Evertec partners with startup accelerator Parallel 18

SAN JUAN – Transaction-processing company Evertec Inc. and the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust announced Wednesday the signing of a collaboration agreement with the latter’s startup-accelerator program, Parallel 18 (P18), whose mission objective is helping entrepreneurs with their short-term expansion plans and funding with the aim of seeing them scale abroad.

The Trust’s business program operates in collaboration with the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. (Pridco) and the Economic Development and Commerce Department (DDEC by its Spanish initials),

Via the new partnership, Evertec said P18 will “leverage many of its assets as well as receive a cash investment that will be awarded to participants to foster the next generations of entrepreneurial companies,” according to the announcing release.

Parallel 18 will receive a $50,000 investment, to be awarded to four participating companies, according to the release.

“Technology and innovation are key elements for the competitiveness and success of businesses today. We are very excited about this partnership with the Puerto Rico Science Technology & Research Trust since it provides us with the opportunity to stay at the forefront of new business ventures and at the same time, add value to its P18 program and its participating companies from around the world,” said Guillermo Rospigliosi, executive vice president of Product, Marketing and Innovation at Evertec.

Among the other benefits of the newly forged partnership, Evertec will waiver P18 participant “fees on payment products and services”; enjoy “expedited merchant account opening”; and learn from Evertec personnel who are expected to mentor and speak at P18 events.

In the release, Trust CEO Lucy Crespo said the partnership is an “opportunity to leverage their great experience in technology and innovation,” referring to Evertec’s payment-processing networks, which the company says processes more than two billion transactions annually.

“It should encourage our entrepreneurs to use technology to take advantage of opportunities in the market,” Crespo added. The fact that Evertec operates in 26 Latin American countries and is based in Puerto Rico, a U.S. market, could be what the CEO meant by market opportunity.

The Trust, a nonprofit, is responsible for public policy on Puerto Rico science, technology, research and development matters.

For more information, visit www.prsciencetrust.orgwww.parallel18.com.

Talentank Aims to Gauge a Company’s Culture like Never Before

SAN JUAN – Suppose you were looking for employment and a company calls for a job interview and things seem to go great, but a nagging voice in the back of your head tells you that perhaps this is not the right work environment, or that you would not be able to be on the same wavelength as that of your co-workers.

Likewise, imagine you were in charge of a company’s human resources department and are about to hire a new employee who looks perfect on paper. However, would this person interact effectively with fellow employees or would he or she become a potential source for conflict?

These questions basically boil down to the set of values, beliefs and vision that defines a given company; in other words, its culture. Despite it being a crucially important aspect of a company’s makeup—essentially constituting its genetic code—a company’s culture is often notoriously difficult to pin down.

The company’s Genoma software provides in-depth information about a company’s culture measured in distinct values and rendered in graphical form.

Such concerns are what partly drove a group of students from King Juan Carlos University in Madrid to form a startup dubbed Talentank that has since made the rounds in some of the most prestigious acceleration programs worldwide, among them Parallel18, based in San Juan.

The students—who formed under the tutelage of Bruno Aguilera Barchet, a law-history professor at the university—first sought to deliver a solution that would help coach graduates eager to obtain their dream jobs. “We were also aiming to improve the university itself through the tools that we were developing,” Rebecca Rico, one of the company’s eight co-founders and its chief security officer, told Caribbean Business. “However, we soon found that there was a more pressing issue we had to focus on.”

The issue, as it turned out, is that companies frequently have no idea about what their own culture consists of, or have mistaken perceptions of it. For instance, a company would describe itself as “flexible,” but when it came to operating hours and the possibility of working from different locations, the company’s culture was anything but.

Company culture is also frequently misunderstood, as Rico put it. “Companies have paid a lot of attention lately to the issue of engagement; namely, how to make work environments as pleasant and comfortable as possible,” she said. “I’ve seen examples of beer taps being installed at the premises and other perks. But engagement doesn’t necessarily address the underlying causes for potential conflict in the workplace. It’s like the tree analogy: It doesn’t matter how pretty the branches and leaves of the tree may seem, what really matters is what’s going on at the root level.”

With this in mind, the startup co-founders—which apart from Rico include Jorge Campos (CEO), Juan Martín (chief product officer), Ana Martínez (COO), Laura Gil (chief commercial officer), Javier Ramírez (CTO), Mateo Álvarez (CIO) and Rodrigo Ruiz (CFO) as well as Michel Maes (developer), all of them millennials ranging from 20 to 28 years old—came up with a high-tech method to measure a company’s culture to a nearly unprecedented degree.

Genoma: A culture extractor
The software is called Genoma, a so-called “culture extractor” that employs algorithms to gauge 44 different values, among them concepts such as warmth, obedience and analytical capacity. The product, which the company markets as a software-as-a-service offering, gathers its data via surveys that the company gives its employees as well as potential hires.

“The tool not only helps companies get a picture of its own culture, but it also helps them monitor the culture over time as more employees are hired and become part of the workforce,” Rico said. As a result, Talentank has already amassed an enviable list of clients that include IBM, Toyota, Coca-Cola and Deloitte.

This does not mean the team is ready to rest on its laurels, though. During their stay in Puerto Rico as part of the initial crop of startups participating under the Parallel18 program, most of the team members are living together under the same roof in a San Juan rental, mainly living off the program’s $40,000 grant and working 24/7 to continue developing their software, which is currently in a closed beta stage. The company intends to release an open beta version of the software by September, at the latest, after additional testing is carried out.

As for plans once the first stage of the Parallel18 program winds up its course by late August, Rico said the company wants to plant further roots on the island. “We love it here and plan to stay here indefinitely,” Rico said. “We’re in this for the long haul.”

