James Ellsmoor of Island Innovations will be one of next year’s keynote speakers at the 2023 St. Maarten Innovations, Initiatives and Industries Link-Up Event (SMILE) on October 27th – October 28th.  Earlier this month, Ellsmoor opened the first “Road To Smile 2023” digital event with a presentation on how the post-pandemic timeframe provided opportunities for islands like St. Maarten.

After the announcement that the former Chief Technology Officer of President Obama Meghan Smith and her co-founder of Shift7 and former lead Public Engagement of the United Nations, Susan Alzner will speak at SMILE, Mr. Ellsmoor is the third confirmed keynote speaker at the event centered around innovation, sustainability and business networking.

Ellsmoor is founder of the global Virtual Island Summit, yearly connecting over 10.000 islanders worldwide on topics like sustainable development goals, expertise sharing and cross-culture collaboration.

During the digital SMILE pre-event, Ellsmoor made clear that he sees the post-pandemic timeframe as a time of opportunities for the Caribbean, an era it should embrace. Living more digitally during the COVID19 pandemic has further explored the frontier of what works digital for humans, and what does not. “The pandemic was an accelerator for much developments already in place. The pandemic has shown both the advantages and disadvantages of working remotely. Trust of working independently has increased.”

He sees benefits of this new timeframe for the Caribbean region as an attractive place to be, and in turn the internet opening up connections that were not there previously ‘’The internet allows us to connect and exchange a unique amount of skill sets, previously separated by locations.”.  He used the example of the Portuguese island of Madeira, that in the pandemic saw a large amount of hotel rooms occupied by remote workers. “Remote workers tend to connect with small businesses and spend on island. This is why remote working on Madeira was not an initiative by the Tourism Bureau, but by StartUp Madeira.”

However, according to Ellsmoor remote working programs are not always sustainable. “Remote working works when it is integrated with the local ecosystem. Events like the upcoming SMILE event connect the remote and the real life, regions and the world”. 

Benefits and downsides of the new era of remote working were further explored with Ellsmoor by SMILE Master of Ceremony and entrepreneur John Sandiford in a panel discussion, and including SMILE 2019 speaker Susan Alzner of American societal innovation group Shift7, Bernise Stoffers of the Kingdom Enterprise Agency (RVO), Jennifer Carty of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (COCI) and Wyb Meijer of the St. Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association (SHTA).

SMILE 2023 will be the event’s fourth physical edition and takes place on October 27th and 28th 2023. Key topics will once again be innovation, sustainability and networking. SMILE 2023’s main theme will be “Making Your Business Future Proof”. In addition to Smith, Alzner and Ellsmoor, Ms. Stoffer also stated she will again be present at SMILE to elaborate on Kingdom instruments for St. Maarten entrepreneurs looking to do business abroad.

Over the upcoming months, more confirmed speakers will be revealed at the event website smilesintmaarten.com. Those organizations wanting to take part in either pre-events or the main event or as a supporter can be subscribed without cost to the SMILE mailing list via events@shta.com or by calling +1721- 5420108.

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