Puerto Rico (PR) maintains a strategic and unique position as a pseudo-bridge between the US and Latin American economic markets. On the one hand, the territory is part of the US, which means that it has access to the country’s enterprise network as well as the ease of doing business in the country’s currency. On the other hand, the island nation is culturally, linguistically, and socially tied to Latin America and the Caribbean, which accredits PR in Spanish-Speaking business circles.
There are several advantages to the territory. PR has significantly more developed infrastructures such as highways, schools, hospitals, public services, and financial services than its Caribbean alternatives, the majority of the 3.8 million population is both educated and mostly bilingual, and finally, the largest convention center out of all the Caribbean nations is on the island. This makes PR a haven for up-and-coming startups and explains the steady momentum of businesses that are planting their seeds in Puerto Rican soil.
Tapping into this clear entrepreneurial momentum is the innovation-focused company parallel18, which is looking to foster connections and provide tools to further PR’s international business growth. The company recently hosted its Venture Summit, an event that gathers together an investors’ network and 20 alumni companies that are currently raising capital in the area. Let’s take a closer look at how Parallel 18 is helping to build up and bolster the startup ecosystem in PR.
Fostering Innovative Spirits
Parallel18 is a top-level, performance-driven international innovation hub focused on providing funding, mentorship, business connections, and investment to underrepresented founders around the globe. A subsidiary of the company is its international acceleration program P18, which is currently in its tenth cohort. At the recent summit, the collective of founders presented their solutions, achievements, and future plans via a long-awaited DemoDay.
Before an audience of investors, corporate partners, and members of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, startups had the opportunity to present themselves to local and international markets. The participating startups included Figuro, eSponsor, RunFalcon, RedAtlas, Channel, Abacrop, Lank, and Wihom—representing companies from Colombia, Chile, and Puerto Rico. This collective was unique in that it was a 100% LatinX cohort. The companies also represented industries across the board such as agtech, fintech, real estate/proptech, insuretech, among others.
“This DemoDay concludes the tenth generation of our international P18 program and it represents a celebration of the continued support of the business ecosystem leaders; not only in Puerto Rico but the rest of the world”, stated Dr. Héctor Jirau, Director of Operations and Investment of parallel18.
Growing PR’s Entrepreneurial Infrastructure
The p18 program is also a part of the Puerto Rico Science, Technology, and Research Trust (PRSTRT), which was established in 2004 under Public Law 214. As an autonomous entity, its mission is to stimulate innovation, technology commercialization, and the creation of high-technology jobs in Puerto Rico’s targeted industry sectors. By promoting innovation-driven enterprises, science, and technology the entity looks to advance Puerto Rico’s economy and its citizen’s well-being.
“This celebration represents ten generations of continuous business support from the Trust and the growth of more than 250 companies that have contributed to the local economy. These startups have benefited from our business ecosystem, mentorships, and the high-quality educational program offered by parallel18, while providing direct and indirect job opportunities for the Puerto Rican economy,” highlighted Eng. Lucy Crespo, CEO of the PRSTRT. “Parallel18 is one of the first programs of the strategic pillar of entrepreneurship of the Trust and with each cohort, new innovative business solutions are added to the island’s ecosystem.”
In addition to the traditional DemoDay that took place at the Venture Summit, the set of events also brought in the accelerator’s investment network and distinguished alumni. This included the participation of alumni startups like Beauty911, Silabuz, DebMedia, PRoduce, LabbGo, Amasar, Kiwi, Hyperion, Cuela, Strain, Aseguratec, PilotoMail, CelerOps, Spawn Camp, InsuHealth Design, Groundbreaker, among others. During the second day of events, the current cohort of companies graduated from parallel18’s subprograms and are all actively raising capital.
“Incorporating an additional alumni event and introducing them to our investment portfolio is part of our mission to support the ecosystem and to boost the growth of these companies. After DemoDay culminates, our commitment to the startups doesn’t end. On the contrary, we go hand-in-hand with each entrepreneur and help them along the way to see them grow and compete in the global market”, concluded Jirau.
A five-month acceleration program that provides grants, high-quality business training, funding, and networks to help underrepresented startups to scale globally, Parallel 18 and its P18 program are helping to foster the PR’s spirit for business innovation and its potential in the international economy.
Disclosure: This article mentions a client of an Espacio portfolio company.