This article is inspired in Leave Puerto Rico, there’s nothing for you there (in Spanish), published in Qiibo. I wrote a reflection on that article here (in Spanish), but wanted to publish it in English, so this is it.
The author expresses his frustration about many situations in Puerto Rico and about Puerto Ricans. Whether I agree or don’t agree with what he says is irrelevant for the sake of this post. It’s important for those criticisms and opinions to be made. For a society to be healthy it must promote as much perspectives as possible. Congratulations to Qiibo and to the author.
A free exchange of opinions and perspectives is even better. I’m convinced that the author’s concerns are born out of a genuine desire for Puerto Rico’s youth to have a better life in Puerto Rico, without having to leave.
Having said that, my first instinct after reading the column was to rethink the concepts of “place” and of “where the opportunities are” for growth and personal and professional satisfaction. And with that, to rethink the concept of what it means to be part of a “diaspora” and how to participate in it.
Leave Puerto Rico…or stay here
Young, talented, intelligent, hardworking youngster: Leave Puerto Rico. If you want. Or stay here…
I want more innovative and hardworking people to move into Puerto Rico, than to leave it. I want Puerto Rico to breathe collaboration, to forge an ecosystem that produces exponential technologies. I want Puerto Rico to have a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem that produces hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, of high-impact companies with global reach. Of course, there’s still a ways to go for that. Along the way, we have to demolish some very frustrating things.
But if you want to stay in Puerto Rico, you don’t need to wait for them to be demolished. Leaving isn’t the only option. You can stay. Today more than ever you can achieve your dreams from where you please. The tools are more accessible, cheaper, and easier to use than ever before. Instead of millions of dollars, you can innovate with a $400 laptop and free software. You can access more than half of the world’s population, not the 0.0583% that lives in Puerto Rico.
Easier said than done. If you don’t want to do it, then don’t. But if you want to try, how would you go about it? Following are some suggestions:
Mentors and community
- There’s a community of young people in Puerto Rico doing interesting stuff. They’re the ones who are connecting with the most important resources internationally, in terms of capital and of influence. You can meet people at Startups of Puerto Rico, Startup After Hours Puerto Rico, and other communities. Participate.
- 8 Steps to Getting What You Want… Without Formal Credentials– “…Connections. Referrals. Knowing people who know people. This means that, in the vastly larger informal job market, human relationships and a solid network are far more important than GPA figures on a resume.”
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion– Read it. That’s all.
- Founders Institute- There’s a Puerto Rico chapter.
- If you want to connect with someone, call or email. You could even get an answer.
- Give without expecting nothing in return.
- Meet someone who knows that person.
- Do something difficult to ignore. People will want to meet YOU.
You can be in Phuket, Thailand (or Rincón, Puerto Rico, for that matter. Could be just as great, ask anyone who’s been to both.), and you’ll still need money to some degree, depending on your project:
- Kickstarter– There’s been a couple of local success stories . Antrocket is a local platform.
- Ausubo Ventures– Angel investors in Puerto Rico
- Science and Technology Grants RFP– Funds for innovation and research technology-development projects.
- Social entrepreneurship- USA.gov for Nonprofits, Grantspace, Gates Foundation
- Fab-labs in Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico Diseña- Fab Lab
- Startup Weekends- You’ll end up with some kind of prototype. Stay tuned.
If you leave
If you leave and want to “contribute” anyway:
- Keep connected via specialized social networks that join many members of the diaspora. The best example is Ciencia Puerto Rico, which has facilitated many interesting collisions between the diaspora and local people in science fields.
- Be a mentor to locals.
- If you have some kind of influence, give locals access to opportunities. If you know of a contract opportunity, tell local Puerto Ricans. If you have access to investment capital, explore investment opportunities in Puerto Rico. You don’t have to be in Puerto Rico to do so.
Leave Puerto Rico. But you can stay, too
I’m not here to convince anyone to stay in their country or move out of it. In fact, Puerto Rico needs millions of successful people in every part of the world. But if you want to do great things, you can do them from anywhere. In fact, you can do it from Puerto Rico.