This article appeared in MONEY Magazine – 2017
It was less than half a year ago, on December 6th 2016, that Silicon Valletta was officially launched at the Fortress Builders in Valletta. Since then, this association that brings together CEOs of digital businesses based in Malta, has worked to put Malta on the map in terms of technology and digital infrastructure.
A quick look at Silicon Valletta’s LinkedIn page gives you a brief description as to what the association is about and what it has set out to achieve: The scope of Silicon Valletta Association is to act as a lobby for the digital/tech business sector in Malta, to develop and represent Malta’s brand in the digital space, to act as a network of digital entrepreneurs and to support each other in doing so.
However, I knew that there was far more to this venture than what was incorporated in these 45 words, so I caught up with its president, Simon Azzopardi, to gain a more personal insight into this venture.
How would you describe Silicon Valletta to the business community?
Silicon Valletta is an association set up by Malta-based tech entrepreneurs who want to accelerate Malta’s attractiveness. This means looking both internally to understand the elements that we need to work on, as well as building bridges externally to showcase Malta’s strengths. The local community not only understand Malta’s staggering potential in the field of technology, but also believe that we should celebrate our successes.
How will Silicon Valletta benefit Malta?
No one can deny that we are going through a technological revolution; a change enabled by technology that will affect all sectors, across all levels within a company – that is from board level decisions down to the unskilled. Fundamentally, we need to acknowledge this and understand the new and exciting opportunities that this change will present. What Silicon Valletta wants to ensure is that Malta is not just a consumer of the shift of this evolution, but also a contributor in terms of developing intellectual property. This requires the creation of an ideal environment for such intellectual property to be created, as well as the celebration of the jurisdiction showcasing both the potential and foundation of our strengths in this sector.
How will Silicon Valletta benefit individuals?
The members of Silicon Valletta first and foremost believe in Malta. We are passionate because we want Malta to raise the standard bar, to strive for excellence, to have a sense of pride, and to be on the map as a serious jurisdiction. Secondly, the members also believe that by supporting each other and the ecosystem, we are collectively able to strengthen our own offering on a national level.
What’s coming up in 2017 for Silicon Valletta?
In 2017 our primary goal is to lay a strong foundation to build upon. This means that how we effect change is just as important as what changes we decide to effect. This will allow us to maintain pace in the future considering our limited time and resources. Secondly, we plan to work with government to propose new legislation in the areas of talent as well as tax, and push the mindset of efficiency. Thirdly, we plan to work with strategic partners to push the Malta brand. We have already agreed to support the Zest digital conference, Startup Weekend Malta, as well as other events happening outside of Malta.
What are the long-term plans for Silicon Valletta?
We want to reach a stage where Malta is known for its tech companies, – at that stage the value of our contribution will be clear. Having said that, Malta should never be content and sit on its laurels because it can always strive for more, or rather, there will always be another shift brought about by technology.
Malta needs to realise and celebrate its successes. Malta saw the gaming opportunity and went for it, resulting in today being recognised as the leading gaming jurisdiction across Europe and the world. Malta wanted to develop its financial industry, and today we are increasingly attracting business to our shores.
Like every tech hub worth its salt, Malta has a tech unicorn – GFI Software, a company so few talk about locally. Only a couple of years ago, GFI Software exited from a product called TeamViewer for comfortably over the billion-dollar mark, yet barely any noise was made about it. Meanwhile Estonia heavily promoted the fact that Skype emerged from a start-up team in Estonia. Malta has built successful companies like EC Language Centres, GFI Software, Toly and many other global players – it is time we set a new standard to aspire to.
The scope of Silicon Valletta will remain true – accelerate Malta’s potential and build bridges through technology.