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Barbados can become ‘a tech hub’

Natasha Beckles

Barbados can become ‘a tech hub’

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A Barbadian software developer believes Government should pay more attention to mobile application development which is emerging as one of the strongest growth areas in information and communications technology (ICT) globally.
Curtis Padmore, the chief executive officer and founder of West Apps (International) Inc., said Barbados’ ICT policy should be focusing much more on mobile development with incentives for software engineers.
“I think what’s really good and advantageous about Barbados . . . is that we are very well placed geographically and we’ve got a good infrastructure to help build upon to really become a tech hub.
“The strength of IT business models is that you’re not producing a product so you’re not limited by scale, you’re not limited by shipping and exports but you are really allowed to compete globally by shipping electronically so anyone in India, China or the USA could download your app.
“Those border challenges don’t exist anymore which is one of the reasons why I think, in terms of generating foreign exchange, we should really pay attention to the industry,” Padmore said.
He pointed to the success of photo-sharing app Instagram as a good example of how “aggressive” growth in the industry could be.
“It was only a two-year-old company at the time it was bought by Facebook for US$1 billion. Here’s a company that had not made any money really, had about 13 employees and had a valuation of US$1 billion. It had a large user base and that would’ve allowed it to jump in valuation significantly.
“Another obvious one would be Angry Birds, a company out of Europe, not Silicon Valley but out of Europe, and Angry Birds has gone on to become a global success,” he told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY.
Padmore suggested some changes to the island’s tax system and “Government infrastructure” which he believed would help to stimulate software development, especially in the area of mobile apps.
“I think there’s a 15 year tax holiday if you’re a manufacturer and a software engineer is a manufacturer so a software engineer should be able to enjoy those same benefits.
“I think in the same way that a manufacturer who’s pursuing manufacturing type certification like ISO 9000 gets tax breaks, a software engineer who is pursuing software certification should be allowed to get similar tax breaks.
“It comes down to viewing the software industry as a real catapult to boosting the economy because it’s doing the same for other countries worldwide,” he said.
Padmore also noted that there was too much red tape involved when dealing with Government and “a lot of those procedures can limit or stymie an IT company that is all about agile management”.
“The focus is to get the minimum viable product out even though it is not perfect and then iterate and refine it so you get to market as fast as possible and then build out your business very strategically . . . as opposed to having to wait several months for some approval to take place,” he explained.
The developer noted that traditional sources of financing would not work in the IT industry which could require angel investors and venture capitalists, depending on the entrepreneur’s business model.