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 July 21, 2016.
If he hadn’t claimed that abandoned computer he found while doing construction work, Dwayne Campbell would never have left his chemical engineering track — or developed a hot new digital book-publishing platform.
BookFusion, a set of e-tools that “let you read, share, organize, bookmark, and sync all your books,” has been on a roll since May, when it was the only venture from the Latin America and Caribbean region invited to pitch at an innovation and entrepreneurship event — "Demand Solutions: Ideas for Improving Lives" — this fall in Washington, D.C.
Now, with his wife and partner, intellectual property attorney Kellye-Raye, Campbell has won the top prize at the PitchIT Caribbean Challenge. Soon after, the angel investor group First Angels Jamaicabought shares in BookFusion, marking the angel group's fourth investment. First Angels Jamaica was launched with support from the World Bank’s Entrepreneurship Program for Innovation in the Caribbean (EPIC), which is funded by the government of Canada.
According to First Angels Jamaica cofounder Sandra Glasgow, BookFusion will receive funding to improve its e-reader platform and to meet development costs of new apps for iPad and iPhone users. Some funds “are to be used to integrate the payments and e-commerce functionality on both Android and iOS," Glasgow said.
“In high school,” Campbell recalled, “I was always into computers. I didn’t have one at home, but shipped one home to Jamaica after I saw it being thrown away at a construction site where I was working.”
In that environment of limited funds, he learned HTML and CSS, developed his high school website, and then created his own paying job by building information tools for the school. Through his days at Howard University in Washington, D.C., Campbell sought opportunities in systems administration, both for experience and funds.
A chemical engineering and computer science major while at Howard, Campbell went to work at Goldman Sachs after graduation. Deciding to “change the way people read books,” he left Goldman Sachs in 2014 “with no plans to return to corporate America.” Deciding to remain in the United States and work on computers full time, he enrolled at Columbia University for a master’s degree in computer science.
Ever since that first encounter with the discarded computer in Jamaica, “I taught myself computer programming little by little,” Campbell said. “I had the idea for this platform before Kindle Cloud Reader, working on it a little at a time.”
BookFusion could find a niche in Jamaica's primary schools, according to Campbell.
"Schools will be able to use the platform to distribute syllabi or teacher notes,” Campbell told Jamaica’s Daily Gleaner.
“They will also be able to create the interactive e-books, for example, multiple choice quizzes and open-ended questions and push that to students' devices whether tablets, phones or computers, have it completed and received on a centralized teacher portal."
PitchIT Caribbean is a World Bank-sponsored initiative designed to enhance the region’s mobile app development ecosystem. On June 4, five teams were selected from 25 mobile app developers from seven countries across the Caribbean after a rigorous day of pitching to a panel of judges and an audience of regional and global investors. Each team won $5,000 in seed funding to develop their businesses and a spot in PitchIT business accelerators across the region.