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Meet Khary Sharpe, founder and CEO of HeadOffice. Founded in Jamaica, HeadOffice is a software for accountants and entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean that provides customers with localized support for managing taxes and payroll in non-US denominations. Khary, a veteran of the Caribbean tech scene, previously founded Bakari Digital as well as serving as the Director of West Indies Software Engineering Company Limited. He has also worked as Startups Program Manager for VM Group in Kingston, among other roles.
In April, Khary attended our Beyond the Beach conference in Kingston, Jamaica, where he presented HeadOffice to our panel of distinguished tech investors. Khary didn’t come to Beyond the Beach with big expectations—he’d mainly wanted to serve as a representation of Jamaican entrepreneurship. But HeadOffice turned out to be a hit at Beyond the Beach, with something like a bidding war breaking out among our investors for a piece of his company. And this wasn’t even the high point of Khary’s experience at Beyond the Beach.
Khary hadn’t initially planned to attend Beyond the Beach’s closing dinner. But he changed his mind, joining us at the historic Devon House in Kingston, the home of Jamaica’s first Black millionaire. He shared a table with Melissa Pegus, who serves as Managing Director for the legendary Techstars accelerator program in both Atlanta and New Orleans. Melissa encouraged Khary to apply for Techstars’ New Orleans cohort. Khary followed through, beating out thousands of other founders to become a member of the 2023 cohort. As a part of the 13-week hybrid program, Khary has attended events like TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco, in addition to being awarded $120,000 for HeadOffice. Khary tells us that he has already been able to move HeadOffice forward as a result of his time at Techstars as well as Beyond the Beach. EAB is proud of Khary’s progress and we are excited to see what’s next for HeadOffice. We will continue to work to leverage our connections so we can help our entrepreneurs take their companies to the next level.
Want to help us continue to grow our network and help entrepreneurs? Find out how here.
Entrepreneurs Across Borders makes things happen. Just ask Jamaican entrepreneur Melissa Powell. This April, Melissa Powell pitched her international hiring business POCMI at our Beyond the Bech conference in Kingston, Jamaica. POCMI’s platform connects people from over 40 countries with companies looking to expand their talent pool, while managing candidate’s relocation and visa processes. In addition to POCMI receiving interest from our panel of distinguished tech investors, our founder Martin Babinec identified Melissa as the perfect fit for a spot in legendary venture capitalist Tim Draper’s Draper University in the Silicon Valley. We moved fast, securing Melissa a full scholarship to the five-week Hero Training program at Draper University within weeks of Beyond the Beach.
Founded in 2012, Draper University is a residential founder fellowship program for pre-seed startups where participants learn to develop their businesses from Silicon Valley founders and experts. Draper alumni have started over 700 companies and raised over $950M from top global investors. The Hero Training program includes five sessions of one-on-one mentoring with worldwide industry experts, mentors and investors who are committed to supporting funders on their entrepreneurial journeys. Speakers at Hero Training have included Tesla’s Elon Musk, The League’s Amanda Bradford and venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson. In addition to nuts and bolts startup advice and invaluable opportunities for networking, Hero Training focuses on building the unflappable mindset that is essential for success as an entrepreneur.
After six years of battling it out as a founder, Melissa found attending Hero Training to be restorative to her confidence. “I needed [the program],” Melissa told us. “I was just coming out of that burnout season and I needed something that would give me a punch in the face.” Entrepreneurship can be a lonely endeavor, and Melissa was relieved to be in a space with founders from around the world “…who believe that anything is possible but in a very practical way.” Melissa found it reassuring to hear from fellow participants: “who have done it already…it was good to be around that energy for an extended period of time.”
For Melissa, one of the standout aspects of Hero Training was its bare-bones Survival Week. The exact activities of this entrepreneurial boot camp are shrouded in secrecy, but Melissa told us that it “…builds up your resilience even more, it builds you up in terms of working with teams..[Survival Week] just builds you in terms of that mentality of..just keep going, just a little bit more.” Immediately following Survival Week was San Francisco Tech Week, where the Hero trainees attended “event after event” on top of doing “as much networking as possible.” Subsequent days of Hero Training included an all-day leadership training with an associate of one of the world’s best-known personal development professionals as well as an opportunity to pitch to the investment arm of Draper and a three-day hackathon.
