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ICT and Financial giants discuss solutions for ICT Sector

Can we afford not to partner to build and create business value in the local ICT Sector?

This was the question posed by Nigel Chinapoo, Chief Information Officer at Colonial Life (T&T), to CEOs of ICT companies, C-Level Executives of major commercial banks and foreign venture capital companies and CEOs of government agencies that court entrepreneurs at the international ICT/Finance Symposium, Developing Financing Solutions for the ICT Clusters, held at the Trinidad Hilton on September 30, 2009.

The Symposium was first of its kind held in Trinidad and Tobago led by the private sector and represented a landmark occasion for the ICT Clusters initiative: a joint partnership between approximately 40 of the country’s leading local, private ICT firms and locally-based education, research institutes and associations and e TecK, brought together to enhance the global competitiveness of our local ICT firms by addressing the challenges to the growth and expansion of the industry as a whole.

The event brought together local and international ICT companies, from start-ups to top firms in the industry, as well as financiers from North America and the Caribbean region to discuss the potential of developing appropriate financing instruments targeted towards the growth and development of an ever growing ICT sector which currently contributes approximately 3% to National GDP.

In his presentation, Chinapoo brought to the fore the major theme of the day’s proceedings: The importance of business collaboration between financial institutions and members of the ICT Cluster companies to help financiers further understand the needs of technology firms in T&T, increase financial flows to such businesses and so improve these companies’ ability to further develop into globally competitive conglomerates.

“Whilst many other initiatives and events come together to shape the ever changing fabric of our society, the last two decades must have demonstrated to us the unique role of Information Communication Technology, as a most significant change agent, the domino effect of the internet has infiltrated all spheres of our daily lives in every corner of the globe,” said Chinapoo, who also served as Master of Ceremonies for the Symposium. “I know we will here today, make history in the short and medium term growth of the ICT sector and in particular the development of the sector’s second most important resource, funding.”

Speakers at the Symposium included CEO of Teleios Systems Limited, Ronald Hinds whose presentation on Financing Challenges Faced by the IT Industry sought to give real-life examples of the lucrative business opportunities that could be provided by local ICT firms and the difficulties experienced in making these opportunities a reality.  Also at the podium were ICT and financial gurus such as Managing Director, Investment Banking of First Caribbean International Bank, Ian Chinapoo (Funding Strategies for ICT Companies); Founder and General Partner of Whalen, Ainsworth Capital Management a venture capital firm from Massachussetts, Layne Ainsworth (Opportunities for US Venture Capital Cooperation); Associate Professor of Law and former Senior Executive at the first pan-Caribbean private equity fund in the British Commonwealth Caribbean, Eleanor Brown (Private Equity and ICT); Managing Director of Canadian Venture Capitalist firm, Dynamic Equity Fund based in Trinidad, John E. Van Dyke, along with the Chairman of Northcore Technologies, Christopher Bulger and President of Southcore Technologies, James L. Moskos (Funding through Joint Venture); and CEO of HealthNet in T&T, Dr. Neil Parsan (Informatics in Healthcare).

Delivering the feature address, Minister of Trade and Industry, Senator the Honourable Mariano Browne said that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago was giving its full support to the ICT Cluster initiative and that it remained committed to a public-private partnership which would help young and innovative ICT entrepreneurs identify and address the challenges to their growth and expansion. He urged the industry to collect data that the government could use in its future negotiations to open up new markets for the sector. He also said that the government was creating the environment to enable IT companies to boldly drive the growth of their companies in this fast-moving, fast-paced industry.

Led by a Steering Committee comprised of Nigel Chinapoo, CIO of Colonial Life (Chairman);  Keith Thomas Chairman, Illuminat;  Lindahl Ghany, CEO MBC Computers,   Glynis Alexander Tam, General Manager, InfoLink Services, Danny Jaggernauth, CEO Espirit Consultants, Nicholas Galt Executive Chairman, the TSL Group and  Ronald Hinds, CEO Teleios, the ICT Clusters Initiative has already achieved some notable achievements.

One of these has been the formation of the Finance Action Committee (FAC) which is another public-private partnership to ensure that local and international financiers have sight of and access to local ICT opportunities which will in turn provide the foundation for targeted measurable growth in the number of ICT companies based locally and operating regionally. The FAC already held a Financiers Introductory Session in May 2009 to inform the financial institutions and local venture capital companies about the ICT Cluster and its mission.

Developing Financing Solutions for the ICT Clusters was the second round of this introductory session, whereby the ICT companies themselves could expose the financial challenges they faced in developing innovative businesses.

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