The Puerto Rico Science Technology & Research Trust is turning to the startup ecosystem as a contributing solution to Puerto Rico’s current economic crisis with the launch of Parallel18, a program with the goal of expanding the horizons of local entrepreneurs in the short term and create economic development in the long run.
Parallel18 is an economic development initiative that aims to attract and create high-impact startups that can scale from Puerto Rico to global communities beyond the island, including the U.S. mainland, Latin America and Europe.
Applications to participate in the program will be accepted through Jan. 29, 2016. Interested entrepreneurs from Puerto Rico and around the globe are encouraged to apply here.
To get the initiative off the ground, the Science Trust is providing $1 million in funding, while the Department of Economic Development and Commerce and the Puerto Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company will put up $1 million each.
“Technology has helped to redefine communities and create value well beyond economic prosperity,” said Sebastián Vidal, executive director of Parallel18. “Parallel18 harnesses the uniqueness of Puerto Rico, including: a multicultural society and a connected diaspora throughout the world; convenient geographic location; lower cost of living and resources; and competitive taxation under U.S. laws.”
“All of these elements, combined with additional business incentives, attract well-connected and experienced business people to live on and work from our beautiful island,” he said.
During an intense five-month program, up to 40 tech-based startups will participate in a training and acceleration program taught by global technology and business experts. Each company will receive equity-free seed money ($40,000 delivered in two sets of $20,000) with an opportunity for equity based follow-on funds if they choose to keep their business in Puerto Rico.
In exchange, they will engage with local universities to teach and mentor students on a regular basis while participating in other volunteer efforts.
“I am a supporter of any program that seeks to identify unique and strategic ways to help move us from an old and tiered economic model that has brought fiscal crisis, to a technology-based global economic model that brings fiscal strength,” said Cyril Meduña, founder of Advent-Morro Equity Partners.
“Parallel18 will help to accelerate a global entrepreneurial mentality in Puerto Rico and will be a catalyst to transform our culture into one that nurtures, supports and celebrates innovation and risk taking,” he said. “It is only through this entrepreneurship, innovation and risk-taking that Puerto Rico will become a more prosperous island.”
In an effort to retain talent and help startups scale from the island, Parallel18 is launching a follow-on fund called Trust Venture. Trust Venture provides up to $75,000 in matching dollars when a startup raises capital. Acceptance of these funds requires that the business reside and operate on the island. This requirement further highlights the goal of building a community of revenue driven innovative companies in Puerto Rico.