5 years ago, no one in Puerto Rico knew much about entrepreneurship in general; much less about technology-based entrepreneurship. Our entrepreneurs were (and many essentially still are) born out of necessity: laid off from a government or manufacturing job, chronic unemployment, or lack of upward mobility in their current employment. A very select group of puertorricans set out to change that: highly educated and extremely motivated, they chose to stay behind – while, on average, 95% of their colleagues in engineering, computer science, and technology related fields left the island for greener pastures at the top Fortune 100 companies in the US or advanced degrees at major universities around the world – never to return.
For over a decade, multiple and disparate initiatives were courageously implemented by government-backed NGO’s, government officials, and universities – all with lackluster results. Their focus: “to promote entrepreneurship and a knowledge economy”. A lot of promotion, and very little execution later: There are no active seed or early stage funds in Puerto Rico, no idea-stage incubators or accelerators, no technology success stories of funds raised, exits achieved, or worlds changed. The result is a fragmented entrepreneurship ecosystem with no clear lines of support for the aspiring techpreneur – a morass of government bureaucracy, well-intentioned, but inexperienced and ill-equipped support institutions, and no hope for the young hacker that could build their company anywhere in the world, but wants to do it from Puerto Rico.
Tired of sitting on the sidelines, this new breed of entrepreneur set out to be a part of the global conversation – facilitated through technology and strong connections with an exiled diaspora eager to reconnect and support their beloved Puerto Rico. And so, over the past year, Startup Weekends, Barcamps, Meetups, TEDxs, and other global entrepreneurship and activism initiatives have been executed to attract those brave (or crazy!) souls who decided to stay – who decided that entrepreneurship is global, and that Puerto Rico wants to be a part of the conversation.
Startups of Puerto Rico aims to be an attempt to formalize what has already been in existence for the past year which we’ve all felt in some fashion – a real technology startup scene right smack in the middle of the Caribbean. We invite you to say hi, sign-up your startup, and reach out to other startups with how you can help or how we can help you. So welcome: We’ve been looking for you.