Meet the 4 Young Entrepreneurs Shaping Cuba’s Underground Tech Scene

Lead Photo: Claudio Peláez Sordo
Claudio Peláez Sordo
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While some of us may borrow our neighbor’s/uncle’s/perfectly random stranger’s HBO Go password to catch the latest Game of Thrones, we’ve got nothing on Cubans, who have developed an intricate USB system in order to properly debate Jon Snow’s fate. In a country where internet access is scarce and tightly controlled by the government, flash drives have served as an offline internet of sorts, a DIY YouTube and Google. Despite the obstacles, a group of young Cubans have taken on the digital world. Forbes recently reported on some of the bourgeoning tech action in Cuba’s underground tech scene. Meet some of the people at the forefront of this movement.


Robin Pedraja

Getting a small business license for a digital magazine in a country where freedom of the press is not exactly great might deter a lot of people. But Robin Pedraja decided to start his Vistar, which covers Cuba’s urban youth culture, anywayIt was originally an anonymous venture, but it’s hard to keep good chisme a secret. So a few issues later, Robin decided to use his name on the letterhead after his identity had been revealed. Robin, who is not waiting for his native country to get with the times, is able to support his staff of at least 12 with ads and has nabbed some pretty big-name interviews.

The site looks at the music, festivals and people influencing the Caribbean nation.

Links to check out:
Oona Chaplin: Juego de Tronos fue una Experiencia Enriquecedora

Transenautas o la Odisea del Internet en Cuba

XXXV Festival del Caribe; Pueblos Unidos por la Cultura


Yondainer Gutiérrez

Even though running a digital business is not easy in Cuba, it’s where Yondainer wants to be. He started AlaMesa, a sort of mish mash of Yelp and Open Table. The site offers restaurant reviews by customers, as well as recipes. The site’s directory has been accumulated by going door to door and asking restaurants for menus and other details.

Out of the 600 who have agreed to be included in the directly, one-third have paid AlaMesa to be promoted. And though AlaMesa is designed to help Cuban residents find something like the best ropa vieja, it’s also useful to visitors who only speak English but still gotta eat. La Habana dwarfs other cities with its 472 restaurant listings.

Links to check out:

Bizcocho Turquino

Tequilas Medias de Seda



Hiram Centelles

Growing up, Hiram was aware that people were interested in trading items, but lack of Internet made it hard for people to find each other. So, he started, a Craiglist-type site, to let Cubans unload their unwanted crap in 2007. Since the beginning, the government has tried to shut it down, but Hiram continues to get creative to keep the site going.

The site may be more barebones than Craigslist, but it also offers job postings and just about anything you’ll need in your home. Hopefully, it also has fewer scammers, though some probably get through as Revolico receives 8 million pageviews a month.


Elio Hector Lopez

If this were a mob movie, Elio would be the don. As one of the people behind El Paquete Semanal – the USB system Cubans use to get the most up-to-date pop culture news – he is in control of what people are listening to and reading. “The Paquete has become something that’s necessary for the country,” he told Fast Company. “People see it as a form of Internet.” Websites have download buttons at the top of their pages to make it easier to be included in the packet.