Gordon Swaby

On becoming 24

A lot of people are offended when one of the first questions you ask them is, “so, what do you do?”.  I’m guilty of this, but let me explain.  I think what you do to earn money makes up a large part of who you are, no doubt, after all, you spend  8 hours or more per day doing it. So, me asking “so, what do you do” isn’t me trying to pry, it’s me trying to understand what you’re like as a person.

After giving it some thought, I realize that I don’t ask “so, what do you do for a living?” because, I never really think about it that way, I never really think that some people work for a living, because I don’t and I tend to (mistakenly) think that way about others, too. But the reality is that many people work to live and nothing else. They don’t work because they’re passionate about what they’re doing, they do it to literally just pay the bills. In regards to this I think you have 3 sets of people. People who work to pay the bills and because opportunities are scarce, people who work because they have no idea what they want to do with their life and people who work because they are passionate about what they do. The first set, I think, generally lives from paycheck to paycheck, the second doesn’t necessarily struggle, but aren’t sure what they want to do with their life, but know that they have to to maintain a certain lifestyle.  These people are either not content with what they do or are indifferent. The last set are doing what they love; sometimes they make a lot of money, sometimes they don’t, but what’s most important to them is that they’re doing what they love and they’re not just doing it to live.

 

A photo posted by Gordon Swaby (@gordonswaby) on

  I think I fall in the last set. I eat, sleep and dream entrepreneurship; that’s what I’m passionate about; I’m doing what I love and it has never felt like work, ever.  The idea of an enterprise and starting with just an idea and turning it into a big, profitable entity excites me.  That’s one of the reasons I wake up each morning excited about life. That is why I can’t write about becoming 24 without talking about what I do. In my 2012, “on becoming 22” blog post I wrote: I think a large part of being an entrepreneur is having confidence. You have to to envision it before you say it (out loud or type it) and you have to believe it before you do it. Two years later and I still believe that to be true.  Entrepreneurship can be such a lonely journey, lonely because regardless of how much advice you get, ultimately the decision lies with you; if you think about that too much it can be terrifying.  I read a blog post a few months ago titled “Disappearing into the Fire” by Jerry Colonna. I encourage all budding and current entrepreneurs to read that. So, 2014? Wow, what a year! I’m not even sure where to start, but let’s go!

  • Selected by the Inter-American Development Bank as one of ten  innovators in Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • Celebrated 5 years in a relationship with my beautiful girlfriend, Francine Derby.
  • I travelled to six  countries [Brazil, France, Switzerland, Panama, The USA (Washington, D.C.),  and Trinidad & Tobago] and they were all amazing and life-changing experiences.
  •  Partnership with Grace Kennedy’s First Global Bank for an exciting initiative (Flipped Classroom Project)
  •  Partnership with Versan Educational Services [SAT Prep]
  • EduFocal expansion to Trinidad and Tobago
  •  EduFocal partners with the Jamaican Government  to place the service on close to 1000 tablet computers for students
  •  Curatorship for the World Economic Forum Global Shapers Kingston Hub
  • Second annual EduFocal Awards successfully staged

 

 

 It’s been a whirlwind of a year with a lot of emotional highs and lows, both personally and professionally, but at no point did I ever feel defeated. Goal setting is important to me and that helped me to measure whether or not I was making progress on a goal. It also allowed me to adjust my strategy and expectations when I wasn’t getting the kind of results that I wanted. I say “kind of results” and not results because rarely do things go the way you plan. Things generally either work out better than you thought they would or not the way you expected them to be, but nothing beats a plan.    

  A photo posted by Gordon Swaby (@gordonswaby) on

 

As I close out the year I reflect on the things that I’ve achieved, the things that I can do better and the things I plan to achieve. I’m very excited about 2015 and the things that are in store for me. Here’s to 2015!

 

A photo posted by Gordon Swaby (@gordonswaby) on

A photo posted by francinederby (@francinederby) on

 

P.S I want to thank local, regional, international media and others for following our journey. Here are some of the many stories throughout the year:

Young entrepreneurs take to the web to boost development by the UK Guardian

Young Innovator Educating The Nation’s Youth Online by the Jamaica Gleaner

Swaby’s EduFocal On A Roll Internationally by the Jamaica Gleaner

Presentation the IDB president and Board of Governors in Brazil 

Gordon Swaby ON ANOTHER LEVEL by the Jamaica Gleaner

EduFocal Does It  by the Jamaica Gleaner

EduFocal to help T&T’s CSEC, SEA students by the Trinidad Express

Jamaican innovator to bring Edufocal to T&T by the Trinidad Guardian

EduFocal awards top GSAT, CSEC students by the Jamaica Observer

 

 


“Entrepreneurship Training Gives Youth False Hope”, A response

My friend and fellow World Economic Forum Global Shaper, Jaevion Nelson in his Gleaner column offers a rather cynical perspective on entrepreneurship training.  You can find his column here.  As an entrepreneur and as somebody who is passionate about entrepreneurship, I feel the need to respond.

