Progress in Puerto Rico

☝️It’s happening.

Just one year ago this month, I had the pleasure of visiting Puerto Rico for the first time in my life, along with fellow Keenies, Justin and Dustin (who came to be known by our friendly hosts as “the ‘ustins” due to the inherently confusing nature of an introduction that involves both of their names.)

Over the course of a week+, we connected with the Puerto Rican community in a really awesome and meaningful way. Countless people — community members and leaders, government officials, university faculty and staff, students, entrepreneurs, organizations and the outstanding individuals of which they are made — invited us into their homes and offices and included us in their meetups, meetings, and meals. With the peoples’ warm, welcoming support, we traveled the length of the island, learned about the local economic climate, took the pulse of the startup community, got schooled on the goings on in higher education, and discovered a breathtakingly beautiful land we’d all previously overlooked!

Sunset on the beach in Condado, just steps from our Air BnB.

Our adventure was capped off by participation in the Puerto Rico Tech Summit 2015, at which Dustin and I both spoke to an eager and enthusiastic audience. Here’s a collection of our activities and engagements in the form of a social timeline, in case you’re interested in reliving our journey.

Through this immersive experience, we became quite familiar with the current state of affairs in Puerto Rico, but perhaps more importantly we viewed the collective vision through the lens of the community and came to understand and appreciate the goals to which they aspire. We flew back to the mainland feeling honored to be play a new, albeit minor, role in Puerto Rico’s forward path, inspired by the passion and dedication of its people, and excited for the progress to come…

All work and no play…well, we didn’t have to worry about that! 😜

Fast forward: 2016 ⏩

My respect for the PR tech community has grown even greater over the last few weeks, in light of two humbling invitations from Puerto Rican friends new and old:

  1. In April, Lucas Arzola and I connected via Google Hangout, and he told me all about Parallel 18 — the new accelerator program that just launched in San Juan, which will support the success of ~45 startup companies this summer. Our mutual excitement around the opportunity to work together led to an invitation to provide education, mentorship, and camaraderie to the founders in the program. Obviously, we accepted and will be spending 72 hours engrossed in a bi-directional learning experience with the P-18 crew.
  2. A few weeks later my dear friend and former CIO of Puerto Rico, Giancarlo, contacted me and proposed an admirable initiative (and I paraphrase):
“I’d like you to come back for a follow-up visit, check in on the progress we’ve made over the past year, and help us gauge our performance against the plans and objectives we discussed in 2015.”

Again, we accepted the invitation, flattered and grateful for the opportunity. Of course, we were able to combine these initiatives into one mission…cus synchronicity. 🙏

We’re going-going, back-back, to Puerto Rico 🏝

Justin, Pablo, Tim, and Dustin (left to right), doing that podcast thing.

In a few weeks, the Keen team makes its return to the paradisiacal island we hold so fondly in our hearts. Taylor, who joined Keen IO just a little too late to accompany us last time, will grace us with her bright mind and smile. And while we’ll all miss “the ustins,” this new Keen-tingent promises to bring the same A-game and channel our teammates’ powers through the spirits of Medalla and rum.😉🍻

PR’s Annual community check-up🌡

Beyond our time with Parallel 18, we’ll revisit certain groups within the community and learn about the last 12 months’ happenings. We look forward to reconnecting with the amazing friends we made last year, including but not limited to:

  • Piloto 151, Piloto Labs, CodeTrotters, and their fearless leader Sofia — What’s new, besides being featured on NPR Morning Edition? 😁
  • The ambitious young leaders of HackPR — How effective were the island-wide organizational/coordinative efforts? What were the results of last year’s hackathon? And what about the plan to extend your educational outreach to high-schoolers? (That last one?…Looks like they nailed it .🔨)
  • Code for Puerto Rico — Any exciting new projects (in production or works in progress) to help the government better serve the populace?
  • University of Puerto Rico — We discussed the addition of a new software engineering cirriculum at the Mayaguez campus; was that implemented, and if so do the students love it or what?!
  • Startups of Puerto Rico — It looks like you’ve been busy… Our interview was the third in your podcast series; today you boast 55 episodes! Highlights? Learnings? Future plans?
  • Tech Summit— What’s your collective perspective and assessment of the progress made? What are they biggest challenges now facing the community; and are those different than those of 2015?
  • Everyone — How do you feel about things? We know you face a serious financial crisis, but you seem to approach it with pride and courage. What are your secrets for keeping communal spirits high and eyes on the prize?
With the incredibly kind Piloto family in 2015.

A rising tide lifts all boats⛵️

Taylor and I can’t wait to land in San Juan on May 31, and we look forward to rekindling the bonds forged last year and feeling the warm sun on our smiling faces.

We’ll be at Parallel 18 June 1–3 and in town until June 8; so let’s sync up, celebrate the victories, harvest learnings from the failures, and work together to plan an approach toward overcoming the challenges the future holds for you…us.

PRride 🇵🇷
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