A coalition of investor and entrepreneurship organizations announced the formation of 10x10KCuba, a competition for Cuban entrepreneurs, on Thursday evening during the AngelSummit Americas conference in Miami. The new international competition is a call to innovation for the island’s emerging technology sector, which seeks to help talented programmers and entrepreneurs in Cuba integrate into the global startup community.
Entrepreneurship organizations Cuba Emprende Foundation and #CubaNow teamed up with well-known names in tech including 500 Startups, Techstars and Stanford University as well as Startup Angels, Mano and Cambridge Innovation Center Miami to develop this initiative. The contest will provide the winning Cuban entrepreneurs with resources that will help them advance their businesses and connect with international technology leaders and financial supporters.
“We said we can’t yet invest in these guys, but what can we do to help? That’s when we came up with 10x10KCuba,” said Leslie Jump, founder and CEO of Startup Angels. “We hope it will the first of many opportunities for people from the United States, Latin America and Cuba to come together to accelerate startups across Cuba.
Participating entrepreneurs will be judged by startup and investment leaders from around the Americas with 10 tech-enabled companies will be selected. Each winner will receive a $10,000 prize package, including of web services, laptops and servers from Dell, EMC and Rackspace, mentoring from NXTP Labs as well opportunities with a leading accelerator programs in the US and Latin America. Applications will open May 15, with applications due on July 15. Winners will be announced in the fall. More information: www.10x10Kcuba.com.
“We are proud to be a co-organizer of 10x10KCuba,” said John McIntire of Cuba Emprende. “During our four years of operations in Cuba, we have graduated over 2,000 entrepreneurs and helped more than 1,500 businesses launch or accelerate. Tech-enabled startups are well represented among our alumni, and it’s exciting for us to help that dynamic sector reach scale and sustainability.”
Before the announcement, a panel discussed the present realities and future potential for Cuban founders and investors. McIntire moderated a talk with two tech entrepreneurs in Cuba, Sergio Lazaro of Ingenius and Eliecer Cabrera of ConoceCuba, as well as Ubaldo Don of Miami-based Itopia.
Cuba is not only well endowed with scientists but also developers. “Our best guess is that 3,000 to 4 000 computer scientists graduate every year in Cuba,” said McIntire, but not all stay in the field. Cloud software company Itopia has assembled a small development team in Cuba, said Don, who was born in Cuba and moved to the U.S about 20 years ago. Challenges included setting up servers there to virtualize the environment, amid the unreliability of wifi, he said. The Cuban entrepreneurs listed access to wifi and access to capital as big challenges. “Entrepreneurs in Cuba are fighting incredible odds to start a business, support their families, build communities – they are real heroes,” McIntire added.
The infrastructure is not in place yet for investment, but the opportunity is great. About 78 percent of small businesses in Cuba today are funded with remittances. Bank lending is increasing, but from a tiny base, McIntire said
AngelSummit Americas, a conference that gathers investors, entrepreneurs and community leaders to discuss angel funding challenges and opportunities, continues Friday at Intercontinental Miami, with keynotes from TechStars and 500 Startups and breakout sessions on investing across the Spanish speaking world, corporate startup engagement, government engagement and other topics.