Gordon Swaby

“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.


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).




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.

The Narcissistic Entrepreneur

I came across the below post on Facebook and it truly made me think about who I am and how I view others.  It was written by my friend Niel Harper. Shared with his permission. Enjoy!

It’s been quite a while since I have posted anything even marginally controversial on Facebook. But there is a trend I have been witnessing that has necessitated a brief sojourn out from my agitation embargo. I am going to refer to the aforementioned trend as “narcissistic entrepreneurship”, and it is characterized by inflated egos, superiority complexes, and a certain intolerance / indignation for anyone who is not “working for himself or herself”.

First of all, let me state that none of us ever truly work for ourselves. We work for our employers, customers, shareholders, investors, employees, families and most of all for the state (have to pay those taxes folks!!!). Trade and commerce are symbiotic in nature, and the complex interweaving of dependencies is often forgotten (or ignored) by most.

Secondly, entrepreneurship is a compendium. There are several types of entrepreneurs; all of which must be understood and appreciated for what they are worth. Now let’s take a look at some of the different types:

1. The Octo-Boss
These are the brave and adventurous souls (or so they think of themselves) who have started a small enterprise and take on numerous roles — strategic, tactical and operations — to keep the business afloat. They market the business, manage the books, answer the phones, meet with potential investors, serve the customers, and anything else that is required to be successful. Work-life balance maybe an issue, but who cares. They are their own boss. Right?

2. The Obstinate Artist
These individuals are generally ‘anti-system’ and committed to freely living their passions. Albeit, many of them are starving or not making enough profit to live a comfortable existence. Still, they are the ‘free spirits’ among us — the painters, musicians, budding fashion designers, etc. — who enjoy being untethered and have made a statement by rebelling against the man and his wage labor oppression. Fight the power!

3. The Freelancer
This person currently runs their life as if they are actually working for a company. They are so highly skilled and effective that they only work on a contractual or project basis, They maintain flexible working hours or work remotely, negotiate excellent remuneration and a litany of perks, and pretty much still enjoy all the benefits of being an employee (without actually being one). Some of them even secure such large contracts that they can outsource the work to others. All power to them.

4. The Simplistic Frugal
He/she has a simple business model. They have found one thing that they’re very good at and committed to (e.g. Selling coconuts, snow cones, fruits, nuts, grilled fish, etc.). They generally have mastered their supply chain, or have very little overheads, and profit margins are substantial. They are not extravagant by any means, save most of their money, and have made some very shrewd investments. Over an extended period, they have build significant wealth, but one would not know from seeing them. Be careful who you judge.

Some of you maybe wondering what is the point I am trying to make. It is simple. There are many entrepreneurs who think their path is so much more righteous than the road travelled by those in the money-for-labor system. But every entrepreneur is not a success, and every success is not an entrepreneur. For those beating themselves up because they haven’t started their own company, think about where you fit on the compendium. Landing on the cover of Entrepreneur or Fortune is not the only route. Every single one of us has the ability to create something. And we all can succeed if we find our niche and perfect our craft. One love and best of success!

About the Author

Niel Harper is a subject matter expert in ICTs for development, cybersecurity, technology governance, and online learning. He is engaged with a number of organizations in the Internet ecosystem, and is passionate about educating and empowering individuals to use technology to improve their lives and their communities.

You can find his blog here


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