Puerto Rico’s Business Climate and Disaster Recovery

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Puerto Rico is a US territory, which makes Puerto Ricans US citizens who can live anywhere in the US, but don’t have full rights in Congress and Presidential elections.

Pre Hurricane Maria, you probably knew Puerto Rico from Despacito, the fastest growing video in the history of YouTube, its beautiful beaches and by its crippling debt that has stunted its growth. Entrepreneurs were working against the economic crisis’ backdrop to rebuild the economy even before Maria, but now are also helping in the rebuilding effort.

Home to 3.4 million residents and surprisingly some of the largest and highest grossing retail shops in the world, Puerto Ricans do not let the island’s debt or hurricane recovery define them.  The average monthly wage in San Juan is ~US$2500. However, while Puerto Rico was just getting back on its feet, it was hit with Hurricane Maria, which will take years to fully recover from. Many entrepreneurs hope that Puerto Rico takes these disasters as an opportunity to rethink issues and start from scratch using policies which will hopefully lead to policy changes to help stimulate the economy. One of these projects that Puerto Rico is exploring is leveraging Tesla’s Powerwall and solar energy technology to redo the electricity grid. Continue reading…

Ep 14 Sebastian Vidal, Building a Powerful Startup Accelerator in Puerto Rico

sebastian vidal - startup accelerator

It’s always exciting when I get to sit down with someone like Sebastian Vidal. In his experience working as part of the Startup Chile team and now as the leader of Parallel18, a startup accelerator based in Puerto Rico he’s been part of the launch of over 1000 startups. Can you imagine the insights, connections, and lessons-learned a guy like that has? That’s what I wanted to tap into in this conversation, so be sure you take the time to listen.

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Parallel 18: Equity Free Startup Accelerator in Puerto Rico

I recently visited Parallel 18, an equity free accelerator in Puerto Rico, to mentor their 3rd cohort of startups. Modeled after the successful Start-Up Chile program, Puerto Rico is trying to grow it’s startup ecosystem and change their culture to try to diversify their economy and start to build a tech sector.

Started in 2015 and now just starting Generation 4, Parallel 18 works with ~30 entrepreneurs per cohort. Parallel 18’s director Sebastian Vidal, an ex-director of Start-Up Chile, has iterated on the model and made improvements, including bringing investors and other mentors like me to talk to the teams each week. They’ve also created a local fund that can match VC investment that Parallel 18 companies are able to get.

I was really impressed by the quality of the teams and it’s clear that Parallel 18’s 3rd generation is way ahead of where Start-Up Chile was in their 3rd generation.

I was also interested in to learn about some of Puerto Rico’s tax incentives for startups, funds and successful entrepreneurs. I think Puerto Rico is an interesting example of a small place doing all it can to attract startups and will continue to keep an eye on the teams that come out of Parallel 18. Continue reading…