By Péralte C. Paul
The H3 Tech Conference, Latin America’s premier innovation event that brings together hackers, the startup community, and the creative economy, named I-Corps Puerto Rico the “Best Startup Program of the Year.”
I-Corps Puerto Rico, which is a program of the Georgia Institute of Technology’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.
The initiative, which is entering its third year on the Caribbean island, is a collaborative effort of the Puerto Rico Science and Technology Trust, Grupo Guayacán, and Tech’s VentureLab startup incubator and commercialization program.
“This is an important milestone for us that underscores the work we have been doing in Puerto Rico these last two years,” said David Bridges, Startup Ecosystems’ director. “We have been working with our partners there to help strengthen the island’s startup network, using the proven I-Corps model.”
Startup Ecosystems helps governments, communities, foundations, entrepreneurs, and small businesses foster value creation by applying innovative ideas, technology, and policy to initiatives focused on economic growth.
The I-Corps Puerto Rico model is based on the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program. The initiative is designed to prepare scientists and engineers to look beyond their laboratory research to commercialize their findings. It also aims to broaden the impact of select, NSF-funded, basic-research projects.
VentureLab runs the I-Corps program in the Southeast.
“We’re happy the I-Corps Puerto Rico model has been recognized by the H3 Tech Conference,” said Keith McGreggor, VentureLab’s director. “It’s proven to help scientists and researchers become successful entrepreneurs, and our mission here in Puerto Rico is to help drive the growth of the startup ecosystem.”
The ultimate goal of the I-Corps Puerto Rico efforts is to help these entrepreneurs get to a point where together, they create a greater startup ecosystem that can become self-sustaining, Bridges said.
“Through the partnership with Georgia Tech to deliver I-Corps Puerto Rico, we have realized the great value that our entrepreneurs — at different stages of development — can get from going out there and talking to their customers,” said Laura Cantero, Grupo Guayacán’s executive director. “The experience has helped us introduce elements of the Customer Discovery method into every one of our programs and activities.”
Grupo Guayacán, headquartered in San Juan, is a non-profit organization that works with entrepreneurs, private equity investment entities, and programs such as I-Corps Puerto Rico to help the island’s entrepreneurial ecosystem develop and grow.
To date, nearly 40 entrepreneurial teams have gone through I-Corps Puerto Rico, representing a variety of industries ranging from life sciences to information technology, among others. A third cohort of I-Corps Puerto Rico will begin in April of this year.
“The program has allowed Guayacán to tap into new sources and pockets of innovation with great commercialization potential, including our top universities and research centers,” Cantero said. “One of our proudest achievements has been the acceptance of one of our I-Corps Puerto Rico Alumni into the national I-Corps program. This milestone proves the quality of our local entrepreneurial talent and signals that we’re moving in the right direction.”