Orlando Bravo, managing partner of private equity firm Thoma Bravo and founder of the Bravo Family Foundation, announced he will personally contribute $100 million to his foundation to promote entrepreneurship and economic development in Puerto Rico, where Bravo was raised, and his family still lives.
Bravo will leverage his financial resources and professional relationships — including access to Thoma Bravo’s global network of investors, companies and senior executives — to establish, in perpetuity, on-the-ground initiatives focused on encouraging young entrepreneurs in Puerto Rico.
Initial support will be dedicated to the Rising Entrepreneurs program. The Bravo Family Foundation has offices in San Francisco and Puerto Rico.
“Puerto Rico’s residents are plagued by narrow financial support and insufficient resources to create and sustain new business ventures, resulting in limited economic mobility and reinforcing a cycle of poverty, which was exacerbated by the devastating effects of Hurricane María,” the entrepreneur said.
Bravo knows from personal experience that local entrepreneurial talent is being forced to find opportunities off the island.
The poverty rate in Puerto Rico is 44%, compared to the national U.S. average of 14%. Puerto Rico ranks fifth among 187 countries in terms of income inequality, according to a 2016 study conducted by the United Nations.
Bravo’s gift is dedicated to creating a more just society in Puerto Rico, in which youths of all socioeconomic backgrounds have access to personal growth and economic development opportunities.
“We want to foster entrepreneurship in individuals, particularly on the western coast of Puerto Rico where I grew up. I see the innate talent, skills and vitality of so many young people who thirst for opportunity but are held back by poverty and debilitating macroeconomic forces,” said Bravo.
“Our objective is to fuse the talent and potential that abound in Puerto Rico with opportunity and hope. By identifying, funding and mentoring entrepreneurs, we will help lay the foundation for long-term economic success on the island,” he said.
“Our tactical, on-the-ground approach provides action-oriented entrepreneurs with genuine opportunities to help them attain their business goals, strengthen local communities and access a lifelong network of corporate mentors,” he said.
“Puerto Rico has a tremendous talent base and we are going to provide the funding, structure and support from Thoma Bravo volunteers and others in the business community. It will be a powerful combination,” he added.
The Rising Entrepreneurs Program, launching in summer 2019, will support early to mid-stage tech entrepreneurs with the knowledge, access, and capital to create a more inclusive and sustainable ecosystem for tech companies in Puerto Rico.
To promote business creation among recent graduates and young professionals of Puerto Rican heritage, living in or willing to move to Puerto Rico, the program will focus on tech service or product development and the fundamentals of how to run an effective business.
The Foundation will invite annual applications in which those selected will receive a one-time seed grant, access to mentors and Bravo’s Mayagüez-based office hub throughout the 12-week curriculum and beyond, to get their business successfully launched.
“The devastating effects of Hurricane María are still being felt on the island a year and a half later. The median annual household income is $19,500, compared to a median income of $59,000 for the rest of the United States. And the extraordinarily high poverty rate is simply heartbreaking,” said Guiomar García-Guerra, executive director of the Bravo Family Foundation.
“There is a significant need for capital and mentorship. Orlando’s gift and personal involvement will create opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs and committed youth to achieve their full potential and help Puerto Rico rebound and thrive. This is a journey and we are in it for the long haul,” she said.
In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane María, The Bravo Family Foundation, using a $10 million gift from Bravo, provided critical aid to isolated areas along Puerto Rico’s west coast, ultimately developing a supply chain model that ensured equipment and supplies were delivered directly to residents who were most in need.
Bravo and his team deployed air and sea cargo operations to transport supplies to Puerto Rico.