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…

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Doing Business in Colombia

Colombia has come a long way as a country and as a place to do business. The sensationalized version of Colombia that Narcos depicts is no longer accurate, though the reputation lives on.

Colombia’s history is long and complicated, filled with violent groups trying to control the country’s lucrative drug trade. But there’s so much more to Colombia than just drugs. 2017’s historic peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC, the largest guerrilla group, is a potential inflection point in Colombia’s history. And if I had to bet on a single Latin American country for the next 10-15 years, Colombia would be my pick.

Though many think it’s coffee, Colombia’s largest export is actually petroleum, which makes up over a third of the country’s exports, followed by coal, coffee, cut flowers, and gold. Coffee, however, was responsible for pushing Colombia toward a manufacturing based economy. After the War of a Thousand Days, which ended in 1902, Colombia’s coffee boom pushed the country to seek better transportation and manufacturing mechanisms.

Coffee production consistently grew in the 20th century, employing more than 500,000 families. While the government managed Colombia’s economy conservatively, the the political atmosphere turned increasingly unstable, corrupt and violent from the drug trade.

In 1991 the country adopted a new constitution. The motive for this wasn’t necessarily economic, but rather political, in order to make peace and bring drug lords to justice. Colombia remained relatively stable economically until the late 1990s when fiscal deficits cause a higher public debt which resulted in the country’s first economic recession in over 60 years. But by the early 2000s, the economy began to recover, due to high petroleum prices and stable coffee prices. Continue reading…

Ep 9 Diego Saez-Gil: Smart Luggage To Make Travel Easy and Enjoyable

Have you heard of smart luggage? It may not sound like something you need but wait until you hear what it can do to make your travel more enjoyable and effortless. Connecting luggage to an app and building out the hardware to integrate the two has enabled Diego Saez-Gil’s company, Bluesmart to jump into a very competitive marketplace and gain a foothold with amazing speed.

On this episode of Crossing Borders, Diego shares the story of his entrepreneurial journey, how he’s founded and funded his new smart luggage startup, and how he manages an international team with offices all over the world. It’s a fascinating example of the kind of innovation and forward thinking that’s coming out of Latin America these days. Continue reading…

Ep 8 Nathan Klarer: Preventing Mining Accidents with Wearables

Nathan Klarer, Bridgecrest Medical

Welcome to Crossing Borders with Nathan Lustig, where I interview entrepreneurs doing startups across borders and the people who support them, with a focus on companies that have some relationship to Latin America.

Last week, I talked with Nora Leary Co-Founder and Head of Marketing and Business Development at Launchway Media, about how to get press in the US and what it’s like starting up with three female cofounders in Latin America.

My guest today is Nathan Klarer, founder of Bridgecrest Medical, a wearable that helps mining and oil companies around the world track employee performance to avoid accidents and keep employees safe.

Nathan was working on some technology while at university and saw the coming wearable wave and realized that he could use the technology he was working for good. After raising more than $1.3m from venture capitalists in the Bay Area, Nathan continued to build his business, selling to some of the largest multinational mining companies in the world. This journey took him to Latin America, where he signed about half of his clients, including his first one, high up in the Argentine Andes Mountains.

We talk about the challenges of doing business in Latin America as a US company, how investors looked at having half of his clients in Latin America, support systems from Latam governments, opportunities he saw, technical challenges he over came and how he led his business to be acquired by ability wearables.

We’ll also talk about where Nathan sees wearables going in the future and whether he would do business in Latin America in the future. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Nathan Klarer.

I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Nathan Klarer. If you do, please subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher, leave a rating and tell your friends!

If you have questions, think there’s something I should improve or have recommendations for guests you’d like me to interview, please let me know in the comments!