Angel investors, an alternative to traditional banks for new entrepreneurs, are often overlooked although their vision is important in unlocking innovation and insight, Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon said yesterday.
“It is no secret that access to adequate finance to launch, develop and grow is a critical challenge for SME’s in the region,” she told participants at a Caribbean Angel Investor Forum at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.
“Limited options within the traditional banking system are difficult to secure due to collateral requirements and venture capital. Therefore, if our businesses are to compete globally, the support of diverse investment modalities is crucial. I must applaud the angel investors investment ecosystem in Trinidad and Tobago which has helped to create a programme which provides a forum for budding entrepreneurs to receive much-needed venturing and capital.”
Gopee-Scoon said Amazon was brought to life by several angel investors in 1994 and has become the world’s largest online retailer worth more than US$363 billion.
“It is a prime example of the possibility of investing in a vision,” she said.
She told angel investors at the conference that their risk-taking helps regional enterprises to develop new concepts and ideas, creating more competitive businesses capable of regional and international expansion.
“While most angel investors are not millionaires, their entrepreneurial skills, their experience and networks add value to the economic system and help fledgeling entrepreneurs succeed. International brands, including Apple, Instagram and Linkedin, all benefited from inputs by angel investors.”
Canadian High Commissioner to T&T Carla Hogan-Rufelds also highlighted the importance of angel investors globally, describing them as “a fundamental piece of doing business,” she said.
She added: “Canada has invested Can$20 million in the Entrepreneurship Programme Innovation in the Caribbean (EPIC). EPIC supports the promotion of high growth, inclusive entrepreneurship, in the Caribbean. As we know, access to finance is a key issue for sustainable entrepreneurship. This is why angel investing are so important and why investing in the Caribbean Angel Network is a part of the project.”
The High Commissioner also spoke about the Women Innovators’ Network (WINK) for the Caribbean, a mentoring leadership training programme for cohorts of business women. She said there is a need for more women to get involved in angel investing.