AMCHAM T&T Promotes Building Investible Businesses in T&T



The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) in collaboration with our partners at Become Investible hosted the Webinar: “Building An Investible Business” to provide business leaders with direct access to expert investors and finance professionals. This Webinar sought to demystify the investment process, address the challenges with attracting investment, and provide insights into what SMEs can do to access funding from outside traditional channels.

 Despite the country’s current economic challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, AMCHAM T&T believes the roadmap to recovery is dependent on ensuring T&T remains an attractive and sought-after investment hub for both local and foreign investors. “While we are in the process of vaccine administration, we must continue seeking out new opportunities and implement better strategies that will help us remain a competitive and attractive destination to conduct business,” says Melissa Pierre, Senior Trade and Policy Specialist at AMCHAM T&T.

“For this to happen we are going to need a more collaborative environment that is facilitated by more tailored policies to overcome restrictions and barriers to trade and foreign direct investment. We have started this work already, but we can’t afford to have COVID-19 push us even further behind which forces us to play catch up,” Pierre said. “The private sector will continue to have a vital role in the local economy after the pandemic and therefore businesses will need more open, transparent and dependable conditions that must ensure everything from the ease of doing business to easier transactions at the ports, flexible labor markets, and protection on intellectual property rights so that SMEs can attract investors.”

 Pierre said T&T can look to Jamaica who has utilized private equity as an important tool in the financial system that has proven beneficial to business. “In Jamaica, private equity and the junior stock exchange have been important sources of capital for growth. Jamaica has something like a dozen private equity shops and several companies listed on the junior exchange while T&T has one private equity shop and two companies on the junior exchange. So, T&T needs financing vehicles to fill the gaps not being served by traditional financial institutions. Furthermore, access to financing is not always about the availability of capital. In fact, T&T is very liquid. The issue is often how SME’s present their case.”

 Meanwhile, Kevin C. Valley, Founder and Managing Director at Become Investible says the Caribbean business financing ecosystem needs an evolution. “Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurs in the Caribbean are largely underserved by existing financial structures and face significant challenges in accessing finance to grow and scale their businesses. Many businesses in the region lack understanding of what investors/lenders are looking for and how to find the right sources and types of financing, and do not consider what is needed to build a business that is prepared for the future and can scale and generate income for generations.”

 Kriss Marcus, General Manager of Aspire Fund Management Company Limited (T&T) says companies that possess strong business models have been overleveraged over the last 1-2 decades arising out of limited financing options outside of the traditional debt markets. “I would assert that if these companies can extinguish debts to more comfortable levels with the injection of private equity, these companies will position themselves to go public. Our SME Stock Exchange is at present, under-participated and to the extent that the Minister of Finance introduced incentives for SMEs is laying a good foundation for another wave of non-energy sector economic development and foreign exchange earning capability. The missing component between these companies moving from their current state to becoming publicly traded is accessing private equity.”

Karrian Hepburn-Malcolm, Vice President, Sales & Service at Trinidad and Tobago Unit Trust Corporation says there is a growing need, especially among younger persons, to become successful entrepreneurs. As such, under the pillar of Entrepreneurship, the Unit Trust Corporation created several entrepreneurial initiatives: the URPRENEUR video series, podcast, and hub; Scale-Up; and sponsorship, partnerships and awards with other institutions.

 “These initiatives are specially geared to facilitate the advancement, development, encouragement, recognition and support needed by entrepreneurs from the Unit Trust Corporation,” Hepburn says. “Given the aim of this event at highlighting what entrepreneurs should focus on when preparing to approach investors and when building sustainable, scalable businesses, we at the UTC felt that this event aligned with our entrepreneurial vision to nurture and support businesses in their continued growth and expansion.”

Christopher Williams, CEO of PROVEN Management Ltd. says the biggest challenge that confronts entrepreneurs is making sure their businesses have the right mix of competence and capital. “What I have found in my experience is that very attractive competence attracts capital. Put the focus as much as possible in putting together good competence. How you do that is first ensuring that your own experience is solid. Then put together a strong competence team, not just people will who are like-minded or are your friends. Put together a strong competent team so that the competence can attract the capital.”

Beresford Grey, CEO of Sygmus Group in Jamaica also says having a strong team helped his company to list on the Jamaican Stock Exchange after only 12 months in operations. “When you are thinking about raising capital and growing your business and you look at the stock exchange as one avenue to raise capital then you have to start over from day one with the mindset of a very organized business covering everything from your accounting to your operations, and your governance structure.” Beresford said Sygmus created an early growth structure starting with investing in their leadership at the board level, their operations and then the competency of their team which helped position the company as a creditable organization with a strong leadership team and governance structure, that can be entrusted with capital.

Vashtie Dookiesingh, Senior Specialist at the IDB Group (T&T) says entrepreneurs must also operate with a value-oriented mindset to grow and become attractive to investors. “The fundamentals of business are the same: how are you creating value, which means you are addressing a problem. But most importantly, how do you capture value from what you’re delivering? You need to have a very clear idea. So be in love with the problem that you’re solving and not necessarily the solution or the channel that you’re seeking to use to solve that problem because situations can change, and you will need to pivot as the situation demands.”

 AMCHAM T&T would like to thank Become Investible for their support and partnership on this important issue as we believe the Pathway to the Americas is built on ensuring T&T remains an attractive investment destination to foreign and domestic investors that will ensure further economic growth and sustainable development. AMCHAM T&T would also like to thank our Sponsor: Trinidad and Tobago Unit Trust Corporation for their support to host this Webinar and for taking strong leadership on the topic.

 AMCHAM T&T remains strongly committed to our members and the wider business community as we continue to work on your behalf through these challenging times.