How did you come up there was a real need in Jamaica for an angel investment network?
Jamaicans have long recognised that access to financing, particularly for small and medium sized businesses, has been a major constraint to their growth and their ability to create new jobs. In recent years, several key stakeholders, notably, the Development Bank of Jamaica collaborating with business owners, universities, institutions in the financial services sector, government agencies, legal and accounting firms, private sector membership organisations and Jamaica’s international development partners including the Inter-American Development Bank, the Government of Canada and the World Bank – have been working to strengthen the ecosystem for venture financing in Jamaica.
In the context of a challenging IMF programme and projections for low growth over the medium term, stakeholders agree that significant growth in the economy will only come from private sector-led, entrepreneurial activities, particularly SMEs that have high growth potential.
The Government of Jamaica is acutely aware of the problems affecting businesses’ access to finance. A study conducted by David Tennant for the Inter-American Development Bank examining the factors that affect the demand and supply of business credit in Jamaica, revealed that the most glaring gap in the financial landscape was the absence of private venture capitalists and business angels and proposed that the creation of venture capital funds and angel investor networks should be treated as high priorities.
Who had the initiative of launching First Angels Jamaica?
In March 2014, several influential Jamaican businessmen and businesswomen met to discuss the issues of inadequate access to financing for SMEs and the need for angel investor networks. A few of us in the room decided that “talk is cheap”. We would, as the Nike commercial once said: “Just Do It!” Led by Joseph M. Matalon, Chairman of the ICD Group of Companies and supported by J.J. Geewax, chief engineer at Invite Media, a New York City-based advertising display company that was acquired by Google for US$81 million in 2010 and myself, we set about creating the framework for FirstAngelsJA. Joseph Matalon hosted a luncheon meeting of fourteen of Jamaica’s wealthiest and most socially aware business owners on July 3, 2014 and we decided to move ahead. We registered a not-for-profit company, First Angels Jamaica Limited, built a website, created membership documents using guides produced by the Kauffman Foundation and later updated by the infoDev project of the World Bank. My company, BizTactics Limited was hired by FAJ to manage the network.
Do you believe there is a disadvantage as a woman to carry out your daily work?
Definitely not. I enjoy tremendous support from my male colleagues. We all share the same vision for the success of FAJ and we are working together to achieve this vision and our mission to provide equity funding and mentorship to innovative and high potential Caribbean businesses.
Which is your strategy to make FAJ self sustaining?
The strategy is to generate revenue from membership dues and sponsorships that will be sufficient to cover the costs of managing the Network.
Have you ever felt that there were some extra difficulties as a woman?
Not at all. Jamaica is known for having many women in positions of management, both in the public and private sectors. In fact, a 2015 study by the International Labour Organization (ILO) entitled “Women in Business and Management, Gaining Momentum”, found that Jamaica has the highest proportion of women managers, globally, ahead of countries like the United States and the United Kingdom.
The study found that the proportion of women managers in Jamaica stood at 59.3 per cent and while women are still underrepresented in top management, the number of women in senior and middle management positions has increased over the last 20 years.
A display company that was acquired by Google for US$81 million in 2010 and myself, we set about creating the framework for FirstAngelsJA. Joseph Matalon hosted a luncheon meeting of fourteen of Jamaica’s wealthiest and most socially aware business owners on July 3, 2014 and we decided to move ahead. We registered a not-for-profit company, First Angels Jamaica Limited, built a website, created membership documents using guides produced by the Kauffman Foundation and later updated by the infoDev project of the World Bank. My company, BizTactics Limited was hired by FAJ to manage the network.
“A 2015 study by the International Labour Organization (ILO) entitled Women in Business and Management, Gaining Momentum, found that Jamaica has the highest proportion of women managers, globally, ahead of countries like the United States and the United Kingdom”
Are there any differences in a network managed by a man or a woman?
I would say yes. My focus, as the manager of the network, has been very inclusive, in terms of involving both men and women, as investors as investees. I don’t think that the focus would have been the same were the network to have been managed by a man. I have targeted women to join as members and have set a target to achieve at least 25% of our members being women…and the strategy is working. Currently, 29% of our investor members are women and our first investment is in a womanowned business.
What is your vision of a woman as an angel investor?
My personal vision is for FAJ to be a model network for the involvement of women as investors in the Caribbean region and globally. As a new angel investor network, I believe we have a unique opportunity to educate high net worth women about the benefits of angel investing as a strategy not just for the development of their investment portfolios, but more significantly as a strategy for national and regional development and advancing the fortunes of women-owned businesses, in particular. As part of our strategic plan, education for our members has been given high priority and this fall, a team of fur men and three women, will travel to Niagara-onthe- Lake for the 2015 Summit of the National Angel Capital Organization (NACO) where we will actively participate in learning and networking sessions designed to improve our knowledge of angel investing. The Xcala programme will support this visit. On our return we hope to be armed with information that will encourage other investors, both women and men, to join this movement.
“Currently, 29% of our investor members are women and our first investment is in a woman-owned business”
Which are the main achievements of FAJ?
With support from Xcala and the infoDev programme, FAJ has developed a strategic plan with a number of aggressive targets to support Jamaica’s SME sector. We are well on our way to achieving our target of 25 members by April 2016. As at July 1, 2015, we had recruited 17 investor members (with 29% of them being women) and two associate members, KPMG and Hart Muirhead Fatta. In April 2015 we made our first investment in DRT Communications Limited, a marketing communications firm owned by Danielle Terrelonge Irons offering a technology-driven media monitoring service. We have four deals currently in due diligence, we are also likely to surpass our target of five investments by April 2015.
Other achievements include:
- 106 applications “registered” on our website via the Proseeder platform, of which 27% were female; 73% male
- 38 applications completed and in various stages of screening
Which is the criteria that you use to select companies?
FAJ wants to invest in companies that meet certain criteria; we are less concerned about the sectors in which these companies operate. The criteria include:
- A robust business model, with high potential for growth in revenue and profits
- A business that provides innovative products and services
- A well-defined problem, innovative solutions directed to a large and growing market
- A management team (with relevant experience and educational backgrounds) that is willing to listen, be mentored, who can execute on the key milestones and bring something special to the business.
- Realistic exit options for the investors.