Melissa’s time at Hero Training was essential in helping her realize the changes she needed to make in her business, including “…[putting] more structure in place to help me get to where I need to be. And a part of that includes revamping what my team looks like…I have also learned to be more prepared.” As a result of what she learned in the program, Melissa is redoing her approach to POCMI’s Global Job Fair week, which was already an anomaly in her industry. “Most companies who are doing international hiring help…are not trying to find you the candidates,” Melissa told us. Instead, international hiring companies “say [to their clients] ‘tell us when you find a candidate and we’ll help you through the process.’” POCMI is also unique among businesses of its kind in that it is geared towards finding candidates with specific skills instead of focused on finding candidates in specific countries. “We’re giving you a tool to use immediately,” Melissa told us regarding what differentiates POCMI from their competition. “So as you’re going back to your office, you aren’t going back to input the [candidate] information in your applicant tracking system, you are working directly with the tracking system with the purpose of hiring someone overseas, you are no longer going to confuse them with your local hires.”
EAB is proud of the insights and progress that Melissa made at Hero Training. We are excited to hear about what’s in store for POCMI. We see Melissa’s experience at Beyond the Beach and Draper University as just the beginning of how we plan to help emerging entrepreneurs. Want to learn how to get involved with us? Click here to get started!
In this installment of Bringing it Back to Beyond the Beach, a series where we catch up with the organizers, attendees and speakers behind our groundbreaking April 28th and 29th conference in Kingston, Jamaica, we talk to Melissa Pegus. Melissa is the Managing Director of Techstars Atlanta and New Orleans, both powered by J.P. Morgan, a startup operator and early-stage investor. She has spent more than a decade scaling startups from the pre-revenue stage through Series C growth, resulting in seven acquisitions. Melissa first learned about Entrepreneurs Across Borders in late 2022 when she spoke on a panel with our founder Martin Babinec at another tech conference in Jamaica. Just a few months later, Melissa was one of the featured speakers at Beyond the Beach, in addition to serving as a panelist for our conference pitch event.
Melissa came to Beyond the Beach not sure what to expect, other than sensing she was going to be in a space with “…wonderful people who are all generally interested in economic development and entrepreneurship in the Caribbean, specifically in Jamaica.” Besides Melissa’s many years of experience in the startup world, she spent her early career doing economic policy and analysis work in Trinidad, where her grandfather was a successful cocoa farmer. “Whenever he reached a new level of success, he would reinvest in his community,” she said of her grandfather. “So that’s what I thought was really important as an entrepreneur, how you reinvest and give back, and that’s a big part of my professional story.” At Beyond the Beach, Melissa
found a group of people who were aligned with her intention to spend her time and resources bringing about change she really cared about, calling her fellow participants “a peer group..who are committed to putting intention into action.”
Melissa was impressed by how: “Everyone [at Beyond the Beach] was clear on the impact they wanted to have.. they said ‘here’s the impact I want to have, here’s what’s working, here’s what’s not working, here’s how I can help and here’s how I want to be helped…’ I always listen for that.” She was able to find a sweet spot at Beyond the Beach, in that she discovered several “great” investment opportunities in addition to feeling aligned with the values and intentions of her fellow participants. Additionally, Melissa found yet another exciting opportunity for investment when she subsequently attended Beyond the Beach co-organizer Ingrid Riley’s Kingston Beta conference.
Entrepreneurs Across Borders is thrilled to have found Melissa as an advocate. She shares our belief that having an impact on others is as important as getting great returns from startup investing. “We know that if we do this successfully there are great returns for the entrepreneurs involved, but that’s not the sole goal,” says Melissa. “One of the goals was around impact and it was really, really nice to see the collaborative spirit in which that really came together.” If you share this ethos, won’t you join us? Find out how here.
