I remember the buzz in the air around 2009/10 when online businesses were getting popular for the first time in the Maldives. Online websites like badhige.com and ibay.com.mv captured the imagination of young tech enthusiasts. Like my attempt with maldeals.com; a replica of a popular US startup, many of these enthusiasts replicated US online businesses locally. Like maldeals, many of the online businesses that sprung up at the time are no more. Only a handful of these online businesses really took off. The buzz did not live up to the hopes of Maldivian tech enthusiasts of the time.
Ten years later, this year I found myself talking to a new group of Maldivian tech enthusiasts and it feels like something new is afoot. Something more exciting is brewing in the Maldivian tech sphere. This time people from all walks of life have banded together with a common interest in technology. Instead of bringing global ideas to Maldives, the dream is to export Maldivian ideas globally. This time it doesn’t feel like a buzz, it feels more like a movement. A movement with a huge potential.
What make me a believer, are people like the creative director of a startup who is taking online courses to learn the skills he WILL need 5–10 years from now. He knows that even though his current Maldivian clientele do not expect 3D and VR designing expertise from their branding company, a creative director of an international branding company is expected to know these things. So he is teaching himself such skills now. For him, it is only a matter of time before his company expands beyond the shores of the Maldives.
What makes me a proponent of this movement is the band of women who meet regularly to share ideas and learn new things. This group of Women in Tech Maldives have been creating a momentum around them; enough to bring government entities and corporations to their meet ups to secure their involvement in tech events. In an industry that is heavily male dominated (just as globally, this is still true in the Maldives), this group of women are determined to leave their mark on the Maldivian tech sphere.
This time, the traditional corporations are behind it too. I met representatives from corporations who envision a Maldivian tech startup ecosystem that is plugged into the corporate world. They see a symbiotic ecosystem that can expand the reach of these corporations to the international world. I met individuals from these corporations who are determined to transform their workplace to more modern methods. They are brewing ideas in the cafeterias of the corporate world that will take these traditional corporations to the global arena.
The wind behind the sail is the achievements of tech entrepreneurs of the previous wave who have moved out and made a name for themselves. Products by these entrepreneurs that are becoming global gives direction to this new movement. These entrepreneurs are creating a current that is pulling local ideas to the international oceans.
At the core of this movement are platforms like SparkhubMV who are determined to become the adhesive that glues the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. They are becoming the spring board that local entrepreneurs can use to become international. They are building the bridge that will connect local innovations to the international powerhouses. Through international ideas like AngelHack, they are bringing in global knowledge and practices so that local ideas can sail beyond the Maldivian seas.
This movement has a clear vision; make Maldivian ideas global, and the people involved have an unshakeable determination to make sure that this time the movement lives upto its potential. I am hopeful.