This feature is an outcome of infoDev, a multi-donor program administered by the World Bank Group, with a focus on entrepreneurs in developing economies. This piece was originally published on March 15, 2018.
The public transportation market in the Caribbean is in urgent need of modernization, as lack of information and poorly planned transit systems cause significant social and economic challenges. Locals and tourists using buses and taxis often have limited information on the status or arrival time of their transportation, resulting in lost time, being late for work or school, missed appointments, and frustration.
Similarly, people who manage these vehicles (owners or insurers) have little or no information on how they are being driven, even though they often occupy the highest risk categories.
Caribbean Transit Solutions, based in Barbados, plans to change all this. They provide real-time and on-demand information on public transit vehicles as well as private fleets of vehicles.
According to Khalil Bryan, the company’s co- founder and business lead, “our focus is to create solutions that solve local transportation problems and frustrations and provide customers with information that will allow them to make the best decision on the use of their time.” The company offers three products to improve access to public transportation and vehicle information:
● BeepCab: Book and pay for taxis from smartphones
● BeepBus: Find bus routes and options to use buses on demand (soon to include real-time bus information)
● EasyTrak: Manage vehicles and risk more effectively
The company operates EasyTrak in Barbados, Trinidad, and St. Lucia, as well as BeepCab in Barbados. Available for Android or iOS, BeepCab alerts the taxi nearest to the rider.
“We are excited to grow beyond our shores. Our plans for expansion include Jamaica, Trinidad, St. Lucia, Martinique, and Guadeloupe,” Bryan says.
The international marketplace is competitive. There is EasyTaxi, the world’s largest taxi booking company, and Uber, the largest ride-sharing company. In the Caribbean, the company estimates that the market is in excess of $1 billion. Bryan notes that while there are not many large players in the taxi booking and ride-sharing market, the few companies that exist are growing their presence locally in Trinidad and Barbados.
In terms of fleet management, Bryan also notes that there are opportunities for his company’s services beyond traditional vehicle tracking. “Through our platform, we create bespoke solutions with insurance companies; enabling insurance companies to deploy their own branded products and allowing us to offer fleet management with lower insurance.” He cites the company’s key to success as understanding the Caribbean market and continuing to tailor products to the current needs and identify and potential future needs. “We also need to move quickly through the Caribbean before the large players focus on this market.”
The company’s five-person team has to be agile and open to working within their respective functional areas as well as across projects. “Our organizational outlook is built on the Lean Start-up model: Build, Measure, Learn! We build the product and then quickly learn how the customer is using it so that we can improve it even more. We try to make the lives of our customers as easy as we can,” he added.
The company first got involved with LINK-Caribbean through Caribbean Export, the angel investment project’s implementers. “We were the recipients of an Investment Readiness grant of $25,000, which helped us to build out our BeepCab platform as well as to grow our EasyTrak client base. This injection of funds also allowed us to kickstart our revenue levels, pitch to the Barbadian angels (Trident Angels, also a recipient of EPIC support) and secure our first seed investment. We are now in the process of applying for the Co-Investment Grant through Carib Export,” he noted excitedly.
“LINK-Caribbean is almost the snowball that will help create the avalanche. It has created a platform and raised the investor consciousness and awareness about what is possible. The mentors/resources were fantastic and unsurpassed. They brought a lot of new knowledge to the Caribbean angel investing space as well as a lot of great experience to the entrepreneurs. Please continue the program,” he urged. “It is helping to build both the investment community as well as to encourage start-ups to leverage that investment.”
Advice to other entrepreneurs
As for other entrepreneurs wanting to make a start and an impact, Bryan advised that they should focus on building a business that solves a problem, not just building a solution that you can sell. “If you solve a problem, people will pay for it. Be the best at solving that problem. With an investment or not, you are paving the way to recognize the best success that you can. Notably, by solving a problem you often position yourself to be a great candidate for investment. “
LINK-Caribbean is an initiative of the World Bank Group’s Entrepreneurship Program for Innovation in the Caribbean (EPIC), a seven-year, CAD 20 million program funded by the government of Canada that seeks to build a supportive ecosystem for high-growth and sustainable enterprises throughout the Caribbean. It is being implemented by Caribbean Export Development Agency.