It’s time again for Bring it Back to Beyond the Beach, a series where we catch up with the organizers, attendees and speakers behind our groundbreaking April 28th and 29th conference in Kingston, Jamaica. In this installment, we talk to Ingrid Riley, one of the founders of Beyond the Beach. Hailing from Jamaica, Ingrid is a leading figure in the Caribbean tech scene. She is the founder of SiliconCaribe, a media, events, and community building organization that offers a range of resources to support entrepreneurs. SiliconCaribe has produced or participated in over 300 tech events across 10 Caribbean countries, as well as in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada. These events include startup pitch competitions, trend forums and panels at SXSW, Black Tech Week, among other conferences and marketplaces. SiliconCaribe’s signature event is Kingston BETA, which is the Caribbean’s first and longest-running tech event series. Kingston BETA includes a startup pitch platform that has featured entrepreneurs from 10 Caribbean countries as well as the United States and the United Kingdom. Kingston BETA has earned corporate endorsements and partnerships and attracted attention from the government as well as international aid agencies, the investor community and the media. SiliconCaribe’s Dow Jones syndicated site is read by entrepreneurs, executives, investors and others in over 90 countries.
Why did you decide to partner with EAB to create Beyond the Beach? What was the process of creating the event like?
Why? Because our values and mission were aligned about supporting Caribbean entrepreneurship, innovation and excellence. SiliconCaribe and EAB are aligned. Also, because of [EAB] Founder Martin being a man who means what he says and does what he says he’s going to do. Integrity, transparency and follow-through are very important to me and deciding who I work with. The process [of creating Beyond the Beach] was great. Martin, Chris and I work well together. I listened and learned a bunch. I poured what I know and who I know into the process and we got it done over many meetings, emails and calls. Everything from the WHY of the event, to selection of speakers, finalizing content programming and location in addition to creating moments like the event-ending dinner at Devon House, the historic site of Jamaica’s first Black millionaire.
Did you have any hopes or expectations regarding how you and/or the attendees would experience Beyond the Beach?
There was a very clear intention as to what the theme was and who are the kind of people we wanted to attend. After many meetings and conversations, I pitched the name of the event and defined the intention behind the event. For me, it was Beyond the Beach the event that gathers people who are interested in knowing more about and also doing their part in helping to position Jamaica, the Caribbean, as a place where entrepreneurship, innovation and excellence lives— Beyond the Beach.
What did you actually experience at Beyond the Beach? What (if any) were your biggest takeaways from the event?
What I experienced was connection, pride, knowledge and validation. [Additionally, I expected] Connection to fresh and brilliant minds - super successful entrepreneurs and investors with fresh perspectives with a familiar vibe of loving what they do and why they do it. Pride - because it was great to be able to showoff and showcase our tech entrepreneurs and what they are doing and how they are thinking. Knowledge - because I love to learn from people who are smarter than me in areas I am new to. It was a great place to soak all of that up. Validation - I love what I do, and what I’ve achieved in doing these last 16 years in The Caribbean Tech Industry and Ecosystem, wins, losses and lessons and especially hearing Nasir speak about his journey in ecosystem building and investing, how Melissa thinks about the economics of community and Martin thinks about creating big impact. All of what was just beautiful and validating to me.
My biggest takeaway-even more confirmation that when you get the right people with the right vibe in a room, magic happens every single time. Additionally, some of the people in that room are definitely going to work together to make some great things happen. And I can’t wait to see how more of that has manifested as a bunch of things has happened since then.
What was the most unexpected part of the weekend for you?
Me crying while making my presentation. LOL. That was not how I had pictured it or rehearsed it, but emotions came flooding in when I saw 16 years of my life’s work, my career on a single slide deck while I was talking about it and the possibilities looking of what’s next with amazing new partners. It was one part holy sh— I did this, one part I am so grateful I get to do this and one part, so glad I didn’t give up and one part my Goodness,I can’t [wait] to see what comes next.
The other most unexpected part of the weekend [was] the investor “fight” over one of the tech entrepreneurs who pitched. There were like 3 investors making offers and jostling to be the one to close the deal. That was just fun and amazing to witness. It was unexpected, but not surprising if you know what I mean. I handpicked them for a reason - they were working on super interesting startups, they were at different stages of their journey and I knew they would showcase the range of our innovation culture and also peak the interest of the international investors.
