Thursday was touted as a red-letter day for Cayman’s technology sector with the launching of TechCayman, a business platform that aims to attract software developers and other entrepreneurs to the territory, and to provide Caymanians with the tools they need to start their own companies.
TechCayman is being spearheaded by Health City’s Gene Thompson and Harry Chandi, as well as Silicon Valley entrepreneur Samir Mitra, a software developer who was on the team that created the Java programming language.
The organization aims to create a budding tech industry in Cayman by helping people establish their companies; by providing technical, legal and other advice to their clients; and by providing education for Caymanians who want to learn about software development and related fields.
On Thursday, the TechCayman founders signed an agreement with government that lays out the framework for the work-permit fees and other legal matters for establishing TechCayman-sponsored firms.
TechCayman is similar to Cayman Enterprise City’s “Cayman Tech City” – the recently branded branch of the special economic zone that caters to tech-related entities – but with several key differences, according to its founders.
“We’re substantially different from [Cayman Enterprise City]. CEC is a great model, but they’re a commercial space rental model. You rent a desk, and can do all the things that they offer in their zone,” Mr. Thompson said. “We’re an innovation center. We want to create value. It’s a completely different mindset.”
Mr. Mitra said the initiative has been in the works for some five years. It started when he was working with Health City founder Dr. Devi Shetty on developing healthcare software. However, the territory’s intellectual property laws would not have protected any software he created.
“I was working with Dr. Shetty on some healthcare software projects, and I wanted to open up a digital healthcare software company in Cayman. But the foundation of the tech industry is associated with [intellectual property] laws. If I were to write code in Cayman in 2013, I was exposed, [in] that it could be copied legally because there was no copyright law. So I couldn’t form my company.”
Mr. Mitra, Mr. Thompson and Mr. Chandi notified government of this problem, and work was started to update Cayman’s intellectual property laws. This culminated last year when the Legislative Assembly amended the Patents and Trade Marks Law, the Trade Marks Law, and the Design Rights Registration Law.
Now, Cayman has world-class intellectual property legislation that will allow software entrepreneurs to flourish, Mr. Mitra said. He explained that not only will the updated laws protect the work of creators; they will also prevent local companies from being sued by “patent trolls” – non-operating entities that obtain patents just so they can sue other companies.
Other advantages Cayman offers tech entrepreneurs include its proximity to the United States, as well as its existing financial services industry, said Mr. Mitra.
“[About] 50 percent of venture capital companies in Silicon Valley are domiciled in Cayman,” he said. “If we could get some of these tech organizations with their money parked here to infuse some of their money in the local economy, that would be unique.”
By the end of the year, TechCayman hopes to have several companies up and running here, said Mr. Thompson. In the long run, the organization plans to build its own campus in the East End area, create a curriculum at the University College of the Cayman Islands, offer internships to young Caymanians, and possibly establish its own IT training institute.
With the tech industry becoming increasingly prevalent in the global economy – the world’s top-five largest firms are all tech-related – Mr. Mitra said Cayman needs to get its foot in the door now.
“I believe the technology industry does not exist in Cayman today,” he said, adding, “But that’s what we’re doing here.”