The tech sphere is making serious waves in the Caribbean, with only more room to grow in 2019. So we’ve rounded up names to watch this year among a growing community of Caribbean tech entrepreneurs. These industry leaders prove particularly influential, not just for their exciting business initiatives, but also their efforts giving back to the tech start-up community, and for empowering Caribbean entrepreneurial development.
Kirk-Anthony Hamilton: The Infiniti Partnership, Tech Beach
The Kingston, Jamaica native has been collecting accolades for years in entrepreneurship, including being the only Caribbean awardee of former President Obama’s Emerging Global Entrepreneur Initiative. He is the founder and CEO of the Infiniti Partnership, which invests in multiple sectors to promote growth in Jamaica. But perhaps Hamilton’s greatest legacy will be promoting tech ecosystems, connecting Caribbean start-ups to the world. He founded Tech Beach Retreat: a tech-centric conference in Montego Bay, Jamaica, offering keynote speakers from industry leaders, panel discussions and workshops. The landmark event is expected to grow for its fourth staging in 2019.
Karina Chez: Kaya Energy Group
With a changing climate, the Caribbean region will prove particular vulnerable to continued environmental pressures. So finding and establishing viable energy alternatives is a top priority for the region. Dominican native Karina Chez is making major strides in this department with her company, Kaya Energy Group: an engineering and financial firm focused on renewable energy in the Caribbean. The firm takes a holistic approach to promoting renewal energy, developing photovoltaic systems, curating funding for solar energy initiatives, and consulting with government and international organizations on renewable energy policies in the region. Plus, Chez also founded the Vida KAYA Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on the the implementation of environmental projects. With so many initiatives in the pipeline, 2019 may prove to be a landmark year for Caribbean solar power thanks to her entrepreneural leadership.
Christine Souffrant Ntim: Haiti Tech Summit
A serial tech entrepreneur, Christine Souffrant Ntim has been promoting start-up ecosystems around the world, focusing on emerging and underserved markets. She has founded Vendedy – a social network connecting people to street markets around the world, giving local small businesses a global stage. She also founded other startup initiatives like Global Start-up Ecosystem and Start-up Grind Dubai. Now the Haitian-American commerce advocate is bringing her expertise and global connections to Haiti with Haiti Tech Summit — a cultural technology fusion seeking technology solutions across sectors, from food to commerce to music and more. The third annual Summit will be held this year in June, featuring industry leaders from across the region and the globe.
Following the devastation of hurricanes in 2017, Puerto Rico’s local economy was reeling. But Parallel18 remained a light at the end of the tunnel for the local tech industry. Led by Sebastian Vidal, the government-backed business/tech initiative is a startup accelerator, helping both local and international businesses to scale their production to the Puerto Rican market. This unique program provides training and mentorship for start-ups during the 5-month acceleration program. Plus, the organization also offers an equity-free grant of $40,000 USD to participants. The organization is also giving extra love to local emerging start-up dubbed Pre18: an accelerator program dedicated solely to early-stage Puerto Rican startups who remained on the island. To majority of participants are targeting issues directly stemming from the effects of Hurricane Maria. With so many promising companies on the horizon for 2019, Parallel18 is setting itself up to be a powerful foundation for the next generation of tech entrepreneurs.
Gabriel Abed: Digital Asset Fund, Bitt Inc.
As the co-founder of Digital Asset Fund and Bitt Inc. (the Caribbean’s first digital currency exchange), Gabriel Abed knows his way around the chaotic world of bitcoin and blockchain currency. The Barbados native has quickly become the regional expert on building a stable infrastructure for digital-based finance, which seeks to empower communities underserved by the conventional banking system. But he departs from the usual bitcoin players with his active partnership with the government and international regulatory organizations. His most notable accomplishment in the region is perhaps his guidance establishing the first digitized version of the Barbados dollar — the first ever digitized flat money approved by a central bank. He continues to serve as a digital currency consultant for several governments and multilateral groups including the government of Barbados and Bermuda, as well as the Caribbean Development Bank. With so many potential applications of digital currency in the region, we can expect even more initiatives from the crypto guru.