How do you envision your relationship with EAB going forward?
[I envision] working closely to make Caribbean Seed Fund fully funded [and] making 10-15 great deals happen for amazing Caribbean tech entrepreneurs and going for a much larger fund after that. Working closely on any other project that’s focused on connecting, educating, inspiring and funding Caribbean Entrepreneurs so they create impact and build wealth for themselves and others.
This week on Bringing it Back to Beyond the Beach, a series where we catch up with the organizers, attendees and speakers from our April 28th and 29th conference in Kingston, Jamaica, we talked to Kelz Bethel. Kelz is a Trinidad and Tobago native and serial entrepreneur who is the co-founder and CEO of Recess, an app that works to combat mental health issues in the workplace that have cost the global economy billions of dollars in productivity. Kelz came to Beyond the Beach to pitch her business as well as to see: “what’s next for the [entrepreneurial] ecosystem in Jamaica..I expected to hear from investors and ecosystem builders who are interested in the growth of the Caribbean tech ecosystem and I got just that.”
Kelz described pitching Recess to Beyond the Beach’s panel of tech experts—including Melissa Pegus, Managing Director of Techstars Atlanta—as an “awesome and validating” experience. Although Recess is Kelz’s third startup, the very nature of her business —in which she must convey her passion for the mental health space— necessitates that she “lead with vulnerability and a personal story” when pitching. Kelz found her fellow participants to be a welcoming group, telling us: “being able to share our company’s vision and journey at Beyond the Beach with a group of genuine investors and builders quickly put me at ease.” There was definitely something special about Beyond the Beach: “The positivity and the passion flowed. This was different than many spaces I have been in. Typically there is more of a disconnected nature to networking events. People are usually focused on pitching and selling themselves more than actually connecting and helping.”
Kelz came away from Beyond the Beach with more than an appreciation for having connected with a group of like-minded people. As she told us, she received actionable advice from our panel of experts as well as from the other participants that has “really made a difference” to Recess in the last few months. Specifically, Recess has evolved in how they measure improvements made on their app and how that progress is quantified, packaged and communicated to prospective business customers.
Engaging and providing value to entrepreneurs like Kelz is at the heart of EAB, and our work has only just begun. Want to help us? Find out how here.
Interested in attending our future events? Sign up for our email newsletter here and stay connected.
Welcome back to Bring it Back to Beyond the Beach, a series where we catch up with the organizers, attendees and speakers behind our groundbreaking April 28th and 29th conference in Kingston, Jamaica. In this installment, we talk to Nedra Daugherty, EABConnect Project Manager. Nedra is a seasoned workforce development professional for a leading healthcare provider and non-profit health plan who has also worked for several Fortune 500 companies. Nedra has known our founder Martin Babinec for over 30 years—she was one of his first employees at Trinet, a professional employer organization that now has a market cap of over 5 billion dollars.
When Martin tapped Nedra to join the team at Entrepreneurs Across Borders, she didn’t hesitate. She was drawn to our commitment to connect emerging entrepreneurs with experienced entrepreneurs, something we believe catalyzes the exchange of information and resources that leads to the creation of successful businesses and, ultimately, economic self-sufficiency. Nedra had been to Jamaica several times over the years with her friends and family, making a point on each trip to venture away from the resorts. “We wanted to make sure our dollars went into the communities,” Nedra told us. She brought that same passion for the Jamaican people to Beyond the Beach, calling the program’s mix of talks by esteemed speakers and pitch presentations by entrepreneurs, “TEDx meets Shark Tank.”
“The day of the event, I could not have anticipated how well the program would run,” Nedra told us. “I could not have anticipated the energy in the room. I could not have anticipated the focus—everyone was absolutely focused on what was going on. Martin said more than once, there weren’t a lot of sidebar or hallway conversations going on…the presentations were obviously extremely important to the people in the room.”
