The Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust launched Parallel18, an initiative that is working to bring 80 technology entrepreneurs to the island in 2016. The team from Parallel18 invests $40,000 in each of these startups and educates them on the ins and outs of starting a business. These businesses will open bank accounts, hire employees, eat out, pay rent and help to stimulate the economy. If they can raise money to help further their ideas and choose to keep their business in Puerto Rico a new venture fund called Trust Venture will match up to $75,000. If each of those 80 entrepreneurs brings with them or hires three people you’ve just upped the economy – even if only just a little bit – across multiple sectors right in San Juan. Not major, but you have to start somewhere. Who wouldn’t want to work on an island paradise that is only three hours away from the business hub of New York City and a gateway to business development in Latin America?
— Parallel18 (@p18startups) January 22, 2016
Since the launch, more than 250 global startups have expressed interest in the program, from countries that include United Kingdom, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Ivory Coast, and of course mainland USA and Puerto Rico. Obviously, these entrepreneurs are not seeing the recent debt crisis as conflicting with the value this program will bring to the island.
Take a virtual tour of the offices here
Even before this initiative launched there were other programs and people working to better the island and create jobs. Just talk to Laura Cantero, executive director of Grupo Guaycan, a non-profit organization that couples private equity investment with a series of programs aimed at developing, strengthening, and advancing Puerto Rico’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. She and her team have helped 1800 startups in the past ten years launch and grow their businesses, raised four private equity funds that have $150,000,000 in assets under management, worked with more than 65 growth companies to get them to export and operate outside of Puerto Rico, provided more than 80 fellowships to entrepreneurship programs in the states both for entrepreneurs and professors and are collaborating with Georgia Tech on bringing the i-corps program to Puerto Rico, which was created by the National Science Foundation.
— Parallel18 (@p18startups) January 21, 2016
Dave Watkins, once a Boston native and now an Act 20/21 entrepreneur, moved his company FeedYak to Puerto Rico to take advantage of the tax benefits.
But wait there’s more… There are also some fascinating entrepreneurs on the island. Sofía Stolberg is the founder of Piloto 151, Puerto Rico’s first co-working space and growth platform for entrepreneurs and Piloto Labs, a community based non-profit organization comprised of over 15 grassroots organizations in the Puerto Rico startup and tech ecosystem. She also founded Codetrotters, an academy that is helping to train the next generation of coders in Puerto Rico. Then there is Carlos Cobian, the founder of Cobian Media, and organizer of H3 Tech Conference, which is often credited for being one of the key catalysts for the startup scene in Puerto Rico.
We should also mention Cyril Meduna, founder of Advent-Morro Equity Partners, Puerto Rico’s leading private equity investment firm that has invested in and built companies in healthcare, telecommunications, distribution, technology services, education and hospitality. These companies generate over $3.5 billion in yearly sales and employ over 3,000 people, making a significant impact in Puerto Rico’s economic activity.