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The New Economy is Disruptive – Is the Caribbean Ready?

FDPN-Welcome to FutureI recently read an article on Tech Crunch, the piece spoke of the shift in emphasis in commerce and highlighted an interesting observation. It cited that Uber, the world largest taxi company doesn’t own a fleet of cabs, and media giant FaceBook doesn’t produce any content of its own. It went on to point out that Alibaba and Amazon while being retail giants don’t have any inventory, and AirBnB which occupies the hotel space doesn’t own any hotel properties.

These businesses are service led and have excelled on the execution and constant evolution of an idea. This is significant to us in the Caribbean, for several reasons:

  • We tend to scoff and ridicule those of differing views.

  • Questions and criticism are not taken well. Indeed if you do either you run the risk of being marginalised or cast asunder.

  • Too often what qualifies an idea is not the idea itself but the idea’s sponsor, and so meritocracy is further undermined.

  • Our traditional lending institutions will only lend against an asset or some security which can be repossessed. Clearly the examples cited in my opening paragraph though obviously successful businesses would have been found wanting by our banks.

I was listening to an interview with someone from Google Ventures, who said something quite interesting. He said they were very careful in how they “selected” projects to fund and how they handled those who were unsuccessful. He pointed out that if you told Ellen and David that their ideas were ludicrous and ridiculed them, you would be unlikely to ever receive another idea from them. However, if they were told there were some ideas which more closely met our criteria, though they were rejected or unsuccessful, they would be satisfied with the process and more likely to try again. We in the Caribbean are not so forgiving.

So what is the modern Caribbean entrepreneur to do? What will the Caribbean business of the future look like? Starved of cash and struggling to find talented employees with creative thinking and analytical skills?

The future is not written, but it is shaped by those with vision, ideas and the ability and opportunity to execute them. We need an education system and employers that looks beyond grades and qualifications and looks to aptitude, ability and skills. We need to encourage and respect ideas and those with ideas. We need a financial system that recognises that the future is not what it was 20 years ago. If we are to see innovative and dynamic businesses which move beyond low-level retail, and mercantile activity then we need a financial system that will support and give wings to such.

You can’t get a different outcome by repeating the same actions.

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