Frequently Asked Questions

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Due to the effects of Hurrican Maria, the Gen 5 application process is paused until further notice.
Please contact cobi@parallel18.com for more information.

General

What is the Parallel18 Program?

Parallel18 is an economic development initiative that attracts high-impact startups, that have been operational for 3 years or less, and that can scale from Puerto Rico to global communities, beyond the island, including Mainland U.S., Latin America, and Europe. The goal of the program is to position Puerto Rico as a unique gateway to scale globally. We have the support of the Puerto Rico Science, Technology, and Research Trust, the Department of Economic Development and Commerce, and the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company.

Why is PR a unique gateway to scale globally?

Startups struggle to find a bridge between Latin America and the U.S., and Puerto Rico is in the middle of the action. The island has a multicultural society: we share cultural aspects with the Latin American society; the influence and infrastructure of the United States, and also have a connected diaspora throughout the world. Our geographic location is very convenient (airplane tickets are under USD400 to Latam, Mainland US, and Europe), and Puerto Rico has lower cost of living, when compared to other innovation and tech hubs in the U.S. We have competitive taxation and business incentives under US laws, that help you direct your money towards growth.

Where exactly is Puerto Rico located?

Puerto Rico is located in the parallel of latitude 18, hence the name of the program, since it highlights focusing on our strategic location between the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. Midway between North and South America, it is the perfect bridge to both continents and the world’s fastest growing economies. Puerto Rico is serviced by many major airlines from gateway cities in the US. It is only a two and a half hour, non-stop flight from Miami and a four-hour flight from New York. You can also get direct international flight services to Bogota, Madrid, Frankfurt, London, and Panama City.

What is the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States?

Puerto Rico is a Commonwealth of the United States. As a U.S. territory, it is subject to both federal and local laws and we share a common currency. This unique relationship guarantees economic, legal, and regulatory stability for investors and businesses. A couple of benefits include:

Program Specifics

How does Parallel18 work?

Parallel18 consists of an intense 5-month acceleration program, with 2 cohorts per year of up to 40 startups each. Companies will receive a equity free grant (USD40,000 delivered in two sets of USD20,000) with an opportunity for follow-on funds if they choose to stay in Puerto Rico. In exchange, entrepreneurs will engage with local universities and schools to teach and mentor students on a regular basis. Alumni will be eligible for up to USD75,000 in matching funds when they raise capital, in an effort to retain talent and help startups scale from the Island.

When can I apply to Parallel18?

Applications open twice a year. To learn about application or announcement dates, stay tuned to our social media platforms and web page or email us at cobi@parallel18.com.

Who can apply to Parallel18?

Anyone who’s over 18 years of age and has at least a prototype for a globally scalable business. Companies that apply can’t have more than 3 years of operations. Team leaders will need to dedicate full-time to the startup, and program participants may not be more than 3 people. The companies must be incorporated in Puerto Rico or the US. If your startup is not incorporated in any of these places, the program will help you out to set-up everything upon the beginning of the program.

What type of entrepreneur is Parallel18 looking for?

Parallel18 is looking for global minds who want to expand their business in and from Puerto Rico. We are looking for globally oriented startups that are easy to scale. Companies need to have a functional prototype, traction and must have less than three years of operations. It is critical that the founder of each startup participating in the program is willing to live in Puerto Rico for 5 months. Founders must be willing to participate in a collaborative environment and to comply with the program specifics.

Can my startup be based in Puerto Rico at the time of application?

Yes, the startup can be based in Puerto Rico or in any other country at the time of application. The startup must have 3 years of operations or less.

What do I need to apply?

Projects must be at least in a stage where the concept was validated and the company has enough traction to be able to scale operations. These projects must have three years of operations or less. To apply you need to fill out the application form on the YouNoodle platform. Applications open twice a year.

Who is going to review my application to Parallel18?

Parallel18 is working closely with YouNoodle to manage the application and selection process. Each application will be screened as to whether it is a good fit for the program (Globally oriented, less than 3 years, scaling operations, traction, etc) and then it will be advanced to judging. In judging, YouNoodle has a board of judges that review all eligible startups based on set criteria (see below). Each startup is reviewed by at least three judges. It is important to be very specific with your traction and projected growth KPIs, since each judge reviews several applications. Finally, Parallel18’s local board will review the judging results and select the up to 40 startups to be accepted to the program.

Who is going to have access to my application?

Competition managers and judges will review each application and verify eligibility. All documents are kept completely confidential and are not shared with external sources.

