanJam Investment, NCB Foundation, GK Capital Management, Sagicor Bank, Scotiabank Jamaica, Musson Foundation, Burger King, PetroCaribe Development Fund and Blueprint Consulting.

Business modelling, geared at reducing the failure rate of start-up businesses, differs from a static business plan and focuses on assessing customer interactions then pivoting and changing course based on the lessons learned.

Jamaican universities performed exceptionally well at the 2018 IBMC as Beasc Technologies from Northern Caribbean University won first place bragging rights, the Global Champion trophy and US$30,000. Eco-Structures, representing the University of the West Indies, was awarded second place receiving a cash prize of US$20,000; and Queritel, a third team from Jamaica, placed in the top 10 out of 42 universities worldwide, after a total of five teams from Jamaica’s National Business Model Competition competed on the global stage.

The NBMC was conceived at the DBJ’s first Venture Capital Conference held in September 2013 by Keynote speaker, Paul Ahlstrom of Alta Ventures Group, Utah, USA, who, along with Joseph Matalon, offered to fund the prize for the winner if local universities collaborated. The competition was designed to facilitate young entrepreneurs in taking their business ideas through to operationalisation, and facilitates access to mentors, coaches and Angel Investors to provide the capital to build their businesses.


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