To start, I don’t believe that you can create entrepreneurs.  I believe there are certain innate traits that are required to at least increase the odds of success in entrepreneurship. I say increase and not  guarantee because even with these traits, you’re still not guaranteed any success.  The true value in entrepreneurship workshops is helping to identify and develop entrepreneurial talent.  Many J’cans are forced into informal entrepreneurship (necessity entrepreneurship) because of a poor job market and/or because they’re not qualified for the job that they want so they decide to “do dem own ting”.

Jaevion’s cynicism, unfortunately only allows him to see a half empty cup. Sure, many will likely attempt to start a business and “fail”, but the upside is that they now have experience that they didn’t have prior and are now more attractive to a potential employer. Many J’cans are successful “hustlers” who have never been taught anything about business.  Workshops and training give them the opportunity outside of a formal school environment to see the value in (for e.g) registering their entity as a sole proprietorship, partnership or a limited liability and helping them to understand which is best for them. Why it’s important to have a bank account and to develop a relationship with the bank, why it’s important to keep good accounting records, tax education and so much more; basic information that can  potentially mean the difference between $150,000 in monthly revenue or $800,000 in monthly revenue, information that they wouldn’t have had prior.

Jaevion’s cynicism also didn’t allow him to mention in his column how the space has changed so much over the last couple of years. When I started EduFocal in 2012 there was no talk of venture capital or angel investing. Now we have venture capital conferences, Startup Jamaica,  Startup Weekend, and so much more. I think I can comfortably say that It’s easier for the savvy school leaver to get equity financing now (which is preferable to debt financing) than it was for them 4 or 5 years ago. There’s so much that needs to happen between coming up with a great idea and getting funding for it and training is a huge part of that process.

Entrepreneurship isn’t for everybody, and that’s fine.  It’s nothing to embarrassed about. But entrepreneurial training can still be extremely valuable for people who want to be employees.; it allows them to be intrapreneurs. Something that can enhance and transform the organizations that they are with.

Statistically speaking, most will start a business and it will likely fail, but some will do well, well enough for them to potentially employee thousands of people. I encourage entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking, whether you’re an employer or an employee because Jamaica so desperately needs it.


How to Start a Conversation You’re Dreading 

Peter Bregman:

Next time you have a conversation you’re dreading, lead with the part you’re dreading. Get to the conclusion in the first sentence. Cringe fast and cringe early. It’s a simple move that few of us make consistently because it requires emotional courage. At least the first time.


My Gleaner Column: New Media Must Pick Fights They Can Win 

At 180 years old, the Jamaica Gleaner is one of the oldest newspaper companies in the western hemisphere and the world. Today I help them to celebrate with a guest column. Read, enjoy and share. Happy 180th Birthday to the ‘Old lady of North Street’. 

The company is celebrating its 180th birthday today, and that’s not by chance. It’s still alive and thriving because it has adapted with time to appeal to a different generation of readers. But this time is different – different because of the Internet.

Now more than ever, the modern press has to deal with increased competition. Who is this competition? I am. You are, too, if you’re armed with a cell phone and an Internet connection. In fact, everybody who has a cell phone and access to the Internet is competition to the modern press. What’s even more interesting, we are all ‘journalists’ that aren’t in it to make money. With the rise of social networks, we have been conditioned to share a lot of our lives, from the very mundane to the very important


Sirius Satellite Radio in Jamaica: A guide

Jamaican radio is great ok, but sometimes a little diversity is good.  For those who need that diversity the answer is SiriusXM Satellite Radio 

What is Sirius ?

This is how they describe it:

Welcome to commercial-free music from every genre, live play-by-play sports, the biggest news and talk, and the hottest entertainment at your fingertips, 24/7. Welcome to an All Access package that lets you listen to all of it everywhere — in your car, at home or the office on your computer, or on your smartphone and tablet.

Screenshot 2014-08-13 19.36.42

I’ve always wanted Sirius in my vehicle, but didn’t fully explore how to do it until recently. I couldn’t find any information online regarding getting it done in Jamaica so I had to quiz a friend of mine who had it, hence this guide.

