Jamaican entrepreneurs Winnie Dzidonu-Genius (right) and Nichole Crawford (center) participated in the Slush Global Impact Accelerator in November 2015.
Jamaican tech entrepreneurs Nichole Crawford and Winnie Dzidonu-Genius braved the cold and damp conditions in Helsinki, Finland, to pitch their businesses at the Slush Global Impact Accelerator, a nine-day bootcamp for social impact entrepreneurs from emerging markets. The two women were selected by the infoDev/EPIC Caribbean Mobile Innovation Program (CMIP) and PitchIT Caribbean.
Winnie is a product manager at Transcel Ltd., a mobile financial services company that aims to serve microfinance institutions and micro-borrowers. Prior to participating in Slush, Winnie participated in Digital Jam 2.0, a regional learn-and-pitch festival held in Jamaica in 2012.
“We have partnerships with banks and the government to help reduce the costs of microfinance,” she said. The service will allow grant recipients and lenders to manage loan disbursements and payments more easily than with cash or credit cards.
Nichole is a co-founder of Niritech, a Jamaican startup that offers online study resources and exam preparation for Caribbean high schools. Before traveling to Helsinki, she had not participated in a World Bank entrepreneurship program.
“[Slush] was a wonderful experience, from the way the program was organized to the structure and execution,” Nichole said. “The accelerator program was geared towards ‘perfect pitch,’ networking, and how to approach investors.”
The two women attended the packed two-day Slush conference, including a UNICEF seminar on founding businesses that make a positive impact on society, and had the opportunity to pitch their businesses to investors one-on-one. They also gained valuable feedback on scaling their companies from local to global.
“People are looking to come to Jamaica to meet with our team,” Winnie said. “We made solid leads with at least ten investors.” The International Finance Corporation (IFC) was interested in the service, and former members of a mobile money platform at Nokia noted that Tenscel addressed challenges they had personally experienced.
Despite the busy schedule of events and “speed dating” with potential investors—as well as unfamiliar food—Nichole and Winnie had overwhelmingly positive experiences at Slush.
“Even though the members of [the Global Impact Accelerator] were so different, we all seemed to have similar problems and passions,” Nichole said. “Slush is an excellent initiative that taught us to know where the bar is and know where to jump. It was so great that three teams were selected from Jamaica.”
“We got great validation from people from all over the world who said [there was demand for our service] in their country,” Winnie said. “I felt proud when we got the thumbs-up from other startups who said they would invest in our startup, given the chance.”
The 30 Slush Global Impact Accelerator entrepreneurs represented 15 countries, including two participants from the Caribbean.