Budding student entrepreneurs from various faculties at the University of the West Indies, Mona gathered at the UWI Regional Headquarters on Friday, January 25 2019 to pitch their business ideas in the finals of the Vincent HoSang UWI Venture Competition.
The groups presented ideas spanning the areas of the environment, entertainment, travel and rural security with innovative concepts such as bio-degradable ‘plastic’ from Ja Bio Plastics; marine pharmaceutical products from e-Biome and a traffic prediction and transportation tracking platform from ReRoute.
At the end of the pitching sessions, the judges, Douglas Halsall, CEO, Advanced Integrated Systems; Sherene Duncan-Clarke, General Manager, Regus Caribbean; Robin Levy, Group CEO, Jamaica Co-operative Credit Union League and Lisandra Rickards, CEO, Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship – Caribbean selected the top three businesses. They are: Ja Bio Plastics, Pree Labs and Carib Voxx which will receive cash prizes to the tune of $300,000, $200,000 and $125,000, respectively.
First-place winner, Ja Bio Plastics, a company which seeks to offer a natural, alternative form of plastic that is compostable, degradable in the environment including water bodies, can be consumed by animals and will not contribute to plastic pollution, will also receive an all-expenses paid five (5) day trip to New York courtesy of the Vincent HoSang Family Foundation. During the trip the winning team will meet the HoSang family and tour the Caribbean Food Delights factory. Additionally, they will also get the opportunity to meet and learn from several successful Jamaican entrepreneurs in the New York area.
Samantha Williams, Managing Partner at Ja Bio Plastics, said her team was humbled to have been named the winners of the Competition. She shared that the team will be moving on to compete in the National Business Model Competition and expressed her enthusiasm about travelling later this year to meet the HoSang family.
Second place winners, Pree Labs’ invention ‘Watch Dawg’, is a rural security system designed to combat praedial larceny by electronically securing farm lands. Pree Labs also walked away with the Jamaica Stock Exchange’s award for the ‘Most Commercially Ready’ business idea, which will see the team receiving capacity building training from the JSE.
In a letter, read by Tony HoSang on behalf of Sabrina HoSang-Jordan, CEO, Caribbean Food Delights she expressed regret at not being able to attend the finals and commended all teams on their efforts throughout the Competition. She congratulated the winning team and indicated that she looks forward to hosting them in the summer.
In her greetings on behalf of the sponsors, Kim Mair, CEO, JMMB Joan Duncan Foundation, a major partner of the Vincent HoSang UWI Venture Competition for the past four years noted that each year she continues to be impressed by the level of innovation behind the business ideas. “Every year I am inspired by the entries I see coming from the University of the West Indies because the ideas are absolutely fantastic.”
Mrs. Mair expressed anticipation in seeing the implementation of the ideas to operational businesses.
Commenting on the Competition, Dr. David McBean, Executive Director, MSBM expressed the Institution’s pride at the professional level of the competition and commended the students on their insight.
“I want to commend the young people who came out today and represented the University in such a remarkable way. You really did us proud. We at MSBM know that it is through entrepreneurship that Jamaica’s economy will really grow. So far, through this Competition, we have had approximately ten companies that have been commercialized and we look forward to many more to come,” Dr. McBean said.
In addition to the Vincent HoSang Family Foundation and the JMMB Joan Duncan Foundation, other partners of the Venture Competition include the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority, Development Bank of Jamaica, Jamaica Venture Capital, Jamaica Stock Exchange, Regus Caribbean, JN Small Business Loans Limited, Mona Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Centre and the Jamaica Observer.
The Competition was first held in 2002, with the objective of harnessing the talents and skills of students within the UWI community and to facilitate the development of their ideas into full-fledged businesses. Since inception, many participating teams have been able to successfully transition their business concepts into commercially viable entities. Several teams have also moved on to represent the UWI at the National Business Model Competition, placing in the top four each year.