Thursday, June 25, 2015

Techweek plans 3-day event in Cuba

Techweek plans 3-day event in Cuba
By Amina Elahi
Blue Sky
contact the reporter Cuba Caribbean

Is Cuba ready for Techweek?
Techweek will host an abbreviated private conference in Havana in
December, its first step toward expanding to international cities, CEO
Katy Lynch ⇒ said Wednesday.

If successful, the Dec. 1-3 event could place Techweek among the first
Chicago companies to have a business presence in the Caribbean nation
since the U.S. announced in December that it would ease longstanding
travel and trade restrictions with Cuba.

Lynch said Techweek was interested in Cuba as part of its expansion into
new cities because her company saw the country as "on the verge of a
technology revolution."

But John Kavulich, president of the New York-based U.S.-Cuba Trade and
Economic Council, a nonprofit that provides economic and commercial
information about Cuba, said it is a poor country that is not interested
in paying for the technological overhaul it would require for many
American companies to do business there.

Cuban leaders are lowering Internet costs and creating access to Wi-Fi
for some Cubans but do not see things such as widespread broadband and
cheap Internet access as necessities, he said.

If attendees were to participate "with the belief that they will return
with a contract to do something for money, a commercial contract, then
they should stay home," Kavulich said.

Lynch acknowledged that Cuba's weak infrastructure and limited broadband
make it a nation more in need of a technological revolution than one
able to create one.

"The reason why we are going specifically is although we understand
these challenges, there's opportunity," Lynch said.

Some U.S. companies, including Netflix and Airbnb, are already operating
in Cuba

The Havana event will take a different form than the weeklong festival
and conferences Techweek already runs in six U.S. cities. Techweek aims
to send 60 U.S. CEOs, who must apply to the program and have all the
proper paperwork, to exchange ideas with Cuban businesspeople, policy
experts and ministry officials. Lynch said this model could work for
future Techweek expansions but that the company has no specific plans yet.

Lynch said Techweek is working with the nonprofit Florida Keys TREE
Institute, an ecological charity with ties to Cuba, which will recruit
Cubans to attend the private event. She said Techweek is in charge of
getting the U.S. CEOs there.

The three-day, two-night trip will feature panels and presentations, as
well as opportunities for the visitors from the U.S. to experience Cuban
culture, Lynch said.

"There's curiosity there, right?" Lynch said. "I think a lot of tech
leaders know that travel is open to Americans; I think there are a lot
of tech leaders that are looking at Cuba to expand there."

Techweek's annual Chicago event is in progress, with the conference
taking place at Merchandise Mart on Thursday and Friday. In May, the
company announced the creation of an investment fund called the 100
Cities Fund, named for the number of companies in which it hopes to host
events. It plans to add another six American cities to its roster in
2016 and 2017.


Source: Techweek plans 3-day event in Cuba - Chicago Tribune -

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