Parallel18’s pre-accelerator program exclusive for Puerto Rican startups, dubbed “pre18,” has celebrated its third cohort with DemoEvent, highlighting the importance of promoting the island as a startup ecosystem and innovation hub.
“Once again, Puerto Rico showcases the pool of high-quality entrepreneurs, with innovative products and services, who want to keep moving their businesses forward and contribute to the economic development of the island,” said Lucy Crespo, CEO of the Puerto Rico Science, Technology & Research Trust.
During the recent event, 40 local companies presented their products, services and achievements in a two-day live stream. These businesses, called pre18ners, represent the new generation of Puerto Rican entrepreneurship and showcase diversity and innovation, providing an optimistic outlook beyond the economic crisis wrought by the coronavirus.
Throughout the presentations, attendees were encouraged to participate in polls to enhance the topics discussed and interact with the entrepreneurs in a Q&A format.
The most common denominator for these startups is that many of them are digital platforms or mobile apps. For example, Paperwork is a Fajardo-based online platform that allows aspiring entrepreneurs and merchants to work the permitting process of their companies. Paperwork compiles the information required for business permits in Puerto Rico to avoid the hassle of navigating through multiple websites.
Another business-oriented company is Caproni, a podcast publishing platform designed for entrepreneurs, freelancers and companies looking to grow their brand. Caproni allows users to publish on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts and YouTube, among others. Users can also track their performance through the company’s analytics system and sell their podcast merchandise.
Innovation abounded in the likes of Patria Tours, which performs virtual reality (VR) tours of the island with an educational focus. These virtual excursions feature live, interactive tour guides, immersive technology through Google Earth, customizable content and Q&A sessions for attendees. Each tour can host up to 1,000 guests at a time.
VeoVeo also optimizes the use of VR technology through games and entertainment. Specifically, the company creates VR experiences for corporate events, tournaments and fundraisers for nonprofits. VeoVeo will start renting its VR headsets in March to further enhance the user experience.
Importance of Sustainability
Sustainability was also a key factor in some of the featured business models. VITAL, for instance, develops practical and zero-waste home essentials and accessories with a mission to “mainstream green” as quickly as possible. Likewise, Bana educates, connects and inspires consumers to be more eco-conscious through a marketing network and its 21-day sustainable living program. In addition, the Vestigium Environmental Group (VEG) develops biotech as its sustainable water management system called bio-gardens, which emulate natural filtering processes through plants and bacteria.
Meanwhile, Genzier allows users to buy and sell vintage apparel and provides automatic payment to vendors. Its CEO, Vanely Martínez, explained that the company receives 12 percent commissions on every website transaction and has already onboarded more than 50 stores worldwide. It became the first vintage clothing brand to debut at New York Fashion Week earlier this month and has been featured on high-profile fashion publications like Vogue. The company’s mission is to merge fashion with sustainable practices by reducing waste.
Arrecife Beachwear is another fashion-forward company and the first local men’s swimwear brand, although it sells products for all gender identities. Developed by Camilo Pulido and Raúl Vázquez, all manufacturing is in-house. Similarly, A Medias is a brand of stylish, high-quality socks designed in Puerto Rico through collaborations with local artists, such as painter Antonio Martorell and musician Silverio Pérez.
Other businesses are part of the health and personalized care sectors, whose discussion has been propelled by the COVID-19 pandemic. Recovery+, developed by surgeon Dr. Eric Escribano, is a research-based and targeted supplement for medical recovery. Moreover, VitaRx provides customized vitamins and supplements on a subscription basis.
Corewell, on the other hand, is a telemedicine platform that provides in-home psychedelic therapy to patients suffering from depression, while Evocare is an app that connects users with caretakers for senior citizens.
“These founders don’t cease to amaze me. Ever since I joined the team, I’ve gotten to know what these companies are made of. They’re beyond commitment, energetic and hardworking entrepreneurs eager to expand their branches from Puerto Rico to the world,” said Johann Padilla, Operations manager at parallel18.
Prior to the DemoEvent, all these startups participated in a 12-week training and mentorship curriculum and received $20,000 equity-free funding for their ventures.
Parallel18 is an accelerator program under the Puerto Rico Science, Technology & Research Trust, dedicated to developing the island as an innovation hub. “Amid this global pandemic, this mission has become our organization’s guiding light… We are delighted and looking forward to seeing [these companies] continue their journey,” Crespo said.
Eduardo Padial, parallel18’s Operations director, affirmed that “pre18 involves a hands-on curriculum that requires achieving weekly goals with growth and scalability objectives set at the beginning of the program. The commitment made by these entrepreneurs to achieve them is remarkable and today we saw the results.”
“Gen.3 has been a big hard-working cohort. While we continued in a virtual format, these companies showcased their greatest potential due to the pandemic. The situation didn’t diminish their commitment; on the contrary, they got stronger and more creative as they carried-out their projects. Thanks to the parallel18 team efforts, the mentoring and education the startups received, and the collaboration between them made it possible for them to achieve the objectives set while applying all the knowledge learned to launch their products. These startups are a very diverse and diligent group. Many of them are ready to grow and connect with potential clients, partners and even investors,” Padial added.
The two-day event included several awards designed for entrepreneurs to take their businesses to the next level. TerraFirma, a digital platform for ecologic and urban planning, won the Aeronet High-Speed Award. This prize consists of a one-year internet granted by Aeronet, a Guaynabo-based network provider. The local company has been a parallel18 sponsor for the past three years.
The traditional People’s Love Award, voted by the general public, was given to LOFTE, Salon Boricua, and Don Rifa, which received $2,000; $1,000 and a Café Global Membership for one year at Piloto 151, a virtual office and coworking space. LOFTE produces natural personal care products and all of its merchandise is manufactured in Ponce; Salón Boricua is a creative workshop of original designs and art pieces inspired by Puerto Rican history and culture, and Don Rifa is a mobile platform to sell and track raffle tickets to reach broader audiences.
Meanwhile, Platzi, the largest platform for virtual educational content in Spanish, sponsored the Mentored Engagement Award, which granted 10 pre18ners one-year licenses for access to courses on their online platform. Platzi provides over 600 online courses for professionals in various areas, including programming, business development and social media strategies, among others.
POLTAGS, Materia Madura, Pintá, Salón Boricua, HALLO App, Remora, CRANEeH, Maranta Power, Equal Love and Pryze will receive the award. These had the highest number of interactions with mentors and the parallel18 team. The interactions were measured through an internal platform used by the program to handle these interactions.
POLTAGS is an app that allows users to register their pets’ information and publish, share and reunite with their pets if they go missing; Materia Madura is a sustainable materials and design company that turns waste into resources; Pintá is a nail gel polish brand that is certified by the Leaping Bunny Organization as vegan and cruelty-free; and HALLO App is a provider-booking marketplace with one app for providers and another for customers to book them on-demand, with aims to promote the gig economy in Puerto Rico.
Meanwhile, Remora provides long-term, cost-effective water filtration devices for commercial, residential and environmental use; CRANEeH is a patient engagement app and telehealth service that assists clinicians in treating their patients and improve the quality of service; Maranta Power is a hair product line that guides women in caring for their natural hair and to embrace their curls; Equal Love sells a genderless collection of natural self-care products, and Pryze reduces employee cellphone use at work by motivating workers with rewards.
The next open call for parallel18 will be for P18’s Gen.9, the acceleration program. Applications open on April 5. Entrepreneurs interested in receiving information or updates click here.