On September 20th, 2017, Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, leaving a permanent mark on the Caribbean island and its people. Most budding startups shut down operations for up to a few months as the nation recuperated. One company, BrainHi, doubled down after the hurricane, helping doctors and dentists treat more patients by automating the process of taking appointments through their AI technology.
I sat down with BrainHi co-founder and CEO, Emmanuel Oquendo to share his story of how BrainHi survived the hurricane to become the first Puerto Rican startup to get into YCombinator. I’m lucky to be able to work with Emmanuel and cofounder Israel Figueroa as we invested while they were in Parallel 18, Puerto Rico’s equity free accelerator. We discuss Emmanuel’s childhood in Puerto Rico, his desire to solve big problems from the island, and how to leverage his experience in Puerto Rico while pitching in Silicon Valley. Check out the rest of the episode for Emmanuel’s advice for startups who want to reach YC from Latin America and how he has grown BrainHi from Puerto Rico to the world.
The US healthcare market loses up to US$750B in fraud and inefficiencies every year. The insurance industry is famously bureaucratic and relies on antiquated technology to communicate with healthcare providers and patients. My guest today is Lauren Cascio, co-founder and COO of Abartys Health, a health insurance tech company that created a system that allows seamless data flow and communication between insurers, doctors and patients in Latin America and the United States.
Lauren was selected by Walmart as one of Puerto Rico’s most promising business leaders, made the Caribbean’s 40 under 40 list, and was a finalist for the Forbes 30 under 30. Lauren is also proud to have delivered the winning pitch at SXSW’s ReleaseIT competition in 2017 and Parallel 18 Accelerator’s Investor Choice at the 2017 Demo Day.
While Lauren didn’t originally set out to become an entrepreneur, she has always loved taking risks and learning from her mistakes. We talk about her decision to teach herself how to code and what she’s learned from starting and scaling a business in Puerto Rico. We also discuss the Puerto Rican startup ecosystem and why it can be an advantage to growing startups.
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. (more…)
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.