Si queremos más riquezas, necesitamos formar nuevas empresas. Si queremos más innovación al servicio del bienestar de los ciudadanos, necesitamos formar nuevas empresas. Si queremos nuevos empleos, necesitamos formar nuevas empresas. Esa es la conclusión de varios estudios exhaustivos de distintas entidades dedicadas a medir la actividad económica, incluyendo la Fundación Kauffman, MIT y la Organización para Cooperación y Desarrollo Económico (OCDE). Para estar claro, este efecto no lo logra cualquier pequeña o mediana empresa (PYMES).  Me refiero a empresas que son jóvenes (5 años o menos), y dentro de las mismas, las más escalables y las que son respaldadas por capital de inversión de riesgo.  Estos estudios revelan que las nuevas empresas han sido responsables por la totalidad de los nuevos empleos netos en los Estados Unidos por los últimos treinta años. Un estudio de la OCDE demuestra que ese comportamiento se replica en decenas de otros países.
My first blogpost in the Puerto Rico Science Technology & Research Trust’s new blog: “An economy built on science, technology, and entrepreneurship”.
An economy built on science, technology, and entrepreneurship
By: Iván Ríos-Mena
An economy is built on science, technology, and entrepreneurship. That has definitely been the case in today’s top economy, like the US and other countries throughout history. During the last few years, the Trust has worked a lot on bolstering Puerto Rico’s research infrastructure. Researchers, who generate the ideas that serve as foundations for new businesses that solve the people’s problems, now have more funding available through our Research Grants Program. They’re also creating new collisions in our Research and Innovation Meetups, which are providing a great platform for them to meet and work with their colleagues from other institutions.
But ideas need much more to complete their journeys from the lab or the computer to the market. Specifically, those innovators and their ideas need to interact with entrepreneurs and investors. Entrepreneurs are able to put ideas from research into practice, and thus make them accessible for individuals and society in general. They also create wealth and jobs, necessary for an improved standard of living. The Trust exists precisely to facilitate that, and to provide the resources to make stuff happen. That’s why we, in our mission to “continually advance Puerto Rico’s economy…through innovation-driven enterprises”, have also focused so much energy on initiatives that help entrepreneurs commercialize their ideas.
In the last 3 ½ years, we’ve organized or sponsored most of the projects or events geared to building entrepreneurship skills and opportunities in Puerto Rico. More than 15,000 people have participated in entrepreneurship and networking initiatives led or backed by the Trust, and more than $1.4 million invested in entrepreneurship training initiatives. Initiatives like the iCorps, the Tech Summit that provide space for future entrepreneurs to learn, interact, and develop ideas into something concrete. Initiatives that work towards our mission, towards advancing Puerto Rico’s economy. We are constantly working towards new opportunities, visit our website to learn more and participate in our activities.
I would like to single one of our initiatives out, though.
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.
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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