Can the Caribbean Birth the Next Unicorn?

InstaCart, a prominent US-based grocery delivery application, made its much-anticipated debut in the public market last week with an Initial Public Offering (IPO) valued at a staggering $10 billion USD. This move catapults the company into the league of tech giants such as Facebook, Uber, AirBnB, and SpaceX, all of which have executed multi-billion-dollar IPOs within the past decade.

Globally, founders and startup teams pursue audacious ideas with the goal of effecting revolutionary change and achieving financial success. But what are the essential ingredients for birthing a unicorn company? And does the Caribbean have what it takes to foster such success?

Dr. Nicholas Brathwaite, Founding Managing Partner of Celesta Capital, a US and Indian-based firm renowned for nurturing promising global companies, will explore these questions with JoEllen Laryea, Manager (ag) from Caribbean Export, as part of the Fireside Keynote session titled “Preparing the Caribbean’s Next Unicorn: Disruptive Technologies and the Venture Capital Ecosystem” at the Caribbean Investment Forum (CIF2023). CIF2023 is scheduled from October 23rd to 25th in Nassau, The Bahamas.

“Participating in the Caribbean Investment Forum is an exciting opportunity to explore the potential for creating the next unicorn in the Caribbean. But the question is, do we really need a unicorn in the Caribbean or simply sound business practices coupled with a supported entrepreneurial ecosystem? Beyond financial investment, it’s about fostering support, forging key relationships, and understanding the unique dynamics of the region. I’m honored and looking forward to discussing this at CIF2023” – Dr. Nicholas Brathwaite, Founding Managing Partner of Celesta Capital

So what makes a unicorn?

Sky High Valuation

The hallmark feature of unicorn companies is their commanding valuation, typically above the one-billion-dollar mark. This valuation is primarily hinged on the anticipation of their future growth and profitability prospects, rather than their current financial performance.

Investors are usually inclined to assign such lofty valuations due to their unwavering belief in these companies’ potential to revolutionize industries, conquer substantial market segments, and deliver substantial returns down the road.

Accelerated Growth

Unicorn companies distinguish themselves with their propensity for rapid expansion, diverging from the gradual trajectory often seen in conventional businesses. These entities frequently experience meteoric growth rates, attributable to their innovative concepts, products, or services that effectively address significant market gaps or problems. These factors, combined with effective execution, empower unicorns to quickly amass sizable user bases.

Revolutionary Innovation

The final defining characteristic of unicorn companies lies in their capacity to disrupt established markets or even establish entirely new ones through groundbreaking innovation. They are the catalysts of change, challenging conventional practices and norms while propelling industry-wide transformations by presenting unique solutions to existing challenges.

This disruption often finds its roots in technology. A multitude of unicorns leverage technological advancements to craft superior products or services or to provide existing offerings in an innovative, more efficient, or user-centric manner. This innovation generates significant value for users and typically serves as a linchpin driving the rapid growth and lofty valuations associated with unicorn companies.

Resources Drive Returns

The complex issues currently confronting the Caribbean region have given rise to substantial prospects for growth and advancement. These include challenges such as the restricted availability of affordable food, the upward trajectory of gas and energy costs, limitations stemming from inadequate digitization, and the intricate web of logistical hurdles.

These distinctive challenges offer enterprising innovators a unique canvas upon which to craft a dynamic and transformative landscape for the region’s future.

Yet, the realization of these opportunities necessitates a substantial commitment of resources, encompassing both financial investments and an infusion of human capital. For Caribbean entrepreneurs, these resources are seldom accessible within the region.

Unicorn companies typically undergo multiple rounds of financing as they advance and expand. These funding phases are typically categorized into stages such as seed, Series A, B, C, and beyond. With each successive round, fresh investors often join the fold, injecting additional capital into the enterprise.

As a company traverses these funding stages, its valuation generally experiences an upward trajectory, mirroring its growth, potential, and the amount of capital it has successfully secured.

So, can the Caribbean Birth the Next Unicorn?

The answer isn’t so black and white. Beyond financial investment, building a successful business in the Caribbean requires support, relationships, and an understanding of the social and political climate in the islands where a business may be operating.

The Caribbean Investment Forum has set out on a mission to support businesses and start-ups in this regard; Connecting founders and startups with the highest level decision makers to help establish and expand their Caribbean footprint.

Championed by the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export), in collaboration with the European Union, the Government of the Bahamas, the CARICOM Secretariat, and the Caribbean Development Bank, the conference focuses on development opportunities in AgTech, green economy transition, ICT, logistics and shipping.

Commenting on the Fireside Keynote session, JoEllen Laryea shared, “We’re thrilled to have Dr. Nicholas Brathwaite once more join our esteemed speaker programme at the Caribbean Investment Forum. His insights and perspectives promise an engaging exploration of the Caribbean’s quest for the next unicorn business and how to nurture a venture capital ecosystem that supports Caribbean transformation”

With an anticipated audience of over 800 attendees, CIF is the marketplace and nerve center for sharing, learning, preparing, and finalizing business and investment deals that support the regional transformation to A Bold New Caribbean.

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