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.