IT is generally argued that people born with a "silver spoon" in their mouth will take greater risks because they have a bigger safety net should their wings give out on a leap of faith.
Co-founder of TechBeach Kyle Maloney said while he had the support and felt the security of having his family along on his personal and professional journey, it is through exploring curiosity, taking bold steps and being a bit audacious that he founded three companies before turning 30.
TechBeach is a retreat held throughout the region, with an intention of sparking greater energy of modern entrepreneurship. It connects the top performers from the Caribbean with those from all around the world, primarily the US. TechBeach facilitates lectures by experts in technology and entrepreneurship from companies such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook and powerful start-ups which have made exponential leaps in the global space.
Now 32, Maloney said he had no idea he would have ended up where he is now. "I wanted to be an actor. I guess from a young age I had a lot of personality."
Maloney said being an outspoken child he was often seen as "force-ripe" because he interacted with adults confidently, even though he was not being disrespectful. This trait of confidence is something with which he said he wishes all children can be enriched. "
Growing up as the child of a business owner had other benefits, he said, as he got additional experience with interacting with people from all walks of life and asserting himself. "From helping people to fit shoes, to helping them by giving my opinion on which shoes suit them best from as young as six." This he said added to him being even less intimidated by crowds, new people and new spaces.
"How that all translated itself for me while in school, was that I was not afraid to fulfil my want to be the centre of attention. Always wanting to act in school plays, to put myself out there when compared to most children who were shy."
Maloney got a taste of his dream (of being like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone) when he got the opportunity to be featured in a number of TV advertisements. "One I remember very well is one I did for Nestle condensed milk back in the day when they were giving away Ninja Turtle watches."
By the time he entered St Mary's College the dream of becoming an actor died a quick death. "There was a talent show in form one. In an all-boys school, no one takes anything like that seriously so all the performances were silly. I did not know that was the culture, so I went up to do a poem." Before an outburst of laughter, Maloney said, "I was booed so hard. And my dreams of becoming an actor died."
"After that, I wanted to be a pilot. I am actually a trained pilot." His love affair with planes began as a child, he said – growing up being blessed with the opportunity to travel with his family, he grew more fascinated by planes.
He said, however, because of his personality which includes him having a short attention span, he found it hard to remain within the profession where he would do the same thing every day. "I would be spending most of my life in transit."
Being unwilling to abandon planes altogether, Maloney decided to study aerospace engineering at Embry Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach Florida. "The school was male-dominated and had a military vibe. It produces the most air force pilots following the US Air Force Academy. It did not give the typical college vibe you would have seen on MTV. My mother was so happy for that!"
Maloney said the three years at university, starting in 2007, created a space for him to grow in ways he thought he would not have grown otherwise. He considers it having been the greatest catalyst for his personal growth – more than any other period in his life.
"I gained a greater global perspective. On my floor, I had people from Pakistan, India, Japan, Israel – so many countries. It really opened by eyes to the fact that TT is just a dot in the world. That is where my global entrepreneurial mindset took shape."
He said a defining moment was when he returned to TT for Christmas. While playing video games with one of his friends, "My friend's older brother asked why were we wasting time playing video games all day and asked what we wanted to do ultimately. We told him we wanted to start a business after we finished school, which is hard, and got job experience. And he something that changed my life. He said, 'So you are going to allow that whole time to go by when you can start now, learn, get experience, fail to start later in life? In that time you may have a girlfriend then get married and have children.'"
Maloney said it opened his eyes that the moment was his most ideal period for taking risk. He and his friend were then given books including Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham. "We read those books and more, and that was the major turning point. Any my whole life began changing as my perspective changed. The friends and people I had around me dropped off because they were not on the same page."
It was at this stage during his time at university where he founded his first company. This company allowed students to buy and sell items from each other on a website. "It allowed them to sell things like skateboards and used books. It did well, allowing us to make up to (US)$4000 per month in advertising."
Maloney said the new mindset saw him completing his studies in engineering to focus on entrepreneurship. "My brother and I decided we wanted to be the next big entrepreneurs and that belief just sank in. And the rest now is history in the making. Facebook happened, Twitter happened and the iPhone was launched. So many things happened in that period that changed everything as we knew it."
Maloney's entrepreneurial mindset affected his approach when seeking employment, placing more emphasis on what the company would do for him, how would he grow by virtue of being employed by a company versus him focusing solely on what he could be impressive enough for employment. "Half the time I was interviewing the interviewers on why I should want to work for them. And that actually made us more appealing to them, because we did not seem like we were seeking their approval – we seemed like we were more open to collaboration. They don't teach us these things in school."
He moved on to start two companies which led to TechBeach. The first was F1rst which allowed people to find a wide range of options for products and services on a digital platform. It allowed companies to interact one-on-one with their clients. "That was a major win. Digicel was our major investor, giving us US$1.75 million for 25 per cent of the company."
"We also had a company in the energy industry which helped us raise funds to build F1rst. The name of that company was Novus Tech. Things aligned and well and we executed contracts with companies such as Republic Bank, Scotiabank, Guardian Life, Victoria Mutual Business Society in Jamaica, Jamaica National Building Society and Sagicor in Jamaica. It focused on helping them reduce their growing energy consumption. And we took the profits from that company which did well in the region, to pump into F1rst." F1rst was eventually sold.
He admits that by age 27, having come into such success he and his brother became arrogant. "I won't lie, I was on a high, it was hard to keep myself grounded. But things changed and we were quickly grounded again."
In 2016, Maloney said he was approached by Jamaican businessman Kirk-Anthony Hamilton for collaborating on building a company which would help bridge the gap between the Caribbean and major technology hubs around the world. "We have now arrived at a place where we are executing on the vision and bringing it to life in a way where I don't think anyone else in the region has been able to do, so far."
TechBeach has attracted the likes of Twitter's CEO Jack Dorsey, Google being their 2019 headline partner, and building partnerships with Facebook, Instagram and LinkdIn.
"One of our major accomplishment is the access we have given to entrepreneurs which they would never have had before. Companies now have access to people who work at places like Google as advisers to strengthen their digital strategies."
Other initiatives included a coding camp held in TT during summer 2019 holidays where children were taught by TT-born professionals working in companies such as Google and Facebook. "They were teaching children how to code, children from Port of Spain and Mayaro. It showed these children anything is possible. Children came in not knowing what coding was, to leaving having built their own websites."
Maloney who said he is guided by his strong Christian faith, says he won't rush to say he has made a profound impact with his life so far.
"I think I am scratching the surface and I am definitely seeing the light. I am seeing how far I have to go. I am not ready to declare a win and that's how I keep grounded and sober."
Asked what advice he would give to anyone who wants to give life to their dreams, he said, "Just start. It sounds cliche but just start and you will be amazed how things happen. God will help put the right things in place after you take the first step. Don't tell yourself you don't have the time, or money. If you have an idea just explore how you can begin, and start."