Cuba tech startups land in Boulder for a Boomtown-style training
By Jerd Smith
POSTED: 03/01/2017 03:45:25 PM MST
Thanks to the ongoing diplomatic thaw between the United States and
Cuba, a foundation intent on cultivating private commerce in Cuba’s
largely state-controlled economy has turned to some of the USA’s most
energetic tech hubs for help.
Under the guidance of the Washington, D.C.-based Cuba Emprende
Foundation, a cadre of young Cuban startup CEOs has arrived in Boulder
to undergo a two-week intensive program on product design, finance,
digital marketing and anything else Boulder’s hyper-active startup
community can throw at them.
The group is based out of Boulder accelerator Boomtown, with an assist
Problems and opportunities in Cuba abound, where the economic landscape
is dramatically different than in the U.S. Two-thirds of the work force
of roughly 5 million people is employed by the government, internet
access is extremely limited and privately owned companies authorized by
the state to operate are only gradually beginning to multiply, according
to data provided by the Cuba Emprende Foundation.
Foundation Chairman John McIntire — a former Goldman Sachs banker whose
mother was Cuban — has been working to open Cuba’s economy to private
sector activities for years. Last year, after helping launch an
accelerator program in Cuba, he teamed with a Latin American group of
business pros to select, through a competition, a handful of young Cuban
CEOs to bring to the U.S.
In addition to the Boulder group, two others are working in Palo Alto,
Calif., and Miami.
To see the young business people on the ground after years of
envisioning the occurrence is gratifying.
“It’s like a veil has been pulled back from their eyes,” McIntire said.
The three firms in Boulder are focused on app development. One mimics an
Amazon-like marketplace, another is based loosely on Yelp and a third
offers users a quick way to peruse Cuba’s arts and culture scene.
Juan Luis Santana, CEO and co-founder of arts app Ke Hay Pa’ Hoy, said
sitting in on sessions aimed at problem-solving has been helpful.
“We have wicked problems in Cuba,” he said. “To see the thinking that
goes on here is very interesting.”
Bernardo Romero Gonzalez is CEO and founder of Cubazon, the Amazon-like
market helping generate demand for Cuba-based goods and services.
This is Romero Gonzalez’s third startup and the entrepreneur said being
immersed in the U.S. tech community has made him more certain than ever
that Cuba’s small band of startups has what it needs to succeed.
“The Cuban entrepreneurs are prepared and have as much knowledge and
ability as any,” he said. “I feel confident now.”
McIntire hopes that sense of opportunities opening continues to grow.
“Cuban entrepreneurs know difficulty and failure in spades,” he said.
“Learning new skills is key, but I’m really hopeful that they will take
home the sense of optimism they see here. Optimism is in short supply
Jerd Smith: 303-473-1332, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/jerd_smith
Source: Cuba tech startups land in Boulder for a Boomtown-style training
– Boulder Daily Camera –