The history of successful countries is linked by a common thread: the constant interaction between innovation and entrepreneurship. Yes, those words can be somewhat empty or cliche-ish, the “in” words in economic development and technology circles. “Innovation” and “entrepreneurship”, nevertheless, are two of the most important ingredients in the development of those successful economies, from Ancient Egypt to United States.
In the US, Edison’s and Tesla’s electricity was complemented with investors and entrepreneurs Westinghouse and Morgan to spawn new wealth and industries. In Puerto Rico we have world-class talent to come up with those new industries, but we’ve lacked the resources to be recognized as a global innovation hub that develops, attracts, and retains scientists, technology entrepreneurs, and enterprises.
The Puerto Rico Science, Technology, and Research Trust (PRSTRT) exists to do precisely that: to invest, facilitate, and build capacity to continually advance its economy and its citizens’ well-being through innovation-driven enterprises, science and technology, and its industrial base. It develops and administers initiatives aimed at researchers, entrepreneurs, and enterprises and investors.
One of those is Parallel18, an independent non-partisan 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 U.S., Latin America, and Europe. The program’s mission is to expand the horizons of Puerto Rican entrepreneurs in the short term and create economic development in the long run. Twice a year, 40 startups will be accepted into the accelerator as the result of a global competitive process, and will be put through an intense 5-month acceleration program by global technology and business experts.
Parallel18 may not be a panacea, but it does aim to close resource gaps. It has elements of intense acceleration, opportunities for follow-on funding, and integration of entrepreneurs into the local ecosystem and universities.
A high-impact initiative like this one doesn’t happen in a vacuum. In the last years Puerto Rico technological creation and entrepreneurship has increased exponentially. From just one or two small events in 2010, today there are dozens of training, networking, and incubation projects and events every month, such as TEDx, Startup Weekend, Founder Institute, and others. News about new high-potential enterprises is ever more notable. With a strong and enthusiastic local technology scene, this is the moment for Parallel18. It will complement existing initiatives with similar missions, most of which are supported in part or in full by the PRSTRT.
The innovative spirit is rooted on risk and experimentation. The last couple of generations in Puerto Rico have seen a country with little willingness to test new and risky ideas. That cannot go on. Puerto Rico needs strategic bets in difficult moments. It is precisely in those moments when successful countries take the most important steps, and I want Puerto Rico to be a successful country. Parallel18, as well as other PRSTRT initiatives, has an element of risk. But we are responsible for marking a new strategic route for Puerto Rico’s transition into a new dimension in the knowledge economy. We are responsible for taking calculated risks by investing in our future, and doing what we profess. Parallel18 is a great step to facilitate the resources needed for Puerto Rico’s economy and its citizens’ well-being.
For more information visit www.parallel18.com.