What is the key criteria for application evaluation?

Your application will be evaluated based on how differentiated and innovative your product or service is. The company must target a global market and also stand out from competitors, and have some measurable traction. The experience and qualifications of team members and cohesiveness of team will also be evaluated, and lastly their focus and dedication to the business. Here are the 5 key evaluation criteria and their weights:

I’m launching a restaurant, can I participate in Parallel18?

Although we wish you all the luck in the world, we don’t accept startups focused on small businesses, import/export, and franchises.

Do I need to be fluent in Spanish?

No, we speak Spanglish! All of the Program communications will be in English and, being a bilingual country, lots of people speak or understand English. We are still a Spanish-speaking country though, so learning the basics is always recommended. If your first language is Spanish, we highly recommend that you learn English given that all activities will be in this language.

Do I need a recommendation letter?

We strongly suggest having recommendation letters. However, they are not required. They should be written by an investor, mentor, academic or entrepreneur who can talk about the team’s talent and experience. When you begin filling out the application form via our website or YouNoodle, you will have to provide the email of the person that wrote your recommendation letter. YouNoodle’s system will then send an email with a unique notification to that person. Make sure to tell your recommenders to check their junk mail, just in case the request was sent to that folder. The person that is writing the recommendation letter will be able to access the application form. He or she will have to answer the following questions:

This person will also be able to view it, but not edit the application. The applicant will not have access to see the answers to the recommendation letter. You can submit a maximum of 3 recommendations.

Do I need to pitch a video?

That’s right! You must prepare a 3-minute pitch video about your startup in English, in which you present the founding team. The video should answer 3 main questions:

You must provide a direct YouTube or Vimeo link of your pitch video. Make sure it is not password-protected. Remember to present the founding team in person in the video.

Will my airplane ticket be covered by Parallel18?

Yes, only the beneficiary and founders identified on the application will be able to use grant money to reimburse their tickets.

Community

Will the program provide me with housing?

Parallel18 will connect you with local housing providers in the neighborhood. You can choose whether to use your grant money to cover your living expenses or cover the rent at your own expense, and use the Parallel18 funds fully for your company.

Will Parallel18 provide me with health insurance?

No. Parallel18 will connect you with local health insurance providers. You must have evidence of a valid health insurance if you want this expense to be approved as part of your budget. You must submit proof of your health insurance, which must cover you for the duration of the program and show evidence before signing your grant contract.

What about my team members? How many can/should I have? Are they required to live in Puerto Rico?

Aside from the Beneficiary/team leader of the startup, there is a limit of two additional team members who will be able to join the program upon their team’s acceptance. Team members have to apply on the same application form of the startup. Make sure both the startup’s team leader and team members (up to 2) are included in the application form. It’s not required for team members to live in Puerto Rico for 5 months: they can be part of the startup and work abroad. They are not required to work full-time on the startup. Team members included in the application form are also allowed to submit their expenses for the reimbursement process. However, the startup cannot hire services from the team members or from companies owned by them. All expenses must be under the name of either the founder (beneficiary) or one of the team members specified in the application form.

I can’t arrive on the starting date, what can I do?

You should let us know as soon as you get the notification of being selected. We will need to find if there is a strong case behind the delay on your arrival.

Do I have to be incorporated in Puerto Rico?

The entity is the legal company duly specified in the application form behind the startup applying to the program. The entity needs to be incorporated in the United States or Puerto Rico as a Corp. or LLC company. In the case that the company does not have the legal figure the program will assist you to create one during the beginning of the program. If you’re planning to apply to any of the tax incentives available for startups, you need to be incorporated in the Island.

I am a foreign entrepreneur, which Visa do I need to participate in the program?

Entrepreneurs that come to Parallel18 usually have the B1 Visa for business purposes. However, we always encourage you to consult with your country’s U.S. embassy.

Which tax incentives apply to startups?

Startups can apply for several tax incentives according to their needs and to the operations they leave in the Island. Generally companies apply for Act 20, and Act 73. If you want more information about tax incentives and startups, drop us a line at cobi@parallel18.com

How much weekly time is required by the program?

The program requires up to six hours a week for the following activities:
Mondays: KPIs meeting at a specific 45-minute time slot
Tuesdays: Peer led sessions twice a month from 4:00-5:00
Wednesdays: Visiting Mentor Talk 10:30-12:00
Fridays: Local Mentor talk 3:30-5:00

Can non-profits apply?

No, Parallel18 only accepts for profit companies.

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