The Talentank team includes, from left: Laura Gil, Rebecca Rico, Javier Ramírez, Rodrigo Ruiz, Mateo Alvarez, Juan Martín, Jorge Campos and Ana Martínez

Startups from 12 Countries Will Move to Puerto Rico for Parallel18 Program

SAN JUAN — Businesses accelerator  Parallel18 (P18) has announced it has selected 33 startups that will move to the island for five months to learn from business and technology experts.

Parallel 18A team of judges evaluated 507 applications via the YouNoodle platform to find the most innovative ideas and companies to take part in the second “generation” of the accelerator program, the published announcement explains.

P18 is one of the main programs from the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust, and was created in alliance with the Economic Development and Commerce Department and the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. (Pridco).

Puerto Rico and the United States lead the number of selected startups; followed by Argentina, Brazil, India, Mexico, Spain, Sudan, Belgium, United Kingdom, Chile and Colombia. Two of the companies registered in the United States have Puerto Rican founders: Revl Inc., from California and ALEX (Anyone’s Learning Experience), from Massachusetts.

Parallel18 Director Sebastián Vidal

Parallel18 Director Sebastián Vidal

The selected startups will move to the P18 offices in Santurce to participate in a 20-week curriculum led by entrepreneurs, investors and experts in business from all over the world. Thirty-six companies went through the first generation of the program.

Some of the industries represented in this round include e-commerce, health and biotechnology, renewable energy, computing, social entrepreneurship, education and mobile technology. Most of the startups develop software or apps, but almost a third works with physical products or hardware.

P18 offers a $40,000 grant, mentoring, support and training, and workspace for five months; as well as access to networks to help scale the businesses to international markets. Those who decide to stay in Puerto Rico once the program ends may be eligible for a fund of up to $75,000 to match investment raised from private sources.

The program selects up to 40 companies twice a year. These must meet basic criteria such as being innovative; have three years or less of established business practice; be past the concept stage and have validated sales or product in addition to being scalable globally.

Parallel18 Announces 2nd Startups Cohort

SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico-based business Parallel18 announced Monday a call for applications for a second group of startups, which can each receive $40,000 as a no-equity grant. The five-month acceleration program provides each class of up to 40 technology-enabled startups tools to scale internationally.

Parallel 18Apart from the grant, selected startups will receive an entry to a coworking space and access to mentors including Javier Soltero, corporate vice president at Microsoft and dozens of other tech entrepreneurs.

Directed by the former executive director of Start-Up Chile, Sebastian Vidal, Parallel 18 was launched in 2015 as a collaborative effort of the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust, the Department of Economic Development and the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. to help diversify and jumpstart economic development amid the island’s debt crisis.

Parallel18 Director Sebastián Vidal

Parallel18 Director Sebastián Vidal

“Entrepreneurs are problem-solvers by nature,” Vidal said in the published announcement. “Inviting them to Puerto Rico will not only help to foster a culture of innovation, they may also aid in finding better solutions to the crisis the island’s been facing for so long and help give the island an economic rebirth.”

Applicants for Parallel18’s second class must be technology-enabled companies founded within the past three years. Current participants include Nineteenth Amendment, Inbify and SAMY ROAD.

Applications will be accepted until June 13 at 11:59 p.m. (EST) through YouNoodle’s platform here.

Parallel18’s first generation participants hail from eight countries including Ireland, Spain, Bulgaria and the U.S. mainland and one third of the first generation’s participants were local to Puerto Rico.


Founder Institute Mentors Address Local Entrepreneurs

SAN JUAN – A Puerto Rican entrepreneur who developed one of the highest-rated mobile meal planning platforms will be followed by a venture capital investor shared their experiences with the local community of startups free-of-charge Thursday as part of April’s Startups of Puerto Rico Speaker Series.

The creator of Food on the Table, Manuel Rosso, shared details of how his daily life was the trigger to create his application. His platform, designed to provide a weekly meal plan, was acquired by Scripps Networks Interactive, and has been a success on the Food Network, one of the media company’s brands.

Having earned a master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rosso is currently VP of Commerce Platform at Scripps Networks Interactive. Before this, he had devoted 20 years to strategy development, marketing and leadership positions in the food industry and to his passion, technology.

Manuel Rosso, VP of Commerce Platform at Scripps Networks Interactive

Manuel Rosso, VP of Commerce Platform at Scripps Networks Interactive

“We are very pleased to welcome for the second consecutive year, Manuel Rosso. Manuel is a local entrepreneur who has succeeded abroad, selling his startup to Scripps Networks Interactive, and is an excellent example and inspiration for local entrepreneurs,” said Sofía Stolberg, founder of Piloto 151 and co-director of the local chapter of Founder Institute, which organizes a series of talks with speakers of international caliber who also serve as mentors to entrepreneurs interested in scaling an idea globally.

On April 14, the speaker series continues with Jason Shuman, analyst at the Corigin Ventures firm. “Shuman is a successful, young entrepreneur who has deciphered the power of the culture of innovation. Prior to his position at Corigin Ventures, he founded Category Five, dedicated to the design and sale of specialized men’s shoes, specifically, boating shoes,” added Manny Morales, who along with Jonathan González co-directs the local chapter of the accelerator.

The Startups of Puerto Rico Speaker Series continues throughout the year and is open to the general public free-of-charge. Besides Founder Institute, it is sponsored by several members of the local startup ecosystem such as the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust; Piloto Labs; the Ferraiuoli law firm, Spanglish Films; and Parallel 18.

For more information or to reserve a space for the speaker series, go to www.piloto151.com.