Cuba’s first Startup Weekend: Tales by Santiago Zavala

“We are living an entrepreneurial renaissance in every corner of the world.  Entrepreneurs of all types – designers, geeks, developers and business leaders – who are looking for inspiration as they explore all possibilities for an opportunity to create something of value.  Once they find it, they need an ecosystem to provide the necessary capabilities for them to build these enterprises.  Lastly, under adequate circumstances, these people will dedicate themselves fully to the endeavor.  The people who build these new startups and enterprises will shape the economy of the next 5, 10 and 15 years.”
Santiago Zavala, 500 Startups @ Puerto Rico Tech Summit 2014

Lets take a look at Santiago’s visit to a particular corner of the world that had been excluded from the Startup Community until now!

This is a recap of Cuba’s first ever Startup Weekend!

Below are additional videos (in spanish) from Santiago’s vlog, along with some highlights.

  • There was an VP Marketing from Lenovo at the event – gaining a head start in opening up the market!
  • It’s challenging to upload images and videos.  They had one person who compressed images through a special algorithm and sent them to someone who uploads them at $1 per meg, which is the average size of each image, so basically $1 per tweet!
  • Santiago was very impressed with the quality and quantity of developers at the event.  It was one of the most technical startup weekends he has seen, with people doing machine learning, open CV, working on different open source frameworks as well as java and .NET  I am not surprised based on what my friend Jorge Besú from @ciolatino had mentioned after visiting Cuba earlier this year, “Cuba is graduating around 3,000 Computer Science students every year, they just need an ecosystem around that, the talent is there!”

  • The collaboration, energy and camaraderie in Cuba is beyond what Santiago had seen in other Startup Weekends.  People are helping each other out in the smallest details – bringing extra multi-plug extensions, helping organize clients test a particular product, etc.
  • They had to buy internet cards to provide for each team.  The idea was for each team to have one card but they were only allowed to buy three per person, so they had to send a team of people to buy internet cards.
  • People adapt to their ecosystem and its limitations, in Cuba’s case, a team developed a very useful app designed to run with offline data.