USVI Hosts Tech Beach Retreat, Igniting Innovation and Collaboration

Co-founders of TBR Kirk Hamilton and Kyle Maloney, provide welcome remarks to the audience. (Source photo by Nyomi Gumbs)
Co-founders of TBR Kirk Hamilton and Kyle Maloney, provide welcome remarks to the audience. (Source photo by Nyomi Gumbs)

The V.I.’s inaugural Tech Beach Retreat (TBR) USVI Summit in partnership with UVI Research and Technology Park (RTP), drew entrepreneurs and innovators from around the globe to the Westin Beach Resort in St. Thomas this past week.

During the three-day event from Wednesday through Friday, attendees immersed themselves in a dynamic environment of collaborative brainstorming, information sharing, and networking.

The agenda was packed with comprehensive and enlightening discussions, starting with several key leaders outlining the V.I.’s vision for a resilient, technology-driven economy.

Michelle Francis, executive director at the Office of Health Information Technology, shed light on the healthcare sector’s advancements and challenges. “Our hospitals and health centers in the USVI, and about 60 percent of our physicians do have electronic medical records—integrating them is the problem,” she explained. “We are about to launch our first-ever health information exchange. It has been a 20-year journey for the Virgin Islands to go from a fragmented process…to now incorporating telemedicine and integrating our siloed data sources for a holistic picture.”

From left, Leigh-Ann Buchanan, president and CEO at Miami Innovation Authority, Michelle Francis, executive director at Office of Health Information Technology USVI, Omar Stephenson, founder and CEO at CubeRoot and Darly Wade, CIO at VI Next Generation Network. (Source photo by Nyomi Gumbs)
From left, Leigh-Ann Buchanan, president and CEO at Miami Innovation Authority, Michelle Francis, executive director at Office of Health Information Technology USVI, Omar Stephenson, founder and CEO at CubeRoot and Daryl Wade, CIO at VI Next Generation Network. (Source photo by Nyomi Gumbs)

Siobhan Cioppa, associate director of Business Development at RTP, further emphasized the crucial role of tech partnerships in revitalizing struggling industries in the V.I. “Over the last several years, our medical technology center has really grown, and it says something that we [actively seek] companies in that sector because healthcare is such a dire need here,” she said. “If we can bring in companies with professionals who are experienced and have knowledge and are building things in the med tech field, that’s helpful, and that also means we’re bringing people to the territory who have healthcare experience.”

From left, Shaun Van Weelden, Human Data and Former Open AI, Mark Minevich, president & GP at Going Global Ventures and AI contributor at Forbes, and Juan Manuel Rodriguez, senior manager ISOC at Liberty Latin America. (Source photo by Nyomi Gumbs)
From left, Shaun Van Weelden, Human Data and Former Open AI, Mark Minevich, president & GP at Going Global Ventures and AI contributor at Forbes, and Juan Manuel Rodriguez, senior manager ISOC at Liberty Latin America. (Source photo by Nyomi Gumbs)

As tech continues to be integrated, and more specifically generative artificial intelligence, into society’s framework, Mark Minevich, president at Going Global Ventures and AI contributor at Forbes, discussed how governments can spearhead progress by re-educating the younger generation for a rapidly evolving job market.  Shaun Van Weelden from Human Data noted, “If you were in a small town and your teacher didn’t know about [something], well you’re out of luck. Now, AI can continue that knowledge, so the only limit is…how fast you can learn, and that’s a cool opportunity for both adults and young children trying to learn in this new world that we’re finding ourselves in.”

Juan Manuel Rodriguez, senior manager ISOC at Liberty Latin America, provided some practical AI applications for smaller businesses in the Caribbean. “Microsoft is now including Copilot as part of Windows and Office, so it’s very simple to start using AI in Excel [for instance] to improve how you do the analysis of your numbers, budget and so on.”

Delving a bit deeper into how businesses can set themselves up for success, investor and TBR panelist Junior Gaspard, born and raised in St. Croix, stressed the importance of showing employees what excellence looks like in execution, design, delivery, and customer success. “Investing in your employees and creating an environment where radical candor is supported is key,” he said.

From left, Kirk Hamilton, co-founder of TBR, Tamra James, general manager and senior research analyst at 13D Research and Richard Powell, founder and executive chairman of APCH Holdings. (Source photo by Nyomi Gumbs)
From left, Kirk Hamilton, co-founder of TBR, Tamra James, general manager and senior research analyst at 13D Research and Richard Powell, founder and executive chairman of APCH Holdings. (Source photo by Nyomi Gumbs)

As another part of the business success formula, Richard Powell, founder and executive chairman of APCH Holdings, underscored three critical elements: business collaboration, radical transparency, and being obsessively customer focused. “In today’s world, collaboration and strategic partnerships are far more powerful than a ruthless winner-takes-all approach in the marketplace.”

Concluding three days of engaging panelist sessions, lively fireside chats and valuable networking events, the event represented a new hub for connection and collaboration within the tech ecosystem in the territory.