Zwede Hewitt's election to office in the National Association of Athletics Administrations of Tri_nidad and Tobago (NAAATT) is set to fast-track the organisation's technological growth.
As a former national athlete, 32-year-old Hewitt has close ties with the sport and understands the needs of the athletes. He is also co-founder of market network super app LUHU (Let Us Help U), and is keen to use his know_ledge of technology to propel the NAAATT forward.
"It's a big task to get the NAAATT on par with the world," Hewitt told the Express, "since we're a bit behind as far as technological involvement in the sport goes. A challenge is before us, so don't expect everything to be immediate.
"Change, though, has already taken place. The NAAATT social media pages had been down, but are back on stream now. Coverage of the Junior Pan American Games in Cali, Colombia, was shared on the social pages. Jamaal James is leading the social presence, and immediately started posting content."
At last month's NAAATT annual general meeting (AGM), Hewitt, James, Cuquie Melville and 2013 men's 400 metres hurdles world champion Jehue Gordon were vo_ted in as directors for the 2021-24 term. They are all former national athletes and are in the 29-36 age-group, bringing a breath of young air to the sport's administration under the leadership of new president George Comissiong.
"Change for the NAAATT needs to take place over the next couple years," said Hewitt, "but we have the network capital to access the technology in a fairly cost effective manner.
"We will be leveraging the LUHU network," the new NAAATT director explained. "David Meltzer, for example, is part of the LUHU team. David is founder and CEO of Sports 1 Marketing, one of America's largest sport media and marketing houses. Input is required from experts."
Hewitt is also excited about the financial benefits in the pipeline for T&T athletics through the NAAATT's partnership with LUHU.
"We aim to be a major sponsor of Trinidad and Tobago track and field, and we aim to be one of the NAAATT's first technology partners. Also, as part of my directorship, I want to leverage technology to help athletics in the region and to grow the sport, and to grow sport in general in the Caribbean."
Three-time Olympian Mikel Thomas was recently added to the LUHU team. Thomas, who struck silver for T&T in the men's 110m hurdles at the 2015 Pan American Games, is employed with international payment network giant Visa and will be a huge asset to LUHU.
"It's exciting to be part of Mikel's transi_tion from track and field to professional life," said Hewitt. "Mikel will also be a LUHU ambassador."
LUHU's track and field connection is proving to be crucial as the team works towards an early 2022 launch of the super app.
"A lot of our resources came through track and field," Hewitt explained. "The biggest single investment we have had so far, US$100,000, has come from Aspire Fund Management Company Ltd. Kriss Marcus, a former athlete, is vice-president at Aspire. And another former athlete Sade Shari St Louis works at Aspire and was tremendously helpful in this process."
Marcus told the Express he was very impressed with the LUHU proposal.
"We saw the investment in the younger generation and Zwede's entrepreneurial spirit. The idea of linking up like-minded persons with similar interests is a concept that already exists, but we liked the unique adaptation Zwede is bringing to the table. We see LUHU bearing fruit for him and his business and for us as investors."
Marcus said the common thread of track and field did not influence the decision to invest in LUHU.
"No bias. This was purely based on merit, in terms of what was proposed to Aspire - the business model and a strong growth outlook."
LUHU's local sporting links go beyond track and field. Earlier this year, Hewitt and his team entered into a partnership with the T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC).
Hewitt said while he would have liked a pre-Christmas LUHU launch, it is not a practical option.
"As it relates to moving of money, that's a heavily regulated process, so we're working right now with one of the top local banks to deal with that aspect. We are finalising paperwork. Payment processing integration with LUHU is about a month and a half away.
"We welcome the public to download and try out our beta version," Hewitt continued, "which is available on both Android and iOS with over 3,000 users and 1,000-plus offers. Upcoming, we have further improvement on our technologies, seeing encrypted chats and money transfers, as well as fresh user interface and user experience design."s.