Nedra was also part of the group from Entrepreneurs Across Borders who traveled to the offices of our partner, leading Jamaican nonprofit Food for the Poor, in Spanish Town. Nedra called the opportunity to speak with the Food for the Poor staff about how we might work together to help disadvantaged Jamaicans become entrepreneurs “extremely transformative for me.”
Having leaders like Nedra on our team who are committed to making a difference is essential to EAB, but we also need your help. Find out how here.
Interested in attending our future events? Sign up for our email newsletter here and stay connected.
There is a reason people say: “It’s not about what you know, but who you know.” So often, the most successful entrepreneurs can point to pivotal moments in their company’s lifecycle where key individuals opened new doors of opportunity. Whether it’s introductions to key partners, clients, talent, or investors, these social and professional connections scaffold a company’s growth, especially in the early years.
The U.S. is home to some of the biggest and most disruptive companies in the world: Apple, Amazon, Google, IBM, Meta, Pfizer, and SpaceX – to name just a few. This isn’t by chance – the U.S. has several key mechanisms in place to facilitate business connections and grow startup companies. For one, the U.S. has a culture of innovation that underscores much of its business-building infrastructure. Organizations designed to accelerate business development like chambers of commerce, business accelerator spaces, co-working facilities, and other business cooperatives can be found in U.S. cities both big and small. There is also a large venture capital ecosystem in place, which means startups can often find alternative funding sources in lieu of, or in addition to, bank loans. In addition, there are government incentive programs, business “bootcamps” and dizzying array of other resources that make the U.S. one of the best places to start a business.
Unfortunately, these resources aren’t available everywhere.
Entrepreneurs in developing nations often struggle to make those key connections that would otherwise afford them some much-needed mobility. The infrastructure to support successful startups just isn’t in place, despite the incredible untapped talent and innovation that can be found among the populace.
That's why we're excited to introduce our newest project: EAB Connect – the world’s first online network designed to connect entrepreneurs in emerging economies with experienced entrepreneurs and investors from around the world. Working with one of our biggest partners, Food for the Poor, Entrepreneurs Across Borders is developing its own disruptive technology to catalyze new business in communities across the globe, helping under-resourced innovators access and leverage new connections and investment opportunities to get their businesses off the ground.
We are in the process of assembling our innovation team. If you are an investor, entrepreneur, or a business development professional, please consider signing up for our newsletter below. As we begin to conduct market research and beta testing for our new EAB Connect platform, we’ll want your help in assessing the technology before it goes to market. Additionally, we need to build what we’re calling our Global Impact Network: a group of investment leaders and entrepreneurs from all over the world who would like to work together to launch high-impact startups in emerging economies.
With the launch of EAB Connect, Entrepreneurs Across Borders will be leveraging the power of technology to transform communities across the globe. Together, we’re changing the world for the better. Join us today!
It's fascinating how a thoughtfully curated group of individuals can have the same impact as hundreds, or even thousands. This was precisely the vision behind Beyond the Beach, a transformative event we recently hosted in the vibrant city of Kingston, Jamaica. In this blog post, we will explore the historical significance of our very first Beyond the Beach, and its mission to unite investors and thought leaders to accelerate entrepreneurship throughout the Caribbean.
The Birth of Beyond the Beach
Just four months ago, the foundation was laid for an extraordinary event designed to bring together Jamaican and US investors, entrepreneurs, non-profits, and leaders. The goal was to create a highly curated group that would fuel collaboration and innovation in the Caribbean. Beyond the Beach aimed to transcend the boundaries of traditional networking events and become a catalyst for real change.
For those who attended, Beyond the Beach left an indelible mark. The event featured a lineup of exceptional speakers who shared their insights and experiences.
Audrey Richards from the Development Bank of Jamaica provided a snapshot of the current startup landscape and discussed prospects.
Melissa Pegus from Tech Stars Atlanta shed light on the significance of a community-driven ecosystem.
Nasir Ali, drawing from his experience in Upstate New York, shared wisdom on what a member-managed seed fund can achieve.
Ingrid Riley captivated the audience with her talk on the Caribbean tech scene, emphasizing the transformative power of a decade.
