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Pre18 opens application round to help Puerto Rican startups get to market

Puerto Rican companies interested in strengthening their product to reach the market or increase their sales have the chance to apply to parallel18’s pre-accelerator program, pre18, which will run for 12 weeks starting in November.

The program –– whose last call received more than 250 applications –– was founded in 2017 as part of the business support initiatives from the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust.

The project’s goal is to close the gap between business education and financing. This way, pre18 seeks to cover both needs through a $20,000 equity free grant, top-notch mentoring and performance-driven workshops. The content of the talks is also segmented into concentrations aligned with the industries in which the selected companies are developing.

Up to 40 Puerto Rican companies will participate in the preparatory curriculum, which also includes access to a wide network of corporate contacts available for business development. Likewise, pre18 offers continuous support and key performance metrics monitoring under the guidance of an expert team in entrepreneurship.

Once the program begins it is required that one of the company founders is be able to work full time on the venture. To cover cost of living, the person may assign themselves a salary from the program’s grant.

“From the beginning, we have sought to promote a global mindset in our Puerto Rican entrepreneurs, as well to give them that opportunity to work full time in a business that they only envisioned as something to which they could only partially dedicate themselves to,” said Sebastián Vidal, executive director of parallel18, who said to achieve this, the pre-accelerator’s curriculum focuses first on sales and product development, and then covers topics such as marketing and export strategies.

“With this program, the Trust seeks to bring experts from –– both the island and abroad –– in an effort to foster a strategic mentality that helps entrepreneurs begin to think about the viability of their businesses while at the same time positioning Puerto Rico as a key player in the international market,” said Science Trust CEO Lucy Crespo.

To be eligible, companies applying to the program must be based in Puerto Rico and have a unique or proprietary innovative component that distinguishes them from what already exists in the market, officials said.

Furthermore, one of the pre-accelerator’s main requirements is that applying businesses have a working minimum viable product. In other words, if the product is software, it should have a beta version ready to show customers. Whereas, if the product is physical, they must have a 3D printed prototype or the final production plans ready. Moreover, the company’s solution must be able to grow quickly and be sold outside of Puerto Rico.

This means that, while key to the island’s entrepreneurial development, businesses like brick-and-mortar stores, beauty salons, food-trucks, consulting or marketing services, projects in a conceptual stage, or any business that depends heavily on people without incorporating some type of automation, do not qualifies for the program.

“Contrary to an incubator, pre18 works with entrepreneurs who already have the basic version of their product but only lack the right financial support and business education to grow. The idea is that once rooted in the program, we can start working fully to reach that target market, update the first version of the product, and scale sales. That is why the call has been extended because we want to give them time to consolidate their projects and make sure that their MVP works,” Vidal said.

The idea is that participating startups can complete a full acceleration cycle through both programs. Thus, one of the advantages of participating in pre18 is that up to the 20 companies with the highest performance during the pre-acceleration process, will have the opportunity to go directly into the final evaluation stage of the ninth generation of said accelerator, whose call is expected to open in November.

Interested companies have until July 6th to submit their online application, which must be completed in English, given that the evaluation will be done by international judges.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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