Retaining, luring back talent ‘key’ to making Puerto Rico ideal tech destination
Puerto Rico has a “significant need” to retain its existing human talent and to find ways to lure back those who have left, to guarantee its place among the world’s ideal innovation and technological destinations, several private-sector representatives who are either entrepreneurs or help those who are up-and-coming, agreed.
During a panel discussion on the agenda of the San Juan Economic Forum 2021, entitled “Fostering an innovation ecosystem that attracts the next generation of tech leaders,” Sofía Stolberg, CEO of Piloto 151, said “to be able to attract the best talent and startups in the world, we have to think beyond simply doing business in Puerto Rico, something we all know is difficult.”
“We have to make it easy to do business by looking at our infrastructure, dealing with the power outages, securing fiber optic networks, which we need to export services off-island, accessible housing, and quality of life, because that’s what it’s all about,” she said.
“Large technological cities have a lot of quality of life, and many creative industries supporting all of that entrepreneurial ecosystem, but one of the things we must do, which isn’t so hard to achieve, is integrate universities to overcome that shortage of technological talent,” Stolberg said.
Doing that will mitigate the outmigration of talent once they graduate, said Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust CIO Sebastián Vidal.
“You don’t have to go very far to see how that has worked. There are clear examples around the world and in Latin America, this has been done this very well,” he said.
“The region has managed to integrate the industry with academia, to train teachers in these institutions,” to develop the necessary talent for the needs at hand, he said.
Another of Puerto Rico’s principal challenges is securing investments to support the creation of those tech firms needed to retain local talent that leaves the island in search of better job offers, which is a common shortcoming throughout the Caribbean and Latin America, he said.
“Throughout the globe, venture capital investments in innovation have been close to $100 billion in the past six months. That investment mainly goes to tech innovation companies that feed from that type of talent, which Puerto Rico must capitalize upon today,” he said.
Since its inception, the Trust has taken the initiative of creating programs under its umbrella to foster startup success, through its pre-18 and parallel18 programs.
Christian González, CEO of tech firm Wovenware, also noted the need to develop what is being touted as the “Innovation District,” a strip that runs from Río Piedras to Miramar, in San Juan, which is already home to several tech development firms, including his own operation in Santurce.
“That ‘Innovation District’ already has several anchors, including Parallel18, Ciudadela, Sacred Heart University, the Polytechnic University and the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras, through Miramar, where you also have fiber optic networks available,” he said.
“If we integrate the issues of security, cleanliness, transportation and infrastructure, you can weave together that tech ecosystem,” he said. “That area is one of the few places we have in Puerto Rico that comprises gastronomic, financial and cultural districts and we have to find a way to boost all that to attract more operations.”