Monday, June 5, 2017

Cuban tech entrepreneurs -- new values?

Might Cuban entrepreneurs develop uniquely Cuban enterprises?

A while ago, I pointed out that offical Cuban attitudes toward self-employed developers and privately owned Internet service companies are improving -- government software companies say they want to cooperate with private developers and Cuban Internet services that were once attacked are now praised in government publications.

This week three positive articles on NinjaCuba, a startup service for Cuban professionals seeking freelance work, were published: here, here and here.

Two things caught my eye.

First -- the latter two articles quote the company founders, Víctor Manuel Moratón and Fabián Ruiz, as saying they would like to have Cuban state companies as clients. That would have been unimaginable in the past, but the government sponsored TICS 2017 workshop held in March, called for collaboration between state and private companies and it now seems likely. These articles support my speculation that Cuban government attitudes toward tech entrepreneurs have changed.

Second -- Moratón and Ruiz say they are not preoccupied with becoming a startup "unicorn" (a billion dollar company) -- they want to find a way to sustain the company. That may say something about Cuban culture and values since it contradicts the widely-held (false) assumption that US corporations have a fiduciary duty to maximize profit and increase investor wealth, requiring constant growth and leading to tying executive compensation to stock price.

Andy Puzder, Trump's first (unconfirmed) nominee for Secretary of Labor, is a prominent supporter of the investor-return assumption. Puzder, who recently resigned as CEO of CKE Enterprises, a company that operates international fast-food chains, opposes government regulation of terms of employment or food health -- his job is to increase shareholder return and give people what they want. (I wonder how he feels about heroin).

Unfortunately, maximizing investor return ignores the interests of employees, the society, and the environment. Chobani Yogurt CEO Hamdi Ulukaya, a competitive capitalist, offers a counter example -- his company is successful and he gives back to his employees and has benefited his community. (The "alt-right" has attacked Ulukaya).

Last summer, a Copenhagen taxi driver told me he was about to leave on a three-week camping trip with his wife and children. US taxi drivers don't take three-week vacations with their families. The US is looking like a "canary in the coal mine" -- suffering the unintended side-effects of Puzder's grow-or-die strategy.

Perhaps young Cuban entrepreneurs like Moratón and Ruiz, who have been raised with communal values (regardless of what you think of the current government) and a Latin culture, will provide an example we can all learn from.

Fabián Ruiz and Víctor Manuel Moratón

Freelance ad for a developer who charges $US 3.00 per hour.

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