A website came out into cyberspace on February 5, 2015, with the aim of becoming “the best and most complete ads site of Cuba”. Taueno joins the list of sites for buying and selling in a disconnected country and with one of the worst rates of connectivity in the world.
To learn more about this project OnCuba spoke with Hector Almaguer Miranda, an engineer graduate from the University of Computer Sciences (UCI by its Spanish acronym) who serves as Marketing Developer and Specialist of Taueno project.
How did the idea for this site arise?
The original idea came in 2010, when three of the founders were still studying at UCI. One night they analyzed the deficiencies that revolico.com had, unique site of that type until then and in a debate that lasted until 3:00 am, they drew an outline of the basic idea of a much more efficient and usable system than the mentioned site.
Then, two months later, the first functional version of the web was ready. At that moment it was not possible to publish it due to connectivity limitations and lack of funding to generate marketing. In mid-2014 the project was resumed, starting a completely new version with new techniques for search systems and adding other features to the initial idea in 2010.
What’s the legal status of the project?
The site is legal, it is already registered in Ecuador and it will be soon in USA, our aspiration is to be a completely legal and transparent space for the purchase and sale in Cuba. It is hosted through Amazon, one of the greats in hosting of websites globally and we are using AWS, one of the most famous services. The team is currently dispersed but anything is possible thanks to technological development and internet facilities for remote work.
Do you have legal personality in Cuba?
Not yet, we are seeking legal mechanisms for this, but it’s hard. There is no precedent of its kind in Cuba; I mean the inclusion in the national space of computer systems developed by self-employed. In Cuba anyone can inscribe a restaurant, it is permitted and is very easy, but so far there is nothing related to websites or related activities. Right now we are looking for a solution to this issue and we are open to any proposal that lead to the legalization of the system in our country.
¿Taueno is just the site?
We do not see it only as a website, we plan to grow and with multiple edges, but we currently do not want anticipate anything, now we are focused on demonstrating the users how efficient and practical Taueno is. The group consists of five software engineers. We live in Cuba, but have spent some time working abroad, some in Ecuador and others in USA. We are all graduates from UCI and in addition to the project we are also joined by sincere friendship.
Other ads sites already exist in Cuba. What strategies have you planned to enter the market? What differentiates Taueno from other sites?
The first element is the name that is very catchy and refers to the Cuban slang. It is the union of words “esta bueno” (it is good), a phrase very common in Cuba, which is abbreviated as “tabueno” or “taueno”. In our view this phrase conveys much positivism. In addition, the domain taueno.com is categorized within “PREMIUM” domains, which is a distinction for domains with few letters, in our case only 6. That’s the biggest potential of taueno: it is simple, usable, fast and enjoyable.
Moreover, graphic design gives users a pleasant atmosphere in sight. Also limits the number of “clicks” to do a search or post a listing. Another important element is speed. The site has been tested with large volumes of data in stress scenarios and has shown outstanding performance. We are talking of more than 200,000 products recovered in hundredths of a second, to cite just one example, which results in excellent response time regardless of the existing number of ads.
It is specially designed for those who have limitations with the internet. The development team had the challenge of reducing load times without affecting functionality. Taueno loads information very fast, ensuring thus that you can access and navigate through all functionalities without a slow internet connection to represent a problem. It also features less “light” views in order not to discriminate audience and everyone to live the experience of buying and selling as pleasant as possible. The user can select all this according to his preference.
Given that Cuba is one of the countries with the lowest rate of connectivity in the world. How do you aim to reach the Cuban public?
We are working now on three mobile applications for Taueno in Android, iOS and Windows Phone Operating Systems. And we already have offline Taueno which is a wonderful tool, aimed at those who do not have internet access. It is a simplified but fully functional taueno. The general filter and advanced filters that allow you to search by price range, setting the location, brand, if the product has photos or category is maintained.
Taueno is the space for those Cubans who dream of an online store, they will have it with taueno.com; completely free in its standard version, always on par with modern trends of electronic commerce, in constant evolution and development.
Once we achieve high customer affiliation we will optionally offer other premium services at the site, which we hope will please the community. I want to add that these services are already available but only for specific application; customers interested have just to write to Taueno team through the site.
Revolico is a reference in Cuba when talking about ads, however, it has not been welcomed by the government, the site is blocked to Cuba. How does Taueno intend to address this possible situation? Have you considered the negotiations with any state agency or will the site sometime have a .cu domain?
We would like first to legalize the website in any government institution. We do not know if that possibility exists today. We are even open to enter into negotiations with any company or organization wishing to host the project and sit down to discuss how would be everything.
We know there are isolated cases of companies building these systems but have nothing to do with the proposal that we have, some are even very inefficient as is the case of the system of the Transportation Ministry for the purchase and sale of cars. The idea is that our system is already running, so the other party would not have to develop or invest anything.
As to .cu domain, even if we ever wanted to have it, it is good to note that now is a complicated issue, because CUBANIC company, which offers this service in Cuba, charges 600 CUC per year and that’s a figure we cannot really afford and that greatly differs to what is charged worldwide for this service, which is around 40 USD.
Last December 17, US President Barack Obama announced measures to improve relations with Cuba. Telecommunications, computing and banking operations are some of the aspects that should improve with the closeness between the two countries. How do you receive these measures? What benefit or detriment do you believe will them bring to you?
The theme of relationships will greatly benefit the country. Today it is very easy to manage online payments in the world, in Cuba is not off course. First I think an online banking infrastructure to access services that facilitate such operations would be needed. For example, today the Cuban banking system does not have a reliable service to query currency exchanges; it only has a few usable page that provides no communication to use it as a service.
The internet is equivalent to development, innovation and that is what we need in Cuba, because there are many trained professionals. Taueno already built and tested payment gateways but this service is something that I think it will delay as it goes in hand with the possibility to deposit money directly to the bank accounts of Cubans. But we think doing it whenever there is full transparency and legality of Taueno in Cuba. That is one of our main goals. We are Cubans and we want our country to succeed in this fascinating world of Computing and Communication Technologies.