Q&A: Tapping IT talent in Cuba

Peter Hoyer and his wife Francesca are the heads of SMaBiT, a family-owned tech company offering smart building technology and video security. Expanding from its bases in Berlin and Turin, SMaBiT has assembled an R&D center in Cuba and is just about to open its new offices at Parque Científico-Tecnológico (PCT), a science park in the heart of Cuba’s largest producer of IT graduates, Universidad de Ciencias Informáticas (UCI). Cuba Standard asked Mr. Hoyer what made him take his business to Cuba, about his insights in information technology in Cuba, and how recent political upheaval affects foreign investors.

Why did you pick Cuba as a location for IT development?

Our original decision was primarily economic. SMaBiT relies on the added value it can provide to its customers and the reliability of its products and services. As such it is very important for us to generate know-how and competencies internally, and to develop these competencies over time. The European labor market is very, very depleted. Programmers are scarce, and programmers who are enthusiastic about what they do are even rarer. Their expectations are correspondingly high. That’s why we shopped around for alternatives. Those that come to mind are China and India. Both have advantages if I am a large company and have work packages to outsource, if I have specifications that have to be worked off. I then get my package back, and that’s it. But the consultant is gone after that. What we needed were team members, people who think along with us. We then looked for something that was on our level in terms of mentality. Naturally, you look at Colombia and Mexico, but by chance – through a newspaper article – we were made aware of Cuba and then placed two job ads. Now we are in Cuba and happy about it.

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