When it comes to the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, the region has seen more than its fair share of disasters. Every year, tropical storms and hurricanes routinely threaten the island. Likewise, earthquakes are not uncommon, disrupting vital infrastructures along the way. And of course, like other countries, Puerto Rico had to deal with a global pandemic. But what makes Puerto Rico unique is how those who live there respond to such threats. Rather than leaving, they persevere. As a result, these individuals are the ones who’s advancing innovation and technology in Puerto Rico. Well recognized as responsible for the territory’s progress, Puerto Rico’s tech pioneers are paving the way for the island’s future.
While natural disasters and pandemics fueled change, these weren’t the only catalysts. Strong supports from both the U.S. and local entrepreneurial groups helped tremendously. A few years prior, very few technology startups even existed in the territory. But today, Puerto Rico’s tech pioneers are in the hundreds. Needless to say, technology in Puerto Rico is thriving, and the island is rapidly becoming a global hub for innovation. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few obstacles to overcome. But given the inherent spirit of its people, Puerto Rico’s future as a technology powerhouse is looking ever-so-bright.
“If entrepreneurs can make it here, they can make it anywhere. You will hear this word a lot, but it is resilience.” – Laura Cantero, Executive Director of non-profit Grupo Guayacan
Puerto Rico’s Appeal as a Tech Hub
In recent months, Puerto Rico has been identified as one of the 31 major tech hubs in the U.S. and its territories. Key areas within the technology sector that appears to be thriving here include those involving biopharmaceuticals and medical device manufacturing. Likewise, startups related to AI development and fintech are among firms invested in technology in Puerto Rico. According to recent reports, Puerto Rico is the second largest AI economy in Latin America as a whole. Not only has the number of Puerto Rico’s tech pioneers increased but so has their scope of interest. This is a major reason why the region is getting so much attention.
Of course, there are reasons why Puerto Rico’s tech pioneers are moving to or staying in the area. One of the most important attractions is the region’s workforce. In addition to having a large bilingual population, there is a significant amount of engineering and tech talent. Recognizing this major asset, Invest Puerto Rico plans to launch a marketing campaign to retain and recruit such talent. At the same time, there are tax incentives as well with a corporate tax rate of only 1-4%. Other attractive aspects for the development of technology in Puerto Rico also relates to its currency and banking systems. And lastly, the territory has invested in legislation related to patent protections. All of these key features have helped greatly in driving Puerto Rico’s tech sectors.
“We are in a very unique point in time. We are a hidden gem that is well positioned to be an innovation hub. Made in Puerto Rico is made in the USA.” – Ella Woger-Nieves, CEO of Invest Puerto Rico
Rising Tech Stars in Puerto Rico
Among Puerto Rico’s tech pioneers over the last few years, there are a few that clearly stand out. In the region today, there are over 600 startups compared to a few dozen a decade ago. Of these, however, only one has successfully launched with an IPO. Evertec Inc., the Caribbean’s largest payment processing firm, is based in the area. As an anchor in technology in Puerto Rico, it employs 1,400 staff and has over 4,000 servers. And it’s currently generating over $600 million in sales annually. Evertec has thus set the bar for all startups with many other tech firms hoping to mirror their success. And several look to be traveling a similar trajectory.
Without question, Puerto Rico’s tech pioneers are quite diverse as far as their interests. Some are actively involved in the health and medical sectors. For example, Polyswarm is an anti-virus firm while BrainHi is pursuing a private medical messaging platform. The latter startup uses an AI voice assistant to provide receptionist duties. Raincoat is another company that’s part of the technology in Puerto Rico movement. It provides an online insurance agency to better serve domestic and foreign needs. Its founder decided to pursue this endeavor after struggling to get insurance payments for his mother after the most recent earthquake. As is evident, there’s no shortage of innovation and technology pursuits in Puerto Rico presently.
“If you ask me, over the last 10 years, not much was happening until the U.S. Commerce initiatives to tap into potential with R&D focus. Hurricane Maria, COVID and the great earthquake of 2020 have made the ecosystem more resilient.” – Hector Jirau, Executive Director of Parallel 18
Creating a Tech Ecosystem
While resiliency might be in Puerto Rico’s tech pioneers’ DNA, there were also some key support systems put into place. In 2015, Lucy Crespo of HP Inc. established the island’s first major entrepreneurial pillar program. Entitled Parallel 18, a trust was formed to provide venture capital support to new startups in Puerto Rico. Specifically, this was to support technology in Puerto Rico in science, technology and engineering fields. The impact of Parallel 18 has been tremendous, with hundreds of new startups receiving vital capital to launch and grow. Combined with more recent programs like Invest Puerto Rico, key stakeholders are looking to establish an ongoing hub for tech firms.
This isn’t to say that Puerto Rico doesn’t have its share of problems. Infrastructure issues do exist including poor road quality and intermittent power outages. Likewise, there is a yearly threat of hurricane and earthquake reoccurrence. But despite these concerns, it’s evident that Puerto Rico’s tech pioneers are plentiful in number and committed to success. Setback may occur, but resiliency and perseverance persist. This is why technology in Puerto Rico is expected to continue to thrive in coming years.