Today the Puerto Rico Science, Technology, and Research Trust launched Parallel18, an economic development initiative that aims to attract and create high-impact startups that can scale from Puerto Rico to global communities beyond the island, including Mainland U.S., Latin America and Europe. During an intense five-month program, up to 40 tech-based startups will participate in a training and acceleration program taught by global technology and business experts. Each company will receive equity-free seed money ($40,000 delivered in two sets of $20,000) with an opportunity for equity based follow-on funds if they choose to keep their business in Puerto Rico. In exchange, they will engage with local universities to teach and mentor students on a regular basis while participating in other volunteer efforts.
For me personally, it’s an honor to see this become reality after countless conversations since 2012 with Ramphis Castro, Marcos Polanco, Miguel A. Rios, Luis Herrero, Giancarlo González, and others, about the importance of this project and its possible design. Even before then, others tried to promote it. Then, multiple exchanges with people in the Puerto Rican diaspora, such as Javier Soltero and Georgie Benardete, and from other communities, such as Niel Robertson, who selflessly gave their thoughts. Also, hard work with Alberto Bacó and Juan Carlos Suarez to make it happen. After the pertinent approvals we went on to find the ideal person to lead the effort, so I went to Chile and met Sebastian Vidal, who has become friend and family in just a few months. The team he has recruited is top-notch, including Marie A. Custodio Collazo, Cristina Sumaza, Jonathan Ortiz, and others on the way.
This can’t launch at a better time, for two reasons. First, Puerto Rico is ready. Its social infrastructure for technology entrepreneurship has strengthened a lot in the last several years. Groups and people such as Sofia Stolberg, Laura Cantero, Pablo Tirado, Carlos R Cobian, Nerma Albertorio, Denisse Rodríguez, and others have spearheaded networking, capacity-building, and financing initiatives. News about new startups are more visible every day. The energy is higher than ever. Parallel18 is here to complement those efforts.
Second, because Puerto Rico is going through tough times. It’s in precisely in those moments when successful countries unite and take risks. And I want Puerto Rico to be a successful country. Puerto Rico will move forward not necessarily with titanic plans, but project by project. Each time a comp-sci graduate that had left Puerto Rico returns because he saw potential to be an entrepreneur in his island. When an engineer with a tempting offer from a multinational in the US decides to stay because one of these startups hired her. A startup that stays in Puerto Rico after the program because it has what it needs to grow. Step by step, with those small victories and not with a panacea. That’s how this successful country is going to move forward, creating a massive snowball of action, production, and wealth. A virtuous circle where small successes generate bigger ones.
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