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Puerto Rico Marks Holiday Season Amidst Slow Hurricane Recovery

Source: Mario Tama / Getty

Puerto Rico is still in the process of rebuilding from literal shambles after Hurricane Maria landed n September 2017. One program is trying to trying to reassure a speedy recovery by funding ideas and their entrepreneurs.

Pre18, a pre-accelerator program, is currently searching for 20 startups in Puerto Rico with innovative business ideas that are looking to reach overseas’ markets in the long-term. It is being offered by Parallel18, a global business accelerator related to Pre18, that has been working on the island for the past couple of years. They want to provide an opportunity to grow talented entrepreneurs who might otherwise leave the island without the proper resources.

But for Lucy Crespo, CEO of the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust, it’s not only about keeping Puerto Ricans from leaving the island—they also want to empower people to think as entrepreneurs.

“We really need to change the way we have been educating our students to work for someone else,” Crespo said in an interview with NBC.

In the past two years that Parallel18 has been active, they’ve accelerated over 100 companies from 15 different countries that have created start up companies in Puerto Rico. However, after Hurricane Maria hit, many were scared the program might not sustain itself in the wake of a natural disaster resulting in power loss and lack of internet connection. But Sebastian Vidal, the Executive Director of Parallel18 said they wouldn’t give up — they’d just improvise.

“My view was that we had to double down,” Vidal said. “This was the time when we needed to have more entrepreneurs.”

Enter the creation of Pre18, which would pre-accelerate companies that are still at the beginning stages of starting up and keep Puerto Ricans from leaving the island. Vidal said this was to create an impact in the short term in Puerto Rico and also follow our view that entrepreneurship can solve the problems of the economic recession.

Entrepreneurs have until January 15, 2018 to apply.