Last week I participated in the Technology Panel of the Debunking Myths About Puerto Rico Conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The Association of Puerto Rican Students at MIT in Cambridge organized the conference, Mass, and the goal of the event was to showcase the business opportunities available in Puerto Rico.
In addition to the technology panel, there were also panels on business and the future of Puerto Rico, and the keynote speaker was Giancarlo González — former CIO of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, who discussed what is really happening in Puerto Rico in terms of technology in the government and career opportunities for students entering the workforce.
What struck me was how professional the students were at not only planning and executing the conference, but in demonstrating their ability to lead the next generation of Puerto Rico’s business professionals.
The event began with an introduction from the current association’s president, MIT Junior Erica Santana, who delivered an eloquent and inspiring speech, which set the tone for what would be four very interesting talks on the reality of the technology industry and business in Puerto Rico.
The discussions centered around the opportunities available for technology and business under the current economic climate in Puerto Rico. Everyone was in agreement that the current economic crisis in Puerto Rico is in government not private industry.
For decades, the government has spent more money than it has collected and has used debt to fund the difference. This situation has now caught up with reality, and the government is facing the consequences.
Private industry is a different story. Most technology businesses are growing at a very rapid pace — including Wovenware which grew 60 percent last year — fueled in great part by their U.S. and global expansion.
Puerto Rico has a great number of business advantages starting with the fact that Puerto Rico is a bicultural, bilingual, U.S. territory. Therefore, we operate using the same standards, regulations, currency, and intellectual property protections as any other U.S. State, but at a lower workforce cost. And most importantly, we have the same protocols and commitment to quality as the U.S. states.
The world market has started to notice, which is opening up huge opportunities for Puerto Rican businesses and service providers.
On the innovation side, we have world-class accelerator programs, like Parallel 18, that are bringing startups from around the world to establish their ideas and scale their businesses from Puerto Rico, which is helping to foster and promote innovation and entrepreneurship on the island. They’re also providing investment opportunities for some of the local venture funds like Semillero Ventures and ScienceVest.
As all of the speakers and panelist concurred there is a very bright future for technology and business in Puerto Rico, particularly for products and services that can serve the world market.
With the new generation of bright, talented and highly skilled students entering the workforce, it’s imperative that they understand that Puerto Rico is open for business.
It is creating the opportunities for professionals and innovators to succeed and not only build their own successful careers but also contribute to the economic strength and vitality of Puerto Rico as an emerging business and technology hub.