WHEN Kyle Maloney learned that he would be the recipient of the coveted Entrepreneurship award (sponsored by the Trinidad and Tobago Unit Trust Corporation) in the Chamber’s annual Champions of Business Awards, it did not come entirely as a surprise.
Why? “Well, we always felt like we had a chance,” he said. “Tech Beach is the Caribbean’s first True Tech Start Up Ecosystem.” It’s incredible to see how connections are made, capital raised, and partnerships formed through our Network of Summits and Accelerator Programme. We’ve managed to attract a lot of global press for our work, the likes of Forbes, Essence and Huffington Post.”
Tech Beach Retreat Ltd is Maloney’s sixth company, which he formed in 2016 with Jamaica-born, Kirk-Anthony Hamilton, a friend he met on one of his many networking trips to Jamaica, who also came up with the name Tech Beach Retreat. Maloney and Hamilton are both key players in the transformation of the tech ecosystem. It was founded with the goal of creating a community and connecting people and organizations, as well as enabling the growth of tech-based businesses.
The Tech Beach summits are not a traditional conference format. This is because its main audience is disruptors and cutting edge businesses. It is a vibrant community that brings together investors, entrepreneurs, influencers and enthusiasts to share knowledge, resources, and create opportunities. This Summit gives you access to more 80 experts at established tech companies such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter. These speakers are not only able to present, but also have an active interest helping companies grow. Kyle and his team carefully review each start-up’s profiles before they meet with mentors.
One such example is local digital company RoamTT, which is a destination-management business that provides a booking platform for hosted experiences for travellers interested in coming to Trinidad and Tobago. Simone Harvey, the senior global program manager at Airbnb, mentored Arielle Du Quesnay, through Tech Beach.
Prior to starting Tech Beach, Kyle joined forces with his brother Nicolas and two of his closest friends Kiev Wilkie and Eesa Mohammed, forming FIRST.com, which launched in 2013. It was an online platform that allowed people to find businesses, receive promotional offers, view reviews, and search for deals. Some 100,000 people signed up even before it became publicly available in February 2014, and it didn’t take long for it to get attention from Digicel, which acquired a 25 per cent stake in the company for US$1. 75 million.
However, despite early success that generated approximately US$1 million, their best efforts were not enough to meet the conditionalities for further investment, and the company folded in less than two years. It was devastating for the young entrepreneurs and exposed the lack of supportive environments for tech start-ups. However, it sparked a desire in Kyle to make a change. In 2016,, armed with the goal to create an enabling environment and promote digitalisation in the region and provide support for start-ups, Tech Beach Retreat Ltd was founded.
Their first event was held in Montego Bay in Jamaica. This established the company as a regional tech catalyst. They hosted Jack Dorsey (CEO of Twitter) the following year. This fact was highlighted in Forbes and Inc. as well as other local and regional publications. This was a boost that helped them attract partnerships with big brands like Microsoft, YouTube and Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Dropbox, and Google.
Since then, they have launched TBR LAB, their tech education arm. Their mission is to promote the growth and proliferation of high-growth technology start-ups and to enable government agencies and enterprises to implement tech-driven solutions. They empower the next generation of entrepreneurs and technologists to transform the region and launch their ideas.
TBR LAB received a US$1million grant from IDB in July to implement a program for technology-enabled businesses. Their relationship with IDB dates back to before the grant, and extends beyond the grant. They are now partners in the development of tech companies in the region. By providing resources, the programme will assist companies in scaling up internationally. It is expected that at most 250 start ups will be able to benefit over a two-year period. This is a major development for Tech Beach and a first in the region. TBR LAB is executing the project in partnership with DMZ (a Toronto-based Accelerator at Canada’s Ryerson University). Luhu was one of the notable companies that took part in the accelerator program and received venture capital funding. This program is perfectly timed as it aligns with the T&T Government’s push for digital transformation.
Kyle, who is just 34 old, is already focusing on his legacy. He doesn’t care about accumulated wealth. What he values most is the ability to positively impact the world. Technology is his vehicle.
” We are in the midst a huge digital revolution,” Kyle states. Technology and entrepreneurship can transform lives and bring people out of poverty. If we are able to focus enough, our country could look very different within our lifetimes.
“Through Tech Beach we are tackling the issues from the angle of technology. We created a platform that allows people to have access to capital, experience, networks, and capital. This will enable technology-driven problem solvers. Our accelerator program has seen some really bright people solving problems in areas like health care, transportation, and financial inclusion. Coming into our programme, these companies have raised over US$25 million and in the last four months, we helped them raise an additional US$4m.
” I want to remind you that it is imperative that you act NOW. Please join me in asking the following questions: “Who can I mentor?” What doors can you open? Who can I invest in that are solving the problems that we face today?’ I’ve devoted my life’s purpose to asking these questions every single day, asking myself ‘what will my legacy be?’”
The Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce believes that this young entrepreneur has indeed hit upon a recipe for success.
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