Interviews

A Conversation with Caribbean Beta PitchFEST winner, Dmitri Dawkins

Written by Xavier Murphy

This week we speak with Dmitri Dawkins the winner of  PitchFest the Startup Contest at Caribbean BETA, which was recently held in Kingston, Jamaica.Caribbean Beta was the first of its kind Tech Entrepreneurship Conference that brought together the smartest Caribbean minds in a single event to connect to each other, learn from region & global experts, hear success stories and pitch their ideas in a Startup contest called PitchFEst. Dmitri Dawkins pitched his idea and won the PitchFEST.

Where in Jamaica are you from and which high school did you attend?
I grew up in Irish Town District, which is in the Blue Mountains, St. Andrew and I attended Campion College.

How would you describe yourself?  Are you an inventor, entrepreneur, social media marketer or all of these and more?
Lol, all of the above? I sold my first item, a quartz crystal to a classmate in prep school. In High School

I convinced my physics teacher that I could sell him a computer for less, that was the first computer I ever sold. My parents would tell me I was too focused on money. While at UTECH I realised that maybe they were right and switched my focus on trying to make solutions that would have the most impact for change. When social media came around, I jumped on it quickly, everyone was using it, I wanted to see how all that data could be used.

I don’t consider myself an inventor, I just take things people have created already, merge them and apply them in ways people didn’t imagine before. My Grandfather made the first TV in Jamaica when he came back from WW2, he gave me a soldering iron, multimeter and a desk at the age of 5. He always told me to use the technology that exists and make it better. I think that’s what I do.

Solutions Development is what I do.

Why did you enter the PitchFEST at Caribbean Beta?
To be honest I entered for the experience. It’s not often that competitions like that are held in Jamaica and I thought it would be a great learning experience even if I flopped. After I made my presentation I realised I made several mistakes. Winning was a surprise, however the overall pitch experience was the true value of the competition to me.

Without giving away your all of your idea can you give us a high-level overview of  your entry for the PitchFEST at Caribbean Beta?
I pitched on a product concept I have had for a couple years. What it does is integrate businesses together, sharing data and enabling more efficient reporting and business processes. Information is what businesses need to operate and the software brings a repository of data for businesses to use to make better decisions. It is based on the concept of enterprise resource planning.

How long have you been developing your idea?
About two years now. I was involved in an ERP implementation and thought the process was flawed. I outlined points that would make it better, did research on what was available on the market and tried to find what was missing. Thankfully I also know several people in the ERP business who have helped me tweak the feature set, advised me what is practical and feature requests their customers have been asking for.

How did you feel when you were named one of the top 3 and then eventually the winner?
I was in shock. I ran out of time during my presentation and thought I had absolutely messed it up. I covered the main points but the really cool features I didn’t get to mention. Thankfully the judges were already sold on the concept.

Has winning infused in you new confidence about your idea?
It definitely has. Before I thought hey it’s a good idea but maybe it’s just that. Technically currently it still is just an idea, but at least now I know others think it is a good idea as well. The feedback from conference attendees has also been great, with several people contributing points to make the concept better.

I know if is just a few days since the event but did you find any potential investors interested in investing in your idea?
I have a couple. However I am open to more. I really just want to see it built, even if someone wants to buy the idea. This is just one product. I have a book of concepts for technology, energy, food and waste management. I just want to get one off the ground to then fund the rest.

You have keen entrepreneurial mind. Tell us a story of you as a child doing something entrepreneurial?
Well as mentioned before I started sales from prep school. My most fond story is in high school though. I was in second form and I used to help out at my Uncle’s computer store. I used to get enough lunch money for two patties, a drink and exact change for my bus fare. Yes I said bus fare. All of my friends were eating Burger King and Chinese food after school. I knew my parents couldn’t afford it, however I had the advantage of getting my lunch money in a lump sum month to month. I used my entire month’s lunch money to buy a CD burner from my uncle. I would burn cd’s for people I knew and within a week I was not only eating out every day but also having ice cream as well. My mother had to have a serious conversation with me asking me how I could afford to do so. In a couple years I switched to open source, stopped all piracy and provided low cost solutions using open source software. My trusty burner eventually burned more Linux CD’s than all the music CD’s I had ever done.

What technology tool you cannot live without?
Gmail, I manage all my email through it. Since Google has added on Docs etc it’s a must have.

Outside of facebook and twitter, what is the one website you visit daily
Gmail of course, but also WheelsJamaica.com

Digicel or Claro?
Well, currently I have two Digicel phones and a Lime.

What is the song that is on replay on your ipod?
Hurt by Johnny Cash

Thanks for your time. Any closing thoughts?
Live life  now. Stop asking what if and just do. What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. Oh and it’s not about the amount of money you have, what matters is your quality of life.

About the author

Xavier Murphy