Puerto Rican Startups that hit the ball out of the park in 2016
By Sebastián Vidal, Executive Director Parallel18
I’m not particularly a baseball fan. To be honest, I don’t know much about the sport. However, living in Puerto Rico has given me some insights about the sport’s jargon that I really like. Specifically, my favorite phrase — and the one I use the most — is “Sacarla fuera del parque” (literally meaning hitting the ball out the park, but used when saying someone is truly kicking some as**).
Even though Puerto Rico’s financial crisis took front a center in the newspapers in 2016, the Island experimented an emerging driving force at the same time: people who are working hard to try and change their country’s fate one innovation at a time. I feel pretty lucky to be able to be an active witness of that. Since I know for a fact that every crisis can bring a tremendous opportunity.
Projects like Neeuko, that show the intention of universities to explore ways to bring new ideas into the real world; the recently launched IdeaFund from Grupo Guayacan, that wants to inject private capital to early stage startups; the White House designation of Puerto Rico as a TechHire initiative proposed by Piloto151; cool coworking spaces like Engine4; and the launch of Parallel18, a new global startup accelerator based in San Juan, that has already worked and invested in more than 60 startups in 2016 alone.
I know, all of this sounds a little too positive. There are still valid concerns about the Island’s economic crisis and questions about Puerto Rico’s capacity to create and scale local startups. I’m convinced that the Island has all it takes. Why? This year I met great Puerto Rican companies that are showing strong and consistent growth.
Let’s have a look of the boricua companies that, in my opinion “La están sacando del parque”!
GasolinaMovil: A pay at the pump mobile app with a twist, a unique value proposition for gas stations that they called “The Magic Box”. The company launched at the end of 2015 and, after six months, they where closing a 7 figures deal with the giant gasoline company PumaEnergy. The team behind is group of Jedis that have been driving the startup communities in Puerto Rico for ages.
AbartysHealth: When founders Dolmarie Mendez and Lauren Cascio started their company they didn’t know that the health industry was going to be as hot as it is now. However, they worked insanely hard to put their product live. They built a software as a service startup that connects insurance, patient, and health organization data in a seamless way. They are growing so fast that the customers are trying to keep up.
Inbify: When I first met founders Manuel and Joel, they just looked like the type of team that don’t pay too much attention to the noise, they just want to eat the market as fast as they can. Inbify is an SMS customer service platform that works. And customers are loving it! They are growing strongly in Puerto Rico and starting to do so in the US market.
Burea: This startup is building product data intelligence for big brands by providing consumers with discounts when they scan their receipts. They grew exponentially in 2016, working with local and global brands with local presence. This team is completely aware that there’s no magic recipe, success will come only to those who work harder and smarter.
BrandsOf: One of the most engaging pitches I’ve heard so far, if you are living far away from home (as most of the people in the Caribbean and Latin American countries do) you can now buy the products that you love and miss the most directly from BrandsOf. In 2016 they increased their sales exponentially and opened in two new markets besides Puerto Rico: Nicaragua and Dominican Republic.
Stay tuned for more… because, believe me, 2017 will be filled with more startups being born and scaling strongly from Puerto Rico
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