Tyrone R. Wilson is a serious young man. It’s hard to coax a smile out of him. As he sits down across the table from me in his office at the University of Technology’s (UTech) Technology Innovation Centre, his gaze is alert and intelligent.
“People call me a tech entrepreneur,” Tyrone tells me. “But I am a new media entrepreneur.” As Founder and CEO of eMedia Interactive, Tyrone believes, first and foremost, in a good story – “And good stories travel faster than bad ones,” he observed. The technology is the vehicle for his digital e-zines and his online television station, iVutv – all producing original, local, excellent quality content. eMedia Interactive thrives on creativity and innovation, and aims to become a digital media leader in several geographical markets. Last year, eMedia Interactive offered branded eZines to the North American market, a part of Tyrone’s expansion plan.
Tyrone has his own inspiring story, too. He attended Jamaica College (a Kingston high school), he told me. Then, as a University of the West Indies student (he has a degree in Banking and Finance) he made up his mind that he had to sell his own story, his vision for a business. “I believe in pitching,” he said. “I am always pitching – daily!”
How did Tyrone R. Wilson end up as CEO of his own company, at the age of 22? It all started when Tyrone’s mother bought him a ticket to a corporate dinner for Jamaica College alumni. He took advantage of the opportunity. He knew no one in corporate Jamaica; but he did know what he wanted to achieve, and he was passionate about it. He learned to be patient. He learned how to network; he was persistent in getting appointments to meet with people he thought could advise and hopefully support him in fulfilling his vision. He made a direct approach to businessman Richard Byles to be the Chairman of the board. Byles agreed. He was “sold” on the vision:“When you look at the creativity and talent we have here in Jamaica… I was moved by Tyrone’s confidence in himself and his understanding of the business.” Williams, then Managing Director of NCB Capital Markets and now President and CEO of Proven Investments, and NCB’s Sheree Martin also gave invaluable mentorship and formed the firm’s advisory board.
eMedia came into being in June, 2008 at the Technology Innovation Centre, which provides support for small businesses through its Business Incubator. Tyrone is grateful to the Centre’s Dionne Palmer, who provided strong support in the firm’s establishment. Initially eZines Limited, it produced a digital magazine Your Money. It was a challenging time for a start-up; the economic downturn overseas affected Jamaica adversely and resulted in a downsizing of the company. But eMedia went on to produce three more eZines and has built a readership of over 32,000.
Then in April 2012, eMedia took another leap, launching Jamaica’s first online television network, iVutv, after raising US$350,000 in a private placement managed by PanCaribbean Merchant Bank and Sagicor Investments. The company is in the final stages of building out mobile applications for their smartphone and tablet platforms in addition to their websites, giving users a more interactive reading and viewing experience and their advertisers more value for their money.
I asked Tyrone about his early inspirations. He says the germ of his idea sprang from a TED talk. He also admired Steve Jobs’ over-arching vision: “Apple wanted to change the world.” Here in Jamaica, he was inspired by the leadership and determination of the former CEO of Life of Jamaica (now Sagicor) Danny Williams, who is a huge role model for him: “He is a good Jamaican.” A Jamaica College alumnus like Tyrone, Williams’ parents struggled to send him to school; he sold cigarettes to supplement his income.
By the way, eMedia’s revenues grew by 65 per cent last year; good going in this challenging economic landscape. So what is the key to success? It’s important, Tyrone told me, to build a group of supporters around you. As eMedia grew, this is what he did. Whether it’s your parents, your peers, potential team members, board members – don’t be afraid, he said, to garner their expertise. Tap into “those with the knowledge.” Many young entrepreneurs feel they can go it alone. But that is really hard. As Tyrone has found, the entrepreneurship road is full of dips and curves.
Tyrone’s advice to budding entrepreneurs: “Become a student of entrepreneurship, eager to learn.” And, even more importantly: “Be more humble…Arrogance will get you nowhere in business. Be honest.”
With half a smile he adds, “No BS.”