We are ready to #WorkHardKeepMoving

They say innovation can be born out of crisis and that necessity is the mother of invention. And a month after hurricane Maria we can attest this is true. Many of you have been wondering what’s going on with the program. Is it still running? Have we given up? Au contraire! And this is why we want to share the journey we’ve been through during the last 30 days and how Parallel18, and Puerto Rico, will keep moving.

So, as we mentioned it’s been a month since hurricane Maria hit the island. Four weeks since we held a meeting with a group of kind of scared Gen.4 entrepreneurs and told them to prepare for intense weather, no power, no water, and no Internet. To make sure we were all communicated, we reactivated our hurricane Irma WhatsApp group. During Irma, we noticed the group allowed us to support each other and share information. Our message was simple: be safe, hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

After 14 hours of Cat4 hurricane winds and rain our entrepreneurs were safe and we started to realize the extent of the damage as told by the only radio station that was up during and after the storm. In short, 100% of the island was without power or water, telecommunications were down, fallen trees were everywhere blocking streets, and what was once a green, tropical paradise, looked like it had been hit by an atomic bomb.

The view from our Marketing Manager’s home

The first week was spent looking for basic supplies and connectivity or cell service anywhere. In the meantime, WiFi spots started surfacing, some co-working spaces were opening for relief efforts, and we were able to get some spots for our entrepreneurs so they could work and help some of the charities that had started to make moves to provide aid.

And that was how a catastrophe helped build community. It was amazing to see everyone getting together, sharing experiences, jokes, or whatever they had to make things more bearable. Even though our office was not spared (we had two broken windows and some flooding), we knew that keeping the morale up was important, so we tried to make it the center for the Parallel18 community.

In the meantime, we started getting emails from mentors, alumni, and partners asking how they could help. Some of our alumni, like Frank Denbow, from Gen.3 startup Ink’a; Paul Bojarski, from Gen.2 startup Sceenic; Fabiany Lima, from Gen.2 startup TimoKids; Ethan Brandt-Finell, from Gen.2 startup Wholesale In a Box; Alana Matos, from Gen.2 startup Caila; Alan Taveras, from Gen.2 startup BrandsOf ; Andres Fournier,and Gen.3 startup CompraFresca; Leonard Hinton, from Gen.1 startup Crediyo, and so many who started to raise funds, create communication tools, gather lists of needs and move all over the island to get some relief to communities outside of San Juan. Gen.4 startups have reached out as well asking of ways they can help and eager to return to Puerto Rico. Our local Gen.4 companies also kept working hard to keep the island moving. StageBoom, realizing that mental health needs to be addressed after something like Maria, organized an event with local musicians (paid by them) in Lote23 that also gave space to NGO’s to promote their relief efforts. BrainHi kept growing thanks to the way their bot helped keep meteorologist Ada Monzon’s Facebook fans informed.

Gen.2 alumni Fabiany Lima, from TimoKids and Alan Taveras, from BrandsOf
Emina playing at Bembé en Lote23 organized by StageBoom

In addition, some of our friends from the global startup community helped us get free co-working space for Gen.4 startups who had to leave Puerto Rico to continue their businesses after the storm. Others have connected us with people who will help us see how we can make the program stronger. And that’s what we’re at right now, working on how to make Parallel18 stronger and better for Puerto Rico. Analyzing how our program can continue to promote economic development while adapting to our new reality; reaching out to those who were key in the innovation community in New Orleans after Katrina to learn from them; and finding ways to keep engaged with our entrepreneurs and understand how can we keep supporting them during the program’s hiatus.

No power? No problem, we keep moving

Two weeks after Maria we decided to pause our fourth generation and cancelled the application period for our fifth cohort. As a team, we felt that, at that point, the Island had to recover and we needed to find ways to help local small businesses. With that in mind, we joined forces with INprende, Centro para Emprendedores, Grupo Guayacán, Piloto 151, Cámara de Comercio de Puerto Rico, Departamento de Desarrollo Económico y Comercio, Compañía de Comercio y Exportación, Foundation for Puerto Rico, ConPRmetidos, Colmena66 and our parent organization Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust, to create the campaign Levanta Tu Negocio PR. The main focus of this effort is to help SMBs identify their needs and direct them to the programs, organizations or funds that can help them get their businesses going again.

While doing that, we started working on the plan for Gen.4 and Gen.5 and are happy to say that we will resume Gen.4 on January 8, 2018 and we’ll soon announce the new application period for Gen.5!

There is no doubt that the startup ecosystem in the Island was hit hard by this hurricane, but Puerto Rico is resilient and so are its entrepreneurs. The environment Maria left behind: lack of resources, problems that need innovative solutions, and creating a strong community are the conditions that make entrepreneurs thrive and work hard to improve people’s lives. And that is why Parallel18 and all the other players in the ecosystem are fundamental to restart Puerto Rico’s economy. We are willing to take on the challenge. We are ready to #WorkHardKeepMoving.

— TheP18Team

So ready to #WorkHarKeepMoving

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The 18th dimension

Parallel18 is a startup accelerator that represents a unique gateway for global startups to scale from Puerto Rico.