Steps

Step 1: Don’t make the mistake I did, I purchased the wrong device initially :(  Sirius comes in different flavors, I got the cheapest one. It’s called the SiriusXM Satellite Radio SSV7V1 Stratus 7 Satellite Radio . You can find it here,on Amazon for about $50 US.  So, theoretically only people living the in USA are supposed to have Sirius, but hey, it works here, so I can’t complain. I made the mistake and purchased this, it’s IMPORTANT that the device has “Sirius” labelled on it. The reason? Sirius and XM, even though they’re the same companies (one bought the other) use different satellites, the latter doesn’t work in Jamaica

Step 2: When you finally have the device in hand, you will need to install it in your vehicle. I couldn’t do it, so I used Auto Traders Jamaica located on Old Hope Road. Of course if you’re savvy enough, you can DIY.

Step 3: The last step, this part gave me some issues. You’ll need to contact Sirius and ask them to send a signal to your radio to activate. Their contact number is a toll free number so you can’t call them from your Jamaican phone, therefore you’ll need to use a VOIP app like Skype, Google Hangouts, Viber or any similar app. You can also visit their website from your phone and ask them to activate via chat. Please note, the radio will need to be on for them to activate  They have different subscription options, you can find them here. I am currently on their Sirius All Access package for $18.99 per month + tax. Their other options are: Sirius Select,  Sirius  Mostly Music, [ Sirius News, Sports & Talk, Sirius Family-Friendly, SiriusXM All-in-One and Sirius A La Carte – These are hidden at the bottom of their page — sneaky bastards ]. Your Scotiabank Visa Debit card or any local dual currency visa or mastercard will work fine. You will however need to use a US address ( I used my shipme address).

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My favorite stations (so far):

  • Howard Stern (101)
  • CNN (115)
  • BBC (118)
  • Wharton Business Radio (111)
  • Joint (Reggae music) (042)
  • Pulse
  • BPM

I hope this helps, if you need any help leave a comment and I’ll try my best.

P.S You can subscribe and listen to Sirius without having the radio in your vehicle. The alternative is listening to it on your phone, tablet or on your computer.

 


Digicel and LIME’s move to ban VOIP apps bad for innovation in Jamaica

The move by Jamaica’s two telecoms to ban voice over internet protocol (VOIP) applications on their networks sets a dangerous precedent and will inevitably stifle innovation in Jamaica.  Skype, one of the applications banned by both networks was founded 10 years ago by non-Americans and was in 2011, sold to Microsoft for 8.5 billion US dollars.

Their decision to ban VOIP almost guarantees that no innovation from that space will come from Jamaica, sets us at a disadvantage and makes our country more uncompetitive.

In a June 29, 2014 Gleaner article, Digicel’s Antonia Graham, head of communications at Digicel is quoted as saying  “Unlicensed VoIP operators like Viber and Nimbuzz use telecoms networks to deliver their services, but they do not pay any money for the privilege,” she goes on to say “the unauthorised activity puts enormous pressures on bandwidth – which means customers’ data usage experience is negatively impacted as a result”. As an Internet Entrepreneur, how am I supposed to take that message?

My startup, http://www.EduFocal.com is an online social learning service for GSAT and CSEC students in Jamaica; we offer test prep questions and answers in a fun, unconventional way. We do, however, plan to expand to video content in the near future and offer our service to hundreds of schools across Jamaica and the Caribbean. Thousands of students will be consuming our content on their cell phones, tablets and desktop computers and this will no doubt “put enormous pressures on bandwidth” for Digicel. As a small startup, will I at some point be required hire lawyers to negotiate with Digicel for this “privilege” instead of focusing on innovating?  Are other small Jamaican entrepreneurs who are creating opportunities for others be required to do the same at some point?

Many Jamaican entrepreneurs have used and continue to use the internet to create opportunities for themselves and others. Marc Gayle, Co-Founder of http://www.10poundpledge.com/  and a friend of mine allows users to pay ( via the internet) for an exercise program that can be streamed or downloaded for use in the home is an example of a service that has the potential to utilise above average bandwidth for his product. Marc and I are two examples, but there are many other entrepreneurs who could potentially be affected by this move by Digicel and LIME in the future.

For us to achieve Vision 2030, Jamaican internet entrepreneurs need an open internet where innovation is allowed and encouraged and freedom reigns. A regulated Internet is a comforting thought to internet service providers (ISPs), but a scary thought to entrepreneurs and the ecosystem around them. I hope Digicel and LIME reconsider this decision and explore equitable ways of maintaining and growing their revenue and staying competitive in this ever changing world.


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