Hidden in an office building, at Ponce de Leon Avenue, there’s a refreshing place for the second generation of startups who decided that Puerto Rico was the perfect place to start scaling globally.
Why Puerto Rico?
As you might have heard before, Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, which means that the island has to abide by federal laws and regulations. Companies that are looking to establish themselves in the United States see the Island as the next step in order to achieve those long term goals.
Apart from the legal framework and the Caribbean sun, the government of Puerto Rico awards a grant, $40,000 to be exact, to these companies that complete the 5 month program at Parallel 18. This money is an asset for the individuals that are in the first 3 years or less of operating a business. From a book subscription platform to an in-flight pillow and hair dry subscription, you can find a variety of ideas between the walls of Parallel 18.
Image from El Nuevo Día
Behind the Scenes
As I sat down with Marie Custodio, who handles communications, I saw a hidden aspect of this organization. She explained that some of the people working at the offices as well as founders of the startups, returned to Puerto Rico to be part of this project. This is a different side of the story, a new perspective, opposite to the regular news that entrepreneurs are leaving the island for better opportunities. Marie explains that, indeed, that is part of the purpose; to create the space for people that have left to return and build their business idea.
Also, they want to use Parallel to educate the Puerto Rican community about startups and what it takes to establish a business. She acknowledges the fact that it’s a process that will take time, but the efforts have already been rewarding. Through open talks and events, they are connecting with the local community, of different ages, to answer their questions about the entrepreneurial world.
I had read multiple articles about Parallel 18, but walking the halls was an eye opening experience. From the moment that I arrived at the door, the curiosity began to flourish. As I saw the participants working in their individual projects, I could only imagine what must mean for them to be able to present their company to potential investors.
Parallel 18 is an ambitious project for Puerto Rico. In the middle of the current financial and political status of uncertainty, there exists a place for aspiring entrepreneurs to believe that it is possible to create, execute and thrive. And that, is an aspect of the Puerto Rican culture that these companies will always take with them.
For more information about Parallel 18, go here.