The Digital Doyen of the Caribbean Tech with Ingrid Riley, Founder Silicon Caribe


The Digital Jamaica Podcast with Ingrid Riley

“We need to understand the business of our digital content, to understand the business of our Marijuana, the business of our sports, the business of our culture, the business of our natural resources because that’s what’s missing.”

Is Jamaican content marketable? As far as Ingrid Riley is concerned Jamaican content is more powerful than our Marijuana, but we need to first understand what makes Jamaica special.

In this episode of the Digital Jamaica Podcast I sit down with the Ingrid Riley one of the first female tech entrepreneurs in Jamaica and the Caribbean. We talked about her journey from a Facebookesque American dotcom in the mid 90’s, to starting a successful tech blog (the first of it’s kind this part of the world) to developing Kingston BETA a tech start-up meetup (another first) to now being recognized internationally as the go to person for all things tech in the Caribbean.

Who is Ingrid Riley?

She is an award winning Caribbean tech guru, entrepreneur, blogger, podcaster, innovator and a woman fully immersed in the #digitalcaribbean scene, a landscape she has been instrumental in developing.

Her platform launched in 2005, is the first and longest running Technology blog  in the Caribbean. She is also the founder of Kingston BETA, a tech start-up community event, one of the first in the Caribbean.

it’s an event that I started because I wanted to see what other people were doing in the digital and tech pace … people were just sending me stuff in email or calling me so I said can we just stop please? Can we just meet up? And so it became this meet-up.“

Perhaps the most important aspect of the Kingston BETA event was the “Pitch This” forum which afforded participants from all across the Caribbean the opportunity to test out new ideas by pitching to the audience who would then provide feedback and guidance.

“It evolved into different things where people who were involved in different things, succeeding in different things would come and pitch their ideas and they were at different levels, some people were looking for partners, some people were looking for investments and so it became this community, it became this movement that the Caribbean and Diaspora got involved in.”

Is there interest in the Caribbean tech space?

The pioneering Kingston BETA event has put  the Jamaican and Caribbean tech community on the map. And even though there has always been an interest according to Ingrid, the success of that event was a serious indication to the rest of the world that we are not just sun sand and sea, wi teching Jamaica and the Caribbean.

“It became this thing …”

says Ingrid, a thing she has won many accolades and awards for in 2012/2013

“and that really kinda threw up Jamaica, threw up Kingston, threw up tech entrepreneurship, threw up innovation in Jamaica and the Caribbean and me being a woman in the space was also a unique thing as well and so it went international.” 

On the strength of that initiative Ingrid has been able to travel the world from Kenya to London talking about the tech space in the region.

Caribbean Women in Tech

Ingrid has been involved in the tech space since the late 90’s. That means she’s seen and been the driver behind many a firsts, the first internet guide called i-guide produced by Maverick Media one of the first female lead tech-startup in the Caribbean. In fact she Co-founded one of the most successful web development agencies in the Caribbean- Dutchpot Interactive another first in  Caribbean  led by two women.

However, inspite of all her successes she still feels that there is a “WHOLE HEAP A WORK” to be done when it comes to getting more women involved in the tech space.

“BUT I’M DOING SUMMEN BOUT IT, over the years that I have done Kingston BETA and Caribbean BETA and a whole bunch of other events as well, I have seen the women in the audience grow. I have seen the women, in terms of who’s coming to pitch grow, but it’s not where I’d like it to be by any means at all.”

Listening to Ingrid you can tell that she is rather passionate about this topic and is determined to address it in a substantial way.

“So I created this thing called Caribbean Women in Tech, where I want to smoke out some more women in tech at all levels, not just entrepreneurs but also executives within particular organizations and to put up profiles of women, this is what a woman in tech looks like and this is what a woman in tech is doing and not just coding which has been the dominant narrative, moving away from that she could be a blogger, she’s also into business intelligence, she’s also into data analysis, she’s also a podcaster so broadening the narrative of what a woman in tech looks like, broadening the narrative as to what these tech skills and digital skills are and what women are now doing.”

Ingrid also feels like women in these spaces need to do some of the work to be visible, to put themselves out there more.

I’ve been urging other women who are in the digital space to be more visible and to share their stories and to come out and network so we can see them, so we can hear them, so we can be inspired by them.”

Tell the truth about entrepreneurship

You noticed how many firsts she has accomplished?  Still it was not easy being a woman and pushing tech, she has ahd a lot of failures and was very open about sharing that part of her story and insists that other entrepreneurs should also share that part of their stories too.

What is it like to fail?  And how can you turn your failures into lessons (tip, when you fail, and you’re going to, fail forward).

“I believe the more entrepreneurs of all stripes and kinds share our story, our entire story, our real and authentic story, when wi buck our toe what did we learn? The times when we just simply had a breakdown, we went through 10 business models and buck up on the sweet spot on the 11th. Because any entrepreneur worth their salt have gone through that journey and the trick is to make different kinds of mistakes, or to fail differently and to just keep going, to persevere through that. Because once you persevere and your persist, you’re learning from the various things you’re trying, you will eventually get to the sweet spot.”

The future of tech in the Caribbean

“IT IS FANTASTIC” says Ingrid about the future of tech in the region, “that’s why i’m still in it”. She is completely and totally, 100% optimistic about it and here’s why:

“I have been around entrepreneurs, developers, content creators and a bunch of different people across the region and in the diaspora, WE ARE AWESOME!, we are smart, we are driven, we are persistent, we are persevering, we are learning, we are failing, we are having breakdowns, laughing at ourselves, we are wheeling and coming again and yeah without question the cream will rise to the top from all of that, so I am fantastically optimistic.”

And more

It was an incredibly edifying conversation, that went in so many directions with unique insights and perspective from someone who has been a leader in this field for decades.

Ingrid is an incredibly gifted technologist and  speaker, with a wealth and depth of knowledge that is second to none. If like me you’re interested in the tech and digital experience in Jamaic and the Caribbean you will enjoy this conversation and leave feeling just as optimistic and enthusiastic and motivated as Ingrid.

Follow Ingrid on social media here.

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