Send and receive money digitally, educate children digitally, and attract tourists while building businesses with pop culture. Those were the offerings when three next generation professionals came together to share their enterprise ideas in a panel discussion last week.
Gabriel Abed, Troy Weekes, and Curtis Greaves gave insight into what business of the future looks like when they told of their “disruptive” commercial company ideas in the Grand Salle of the Central Bank when they were part of a Barbados International Business Association discussion panel.
Abed summed up the outlook of the three entrepreneurs on stage by explaining what drove him and business partner in Bitt.
“When we started Bitt three years ago, it was with a simple question: what do we both want to do? And the idea was to change the world, and that was the fundamental cornerstone of how we started this organization.
“We are constituted as an international business, because what we do is financial software that gives consumers access to banking as a service, the same way you think of software as a service, like Facebook or Google,” Abed said.
Arising out of Bitt this year was Bitt.com that deals in a digitized version of the Barbados currency, for which the Central Bank gave approval in February.
Bitt.com uses software to perform transfers of digital money for customers, and the digital currency received can be cashed in at banks in the receiver’s location.
Abed explained that this service is another money transfer/remittance operation, but far cheaper, enabling the sender to perform a transaction on smart phone or laptop.
He explained that Bitt.com allows “a dollar digitally to be sent from one user to another without a central authority being in the middle of that transaction”.
“What that means is that Joe could send to Harry directly and not even Bitt.com could prohibit that transaction,” Abed said.
Bitt, the parent company that offers a number of digital solutions, is also proving to be a fast growing job avenue.
“The creation of jobs is endless. Within a three-year period, we now are responsible for the employment of over 40 Barbadians on a full-time basis. Specifically in the last month, we jumped to just shy of 50 Barbadians,” he said, adding that the company has a few expatriate employees with skill needs not yet available locally.
Weekes’ enterprise is in education.
“Technology is influencing the way how children learn. The classroom experience is moving away from the traditional chalk and talk and is being enhanced by smart digital devices such as tablets and laptops,” the technology consultant said.
“But there is a huge demand for content – a well-structured, coherent, high quality curriculum of culturally relevant content.”
His product is EZLearner, “a provider of technology, and services for schools, teachers [and] students in the English-speaking Caribbean”.
“We commercialize the online distribution of educational apps, and premium digital content for the success of primary school children. Today, we attract and employ knowledge workers in Barbados and Jamaica, who are creatives and academics involved in curriculum design, pedagogical engineering and virtual communications,” Weekes explained.
“Our target market in the Caribbean region is estimated around 1.3 million Caribbean primary school students in just under 2 000 public and private primary schools.”
Weekes said: “Teachers buckle under heavy workloads, and large class sizes. Students have to contend with the one-size fits all approach, but each student has a different set of learning needs.”
Estimating that many fall through the cracks in the system, he said EZLearner solves these problems by “providing high quality personalized instruction”.
Launched in Barbados, Jamaica, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Antigua, the money is made by the distribution of gift cards from $20 upwards, which students purchase to get a month’s access. School licences go at special pricing for blocks of students.
Weekes said EZLearner works with the school curriculum. Also, students get to learn at their own pace by choosing activities in their own time and preference.
Business analyst Greaves’ current business project, Animekon, may be easier for many in Barbados to grasp because of the large crowds it attracts annually at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
But what is not obvious is that it is an expanding international enterprise bringing to Barbados novel tourism opportunities.
“Animekon is much more than a two-day summer event.”
Greaves spoke of “location based tourism” and “Geek-ations” as commercial business forms.
He said that based on the concept of Melissa Young and Omar Kennedy, they researched and found there was a “large gap between local producers of local pop culture items, and a willing consumer base”. Animekon provides a platform for these producers to expose, promote and make a viable business out of their work. There have so far been seven annual conventions at Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
“Animekon has also given birth to a unique location-based tourism product in Barbados…where you have tourism activity generated at a particular geographical location based on some unique, cultural, natural or built value.”
He said Animekon has now morphed into the largest pop culture convention in the English Caribbean and has spawned a number of related business ventures.
“One of the spin-offs from Animekon is Geek-ations. It is a niche tourism product which combines the low-cost advantages of group travel with the homely feel of a Staycation package,” Greaves said.
So far, Animekon attracts persons from St Lucia, Trinidad and the United States, along with a few from Europe and Japan.