The Bravo Family Foundation will choose today the three local startups that will receive additional prizes for their successful participation in the first edition of the Rising Entrepreneurs Program that seeks to promote business growth in Puerto Rico.
In all, 10 businesses took part in the Bravo Family Foundation’s initiative to promote business creation within recent graduates and young professionals of Puerto Rican heritage, living in or willing to move to Puerto Rico.
BookSloth, CINCO Engineering, FiberWolf LLC, Insu Health Design Inc, Local Guest LLC, Pratian LLC, Raincoat, Skootel, Synchrolog, and Momentum Creative Lab took part in the first edition of the program running out of Mayagüez, the hometown of Orlando Bravo, businessman and founder of the nonprofit that runs the Rising Entrepreneurs initiative.
“The entrepreneurs we had in the program blew us away. They’re as good entrepreneurs as anybody in the world. Incredible. Resilient, creative, good listeners, with an ability to absorb information,” said Bravo, founder of Thoma Bravo, a private equity investment firm that specializes in software and technology-enabled services sectors.
He recently became Puerto Rico’s first billionaire, debuting at #287 in the 2019 Forbes 400 list.
“From the first presentation until now — at the end of the courses, the mentoring and access to capital — they’re way advanced. They have numbers to back it up. It was incredible,” he said, adding that mentoring CEOs and foundation board members gave him feedback about the change the participants experienced.
Earlier this week, all 10 participating businesses — which already received a one-time seed grant of $30,000 — presented their start-ups, which despite the crisis prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, were able to grow their client bases.
As part of their participation in the program, the start-ups had access to mentors and individualized attention from experts — albeit mostly virtually — and access to Bravo’s Mayagüez-based office hub located in the former Westernbank building on Méndez Vigo Ave.
“We’re more than grateful for everything the program has given us, both those who run it, as well as the mentors of Thoma Bravo, the Mayagüez business ecosystem, and the other colleagues participating in it,” said Doris Candelaria, co-founder INSU Health Design.
“They all have been instrumental in our development as a company. It has really been a very collaborative and supportive environment. Thanks to the program we have submitted our provisional patent, carried out an effective test with our technology and with market competitiveness, and we are formalizing an agreement to locally manufacture our next prototypes, among other developments,” she said.
Bravo Family Foundation Executive Director Blanca Santos said the program has “definitely had a positive impact despite the situation we’re facing. Our goal is to impact Mayagüez, but it has been seen throughout Puerto Rico.”
Another program participant, Ricardo Sánchez, founder of Fiberwolf, said, “the Rising Entrepreneurs Program from the Bravo Family Foundation has given us the tools to exceed in these difficult times.”
“Having access to the incredible talent and resources they provide gives you a competitive edge. We were able to refocus our product and company strategy to increase our value to our customers. FiberWolf is extremely grateful to Orlando Bravo, the Foundation and the program’s directors and mentors for this opportunity,” said Sánchez, of the startup that offers cybersecurity services to a client roster that already includes El Mesón Sandwiches, community healthcare provider Costa Salud, FirstMedical, the VegaCo-op credit union and technical college Mech Tech.
Meanwhile, Mark Gómez, founder Gardien Day Care, said the program “came at the right time. Not only did they help us to navigate the global pandemic and survive from a business perspective, but they also helped us gain more knowledge on how to operate a business in a profitable way, no matter the stage at which the business is positioned.”
“Thoma Bravo has set a true standard on how companies should be guided for sustainable growth. We will always be thankful for how humbly they shared their wisdom,” he said.
Gardien went from eight daycare centers to 36 privately-owned centers and 37 centers in the public sector.
Rubén Morales, from CINCO, a software developer currently piloting its platform at pharmaceutical company Amgen, said, “the Rising Entrepreneurs Program took us deep into what it takes to run a company. It helped set the framework of the organization we will be and how to be prepared for growth, not just react to it. The lessons we learned will accompany us long after our start-up phase.”
Finally, Jonathan González from Raincoat — an insurance industry start-up — described the program as “truly one of a kind. There were concepts introduced throughout the program that I really hadn’t seen before and could tell were based on years of firsthand experience managing huge companies.”
“It was also a breath of fresh air to participate in a program that focused more on sustainable and profitable growth for the startups as opposed to raising capital from investors. Oftentimes you can feel like a ‘product’ in these programs and it was nice to see a focus away from that and more on the core of what makes a business great. In that sense it’s really unique,” González said.
The Bravo Family Foundation has already opened the call for the second cohort. Those interested in the program will have until Nov. 15, 2020 to submit their application. Selected start-ups will be announced on Dec. 15, 2020.