The conclusion of the most epic year for US-Cuba relations since the Cuban Missile Crisis would be incomplete without the contribution of tech entrepreneurs mixing it up in Havana. Times have changed.
The Cuba Journal spoke with Techweek’s Megan Scharf, Director of Communications, about the Techweek’s Cuban event and about Cuba’s present and future tech ecosystem.
“At Techweek, we’re all about bringing people together and having an open dialogue about what is happening in the world and how creative ideas and technologies are shaping our future. By gathering U.S tech executives to meet with Cuban entrepreneurs and ministers to talk about the state of innovation and future opportunities, we fulfilled our mission. I look forward to a growing, continuing relationship between both countries.” – Katy Lynch, CEO of Techweek
Techweek Havana, the first American tech delegation to be officially recognized by the Cuban government, was designed to be an open space for all who are passionate about technology and entrepreneurship to be a part of the conversation. It was also the first international event for Techweek, a fast growing organization whose mission is to make the world a better place through tech entrepreneurship.
The goals of the three-day event included:
- Introducing some of the most prominent tech founders in the US to Cuban entrepreneurs, students, ministry representatives, and local leaders.
- Creating a forum for the exchange of culture, ideas, and understanding.
- Encouraging partnerships that will last for years to come.
“Techweek Havana was one of the most significant and transformative experiences I’ve ever had. Being able to connect closely with the Cuban people and learn about how they go about solving the problems they face on a daily basis (in their own innovative way) was simply priceless” – Blake Miller, Managing Partner at Think Big Partners
In addition to visiting iconic sites around Old Havana, participants – numbering 65 in total – enjoyed two days of speakers, exchanges and forums designed to bridge Cuba’s past and future. Among the speakers was Pedro Vazquez Rodriguez, a private housing rights specialists and Juan Triana Barros, an economics professor at the University of Havana.
An Open Forum facilitated a cultural exchange between Cuban technologists and American entrepreneurs. Representatives from the Office of Patrimony (Havana’s City Historian) spoke about how they are leveraging technology to preserve Cuba’s history and culture.
Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Charge d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, guided the delegation on a tour of the embassy and provided insights into the state of play between the U.S. and Cuba on key issues including environmental preservation and resumption of scheduled air service.
Techweek believes that entrepreneurs around the world are quite similar – passionate, visionary, and hard-working – and has plans for more international events. In terms of the Cuban tech scene, Megan says it is still nascent but full of opportunity. She adds, “Cuban entrepreneurs are very resourceful and great at adapting to the constraints of their infrastructure.”
“As a Miamian having produced two documentaries on Cuba, intimately studying the youth and the rising millennial generation, I would argue while change will be slow, needed social change entrepreneurs can enact would heavily outweigh most endeavors they would mount anywhere else in the developing world, ushering in a new era not seen since 1959. It is a radical time eager for innovation and soon, disruption; an experiment to witness unlike anywhere else in the world today.” – Adrian Baschuk, the youngest CNN correspondent and international documentarian who attended the Techweek Havana trip.
Techweek Havana was a “people to people” exchange made possible through a partnership with the Florida Keys TREE Institute, a 501(c)3 non- profit organization licensed to take U.S. citizens to Cuba to share and learn.