With 15 participating teams of innovators and entrepreneurs, Grupo Guayacán and the Puerto Rico Science, Technology & Research Trust launched the fourth edition of I-Corps Puerto Rico at the latter’s headquarters this weekend.
The program is delivered through a partnership with the Georgia Institute of Technology, whose VentureLab manages the regional node for Innovation Corps, offered by the National Science Foundation, organizers said Monday.
I-Corps Puerto Rico is an intensive program for innovative entrepreneurs seeking to validate their ideas in order to build and develop scalable business models. The program supports early stage teams through the “customer discovery” process, helping them better understand the market they aim to serve.
This weekend’s three-day kick-off will be followed by two weekly workshops and a two-day conclusion workshop where each team presents the findings from the “customer discovery” process.
Since 2015, I-Corps Puerto Rico has graduated 42 teams of university and community based ventures. Collectively, I-Corps graduates have raised more than $1.8M in funding through competitive grants, loans, and investment.
“After three successful I-Corps cohorts, we’ve been able to witness first-hand the power of ‘customer discovery.’ We’re very proud of the progress of I-Corps graduates thus far and are excited to support the development of this new class of high-impact entrepreneurs,” said Guayacán Executive Director Laura Cantero.
“We’re also proud of the strong multi-sector partnership that has enabled the program to continue and thrive,” she said.
Meanwhile, Trust CEO Lucy Crespo said the program is aligned with the values of the entity she heads and its initiatives have served as the basis for other integrated programs such as Parallel 18 and the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR-STTR) Matching Funds Program.
“The program’s success so far has proven the importance of ‘customer discovery’ to develop highly innovative, scalable ventures,” Crespo said.
In addition to fully sponsoring I-Corps cohorts, the Trust has become an important partner of program graduates, supporting them with more than $400,000 in grants to further their research and commercialization process.
Out of the 15 teams participating in this fourth cohort, 11 are university-based, representing the University of Puerto Rico’s Río Piedras, Mayagüez and Medical Sciences campuses, as well as Turabo, and Interamerican Universities. The top industries in the cohort include: Biotechnology, Technology, and Agribusiness.
“We’re very excited with the opportunity to participate in I-Corps Puerto Rico. We look forward to validating our Business idea, as well as to start developing a scalable business model,” said Alberto Lugo, president of INVID, 2011 Guayacán Venture Accelerator alumni, and mentor to one of the participating teams.
“In my experience as an entrepreneur, a thorough ‘customer discovery’ process can help save significant time, resources, and money,” he said.
I-Corps graduates have demonstrated great commitment to the commercialization process, as more than 85 percent continue to develop their projects after the program. Two graduates — Ask Me Now and Cutting Edge Plastics, from Cohorts II and III, respectively — have participated in the National Science Foundation’s National Innovation Corps program, receiving $50,000 in grant funding to further their ventures.
IBS Caribe, a UPR Mayagüez-based team graduated from Cohort III, recently received a an SBIR grant of $225,000 to invest in their project. Another 8 teams are in the process of applying for SBIR funding.
Additionally, graduates from I-Corps’ first three cohorts were eligible to participate in the High Potential Support Initiative (HPSI), a program to provide ongoing support for promising I-Corps teams. Today, the HPSI group includes 16 teams that have raised more than $800,000 in capital and 25 percent are currently generating revenue, Guayacán officials said.
More than half of the group is prototyping their product or services. I-Corps Puerto Rico Cohort IV will conclude Nov. 20.