EDITORIAL – TechCayman: Silicon Valley, ‘island-style’

“We are going to create an industry.
­­­— Gene Thompson, principal, TechCayman

Today is a good news day in the Cayman Islands because it foreshadows the dawn of a new industry based on innovation and digital exploration.

Yesterday, a trio of successful entrepreneurs – Gene Thompson, Harry Chandi and Samir Mitra – signed an agreement with government that will enable them to proceed with a new undertaking called TechCayman. Their vision is “to bring the ‘digital economy’ to the Cayman Islands by creating intellectual property and digital assets in a tax neutral environment.”

As recently as five years ago, this company, and this industry, could not have existed in the Cayman Islands. Our laws governing intellectual property, including copyrights, trade marks, patents and design, were largely based on U.K. law and deemed insufficient to protect the work product of creators of locally created intellectual property, including computer code.

After years of team effort, which included a task force of attorneys, international experts and government officials, Cayman’s intellectual property laws were localized, fortified and passed into law last year, thus enabling the formation of TechCayman and, hopefully, jumpstarting a fourth industry to take its place alongside financial services, hospitality and healthcare tourism.

For background, all three of the principals in TechCayman played critical roles in bringing Health City to the Cayman Islands. Mr. Thompson and Mr. Chandi (along with current Speaker of the House McKeeva Bush) were prime movers in recruiting Dr. Devi Shetty to Grand Cayman, and Mr. Mitra created much of the technology that keeps Health City on the leading edge of patient care.

Mr. Thompson and Mr. Chandi, of course, are well known locally – Mr. Thompson currently serves as director of Health City and oversees a myriad of family businesses, and Mr. Chandi, who owns Magnum Jewelers, is an international businessman and generous philanthropist. (He is a founder of “Have a Heart,” which provides heart surgeries and other procedures for Indian children, and “Have a Heart Cayman,” a local charity.)

While Mr. Mitra may be less known locally, globally he is recognized and highly regarded as a pioneer in digital innovation. For the past 28 years he has lived in Silicon Valley and was a member of the original team that created the Java software and Java Mobile. For the uninitiated, Java is the No. 1 computer programming language in the world, and Java Mobile underpins the Android operating system, which is the heart of more than half of the world’s mobile phones. Mr. Mitra currently advises the governments of India, Singapore and Dubai on their digital policies and strategies.

To us, Cayman appears ideally positioned to play a prominent role in the technology space. Technology is the largest (but still the fastest-growing) sector in the world economy (seven of the world’s Top Ten companies, measured by market capitalization) are technology-based.

To prosper, digital developers and entrepreneurs need to reside in a jurisdiction with a protective legal framework and with ready access to a professional infrastructure that includes top tier lawyers, accountants and, ideally, potential investors. Cayman now has all of those ingredients in place.

Finally (Gene Thompson might even say “primarily”), this new venture will include internships, apprenticeships and engagement with local schools and the education ministry to develop programs and promote curricula relevant to the sector.

The continual creation of outstanding opportunities for young Caymanians who wish to pursue technology-related careers will be built into every fiber – indeed into the “source code” – of TechCayman.

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