In addition to the inspiring speeches, the event hosted a pitch platform where four outstanding startups showcased their potential. These startups caught the attention of numerous US-based investors, fostering exciting opportunities for collaboration. Attendees also had the pleasure of savoring a Nouveau Jamaican feast prepared by one of the country's most talented chefs at the historic Devon House.
Big Steps Towards Positive Change
On Saturday, EAB Founder, Martin Babinec, shared the compelling story of his 15-year journey, where he started as a struggling entrepreneur and developed into a Silicon Valley icon and celebrated philanthropist. Martin then announced there were efforts underway to form a new entrepreneurial funding mechanism, The Caribbean Seed Fund, which would mark a significant step in fostering entrepreneurial growth in the region. Beyond the Beach also became the birthplace of new and exciting relationships between leaders and innovators in the Caribbean and the U.S.
Beyond the Event
If you missed out on Beyond the Beach, there's no need to fret. We are working on sharing videos of the presentations and highlights on our YouTube channel. However, the journey does not end there. We invite you to join us on our mission to identify, curate, and connect emerging entrepreneurs in developing nations with seasoned entrepreneurs. Our goal is to help these entrepreneurs take the next steps in their journey.
Now It’s Your Turn
EAB is actively seeking volunteers to assist with future events, communications, graphic design, and various other roles. We believe there is a place for everyone who wants to lend a helping hand. Additionally, we welcome donations to support scholarships for entrepreneurs, cover the overhead costs of future events and professional development experiences, and fund the development of our EAB Connect software platform, which will connect investors and entrepreneurs from all over the world.
We’re so grateful for the experience of Beyond the Beach – from the people to the location, to the innovative ideas and catalytic energy we generated, Beyond the Beach will always be regarded as the first of many big steps toward achieving our mission to identify, curate and connect entrepreneurs from all over the world.
Meet Latoya Richards Franklin, General Manager of the Caribbean Alternative Investment Association (CARAIA) in Kingston, Jamaica. A native of Kingston, Latoya has also worked as an economist in the highest levels of the Jamaican government, including in the office of the cabinet. In April, Latoya attended our inaugural Beyond the Beach event in Kingston, despite the fact that weekend conferences are not exactly popular in Jamaica. Luckily for us, she liked it. “Beyond the Beach was a remarkable event,” Latoya told us. A conversation she had at the opening reception with our founder, Martin Babinec, “allowed for an understanding of our unified mission to fuel the growth of our regional entrepreneurs, investors and key players in the alternative investment ecosystem.”
From Left: Ingrid Riley, Latoya Richards Franklin
We partnered with Jamaican tech expert Ingrid Riley to create Beyond the Beach because we believe that, in order to succeed on a global scale, Caribbean entrepreneurs need more access to early-stage investment capital and connectivity to overseas business networks—particularly business networks in the United States. To this end, we used Beyond the Beach as a way to invite our accomplished attendees to collaborate with us on the Caribbean Seed Fund (CSF).
For Latoya, the programming at Beyond the Beach made for “a day of learning, deepened connections, and information sharing.” She came away from the event with insights on best practices in entrepreneurship, start-up ecosystems and investing from speakers like Greg Moran, exited entrepreneur and founder of Evergreen Mountain Equity Partners; Melissa Pegus, Managing Director of Tech Stars Atlanta; Kevin Cadette, founder of Black Angels Atlanta; and Nasir Ali, Partner at StartFast. Latoya was pleasantly surprised to be approached by entrepreneurs and other Jamaicans interested in partnering with CARAIA as well as receiving help from the organization. She was also pleased at the chance to meet Beyond the Beach co-organizer Ingrid Riley, telling us she enjoyed Ingrid’s “passion for her industry backed by the force she carries in bringing the collision of founders and investors across the Caribbean.”
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing more reflections and takeaways from Beyond the Beach participants, speakers and organizers in our Bringing it Back to Beyond the Beach series. Stay tuned!
We want to keep growing the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Jamaica but we need your help. Learn more about Entrepreneurs Across Borders here
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