What is parallel18?
Parallel18 is a top-level, performance-driven international startup program with a social mission: offering entrepreneurs from all over the world access to high-quality business training, grants, mentors, business contacts, and investors to help them scale globally while working to position Puerto Rico as a unique hub for innovative businesses and technology.
The program is part of the Puerto Rico Science, Technology, and Research Trust, a private non-profit organization created with the goal of maximizing Puerto Rico’s participation and creation of jobs in the global knowledge economy by promoting investment and financing of science and technology research development. The organization manages and hosts over a dozen initiatives that range from grants and technical support to meetups and educational resources for researchers, entrepreneurs, farmers, investors, and other groups.
At parallel18, we have two main programs, P18 for international startups and pre18 for local startups.
Why Puerto Rico?
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, and Puerto Rico has a 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 (this might change by season).
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:
- Puerto Rico is part of the U.S. free trade zones and customs system
- A regulated banking system that is also insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Company (FDIC)
- Puerto Rico is under the protection of the Homeland Security Act
- Intellectual property protection under the U.S. legal framework
- Access to federal programs and funds for infrastructure, social projects, education, and research programs, among others
How does parallel18 work?
Our acceleration program, P18, welcomes companies from around the world to help them scale to global markets. Our team works hard to provide high-quality business education, develop business connections, and create investment opportunities for all our startups.
Our pre-acceleration program, pre18, is for Puerto Rican startups who have recently launched their innovative businesses.
When can I apply to parallel18?
Applications open once a year for both of our programs. To learn about application or announcement dates, stay tuned to our social media platforms and web page or email us at [email protected].
Who can apply to parallel18’s programs?
Anyone who’s over 18 years of age and has a startup ready to scale. These companies have to have some traction (sales or users), be in operations for three years or less, and a C-level founder must be willing to come to Puerto Rico for the duration of the program. The founder who comes in as the team leader must have equity in the company and must dedicate full-time to the startup. The companies must be incorporated in Puerto Rico or the United States (authorized to make business in Puerto Rico.) If your startup is not incorporated in any of these places, the program will provide you with the contacts of service providers who can help you in this process.
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 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 participate in our in-person format that requires founders to come to Puerto Rico for certain requirements and events. Founders must be willing to participate in a collaborative environment and 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 three years of operations or less.
What do I need to apply?
Projects must be at least in a stage where the product is 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 on our webpage. Applications open once a year.
Who is going to review my application to parallel18?
Parallel18 has a multi-step judging process. After applications are closed, the parallel18 team does an internal screening to understand which companies comply with the program’s basic requirements. Those who advance to judging will be evaluated by a network of international evaluators recruited by the parallel18 team, using criteria provided by the program. Each startup is reviewed by at least three judges. Finally, a Selection Board, composed of players of the Puerto Rico entrepreneurial ecosystem, selects the startups that participate in each cohort. *Selection process may vary by generation.
Who is going to have access to my application?
The parallel18 team, the international judges, and the Selection Board will have access to your application. All documents are kept completely confidential and are not shared with external sources.
What are the evaluation criteria?
Applications will be evaluated on the following:
P18 – For international startups:
- Product or Service (20%)
- Traction (20%)
- Market and Competitive Positioning (20%)
- Team Mix, Qualification & Experience (20%)
- Engagement with Puerto Rico (20%)
Pre18 for local startups:
- Product or Service (25%)
- Market and Competitive Positioning (25%)
- Team Mix, Qualification & Experience (25%)
- Team’s Focus and Dedication (15%)
- Engagement with Puerto Rico (10%)
I’m launching or own 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. If your business is in Puerto Rico, we suggest you contact the Colmena66 team, they will be able to help you connect with adequate resources.
Do I need to be fluent in Spanish?
No, we speak Spanglish! All of P18’s communications will be in English and, being a bilingual country, lots of people speak or understand English. Since pre18 is for local founders, the program is held in Spanish. This might vary depending on the circumstances.
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 recommendations?
We strongly suggest having recommendations in your application. 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.
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 three main questions:
- What problem are you solving?
- Why are you the perfect team to lead this project?
- How will parallel18 impact your startups?
- You must provide a direct YouTube or Vimeo link to your pitch video. Make sure it is not password-protected. Remember to present the founding team in person in the video.
Will the program provide me with housing?
Parallel18 will provide 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 provide contacts with local health insurance providers. You must have evidence of 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?
Team members have to apply on the same application form as the startup. Make sure both the startup’s team leader and team members (up to two) are included in the application form. It’s required for team members to live in Puerto Rico for the duration of the program. 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 analyze if there is a strong case behind the delay in 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 or authorized to do business in Puerto Rico in the United States or Puerto Rico as a Corp. or LLC company. In the case that the company does not have a legal firm, the program will provide you with the contacts of service providers who can help you in this process. If you’re planning to apply for any of the tax incentives available for startups, you need to be incorporated into the Island.
I am a foreign entrepreneur, which Visa do I need to participate in the program?
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 the operations. If you want more information about tax incentives and startups visit Invest Puerto Rico.
How much weekly time is required by the program?
The program requires six to eight hours a week for the following activities:
- Mondays: KPIs meeting at a specific 45-minute time slot (depending on the group some of these meetings can be an hour long.)
- Mentor sessions: two a week, always at a specific time that will be notified during orientation.
- Mentor office hours: we highly encourage startups to schedule office hours with mentors to make the most out of the acceleration experience.
- parallel1818Connect pitch practices and meetings: these are optional, but highly encouraged, and have the purpose of connecting startups with big local companies in Puerto Rico.
*This may vary by generation and/or program.
Can non-profits apply?
No, parallel18 only accepts for-profit companies.