Grupo Guayacán Inc. (GGI) announced the official launch of the new Puerto Rico IDEA Seed Fund (IDEA), in collaboration with Fundación Banco Popular (FBP), the Georgia Institute of Technology, and several entrepreneurs participating as private investors.
The launch of this new investment vehicle is funded through a grant from the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) 2015 Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) Program which seeks to advance innovation across the United States by spurring capacity building and access to capital for innovators and entrepreneurs. The EDA awarded GGI with one of only eight Seed Fund Support grants totaling $250,000. In total, the RIS Program awarded $10 million via 25 grants across the U.S. GGI, the only winner in Puerto Rico, was selected from 170 applicants.
The grant allows GGI and its partners to jumpstart a historic public-private-nonprofit partnership creating IDEA as a new investment vehicle to provide much needed capital to high potential, high growth, early stage ventures, or Innovation-Driven Enterprises (IDEs), in Puerto Rico. “Lack of access to early stage capital for entrepreneurs has been identified as one of the key factors limiting the exponential growth of the local entrepreneurial ecosystem, as well as the potential of local ventures to grow and scale globally from Puerto Rico,” said Laura Cantero, GGI’ executive director. IDEA will serve this need by providing phased, milestone-based funding, of up to $225,000 per start-up, to promising projects meeting the criteria of innovation and scalability. The fund will support IDEs stemming from the local startup ecosystem, private companies, as well as university-spinoffs arising from academic research.
Applications for the Fund’s first cohort can be accessed through bit.ly/IDEAseedfund. IDEA will accept applications for its first funding round of $25,000 per start-up until Jan. 15, 2017. High performing startups will be eligible for additional funding of up to $200,000.
The new grant marks the continuation of GGI’s partnership with both the EDA and Georgia Tech, with which they launched the inaugural cohort of the customer discovery boot-camp, I-Corps Puerto Rico. I-Corps Puerto Rico, which is a program of Georgia Tech’s Startup Ecosystems group, is a five-week, hands-on program designed to teach small teams of entrepreneurs how to launch innovative businesses through the fundamentals of the Customer Discovery method and the Business Model Canvas. In January 2016, I-Corps Puerto Rico was named “Best Startup Program of the Year.”
“Georgia Tech is fortunate to partner with Grupo Guayacán in the establishment of the IDEA Seed Fund which will support high potential startups in their quest to reach both local and global markets. This vehicle addresses a critical barrier for startups in Puerto Rico; the lack of access to small, early stage capital for commercializing customer validated ideas,” said David Bridges, director of Startup Ecosystems and associate vice president of the Enterprise Innovation Institute’s International Initiatives at Georgia Tech.
“Georgia Tech has been working for well over three years with members of the startup ecosystem in Puerto Rico on efforts much like this and we believe IDEA is another important step toward growing a thriving innovation and entrepreneurship culture on the island and we are honored by EDA’s continued support,” Bridges said.
Cantero also stressed the importance of the program’s private and public partners, including Fundación Banco Popular, the corporate foundation of Puerto Rico’s leading financial institution; Georgia Tech, a national leader in entrepreneurial and economic development; and several local entrepreneurs acting as private investors who bring years of industry experience and a vast network of resources to support the startups. “We are proud to collaborate with this strong group of partners to deliver an innovative solution to increase access to capital for entrepreneurs and innovators. Through this project, Guayacán seeks to continue to promote the private equity market in Puerto Rico and to develop a variety of alternatives for local entrepreneurs to access the capital they need to start and grow their businesses. This is critical for Guayacán’s mission, the entrepreneurial ecosystem and, ultimately, for Puerto Rico,” Cantero said.
Banco Popular is a longtime supporter of GGI’s entrepreneurial development efforts and has been a partner on several initiatives throughout the organization’s 20 year history. The Bank intensified its efforts to accelerate the development of an entrepreneurial and innovation culture in 2012 with the establishment of the multisector alliance Echar Pa’Lante that includes entrepreneurship education initiatives with GT, and more recently with the launch of Start-Up Popular. “We believe that a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem is key to help restore Puerto Rico’s economic growth. The IDEA Seed Fund is the perfect opportunity to support entrepreneurs that want to start or grow their businesses through innovation. We are proud to partner once again with Grupo Guayacán and Georgia Tech, this time with an investment from Fundación Banco Popular which has a longstanding tradition of supporting innovative projects,” said Beatriz Polhamus, FBP’s executive director.
For more information and questions regarding the application process, please contact Carlos Domínguez at gro.nacayaugnull@dnufaedi. For more information about Grupo Guayacán, visit www.guayacan.org, call 787.641.6028, or through Facebook at www.facebook.com/guayacanorg.