41 min read

Start-Up Incubators in PR and How to Choose One

Looking for ways to expand your business or idea? Check out our list of start-up incubators in Puerto Rico.

What is an Incubator Program?

An incubator program is specially crafted for a small, start-up business seeking support and guidance as they begin their journey. These are typically offered by venture capital firms and universities as well as both non-profit and commercial organizations. In exchange for access to highly beneficial services, the organizations will seek some interest in the business which could be an equity stake or share.

Usually an incubator program will offer the new businesses access to very advantageous resources, such as an office space, internet access and potentially funds which will help them to cement their business. Having an office enables a smaller business to foster a sense of community; and creating an online presence is essential for any brand, whether local or international, as business becomes further intertwined with technology in the modern age.

Additionally, incubator programs aid a start-up business with forming a network of connections involving contact with investors and reduced rates on essential services, such as lawyers and accountants. One of the highlights of most incubator programs is the opportunity to have one-on-one mentoring in a chosen field from an expert. By gaining this individualized approach, a new business can create a substantial base of knowledge and connections which will enable them to flourish over time.

Another favorable strategy is an accelerator program, which is similar to incubators, but tends to be designed with the specific goal of assisting businesses to quickly expand. Some of the following programs provide a combination of the approaches, but an incubator is arguably the better choice for a small, new business seeking support in a range of areas.

Top Tips for Selecting and Applying to an Incubator Program

  1. Be prepared for a time commitment

All incubator programs will vary in terms of the expected length of the process, and this can be subject to further negotiation. It is worth ensuring that you want to commit anywhere between a couple months to two years, and make sure to fit the timeline into your business plan for the next few years.

  1. Find an incubator program in a similar field to your business

Some incubator programs take a generalized approach, whereas others are designed for a specific sector such as medical research or sustainable agriculture. Consider what field your business will be operating in because a business will greatly benefit from specialized advice.

  1. Plan what products and services will benefit your business the most

As mentioned previously, there are variations in what each program will offer. Therefore, it is best to set out a hierarchy of what your business needs whether that is support, creating an online presence or establishing a network with local stakeholders. In turn, you can find an incubator program that is best designed to maximize the growth of your start-up.

  1. Consider what investment you are prepared for the organization to take 

In turn for an unmissable opportunity, the organization offering the program will expect a certain stake or share in your business. When comparing programs, it is best to research your options and plan to discuss it at some point during the application process (such as the interview) so that you get a deal that works for you. Information about this is not always clear online and can be negotiated through the process.

  1. Ensure that you have a detailed application tailored to the specific program

When applying for incubator programs, most will want to inquire into your business plan and history. It is best not to rush these applications and to exhibit your work ethic through diligent documentation. Moreover, ensure that you do not submit a generalized application. Instead, organizations will want you to showcase an interest in their specific program.

Puerto Rico’s Best Incubator Programs

Puerto Rico is a hub for entrepreneurs and boasts a lot of business-related perks, such as being in a closer time zone to MEDCs (more economically developed countries) and the fact that many citizens are bilingual. With the unfortunate combination of hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic over the past years, it is worthwhile for a start-up to gain access to support when navigating the early stages of creating a business.

Furthermore, incubator programs provide long-term benefits for Puerto Rico by encouraging young, local entrepreneurs to stay on the island and produce innovative business for the economy. In the long-run, this is more sustainable than young Puerto Ricans leaving the island for job prospects elsewhere or international businesses coming to the island for tax exemption.

If you own or are in the process of establishing a start-up business and desire an incubator program, look no further. We have compiled a list of programs that typically run all year round or annually across Puerto Rico. 

Parallel18

As part of the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust, Parallel18 provides incubator programs in multiple related industries. Based in San Juan, Parallel18 offers a 5-month incubator program which is perfect for start-up businesses seeking support who may not be able to commit a whole year or more to the program. They offer access to aid with networking, investing, grants and mentoring. 

You can find out more about the incubator program at their website here: https://parallel18.com 

University of Puerto Rico’s Innovation and Commercialization Support Center (UPR i+c)

Run by the University of Puerto Rico, the UPR i+c runs annually with 2022’s applications closing this June, and was created to encourage innovative business design across the island. As opposed to some of the other options, this program can last up to 18 months. The process is subdivided into three stages: preincubation, incubation and post-incubation. Each of the entrepreneurs selected will receive a tailored approach with a unique mentor alongside weekly workshops. 

You can find out more about the incubator program at their website here: https://upric.uprrp.edu 

Fase1

Similarly to some others, Fase1 is an annual program so it’s one to watch out for next year. The first part of the program is accessible at any point in the year and entails online modules which enable any entrepreneur to gain a firmer understanding of business essentials including idea generation and an understanding of the market. Following this, there is the opportunity for 50 entrepreneurs to access a 12-week program which runs annually. During this, the organization provides product development, mentoring and support with registration. At the end of the 12 weeks, the top 30 entrepreneurs are then selected to go straight onto the pre18 selection committee.

You can find out more about the incubator program at their website here: https://fase1.org 

Nerdcube

This recent organization was established in 2015 by Ernesto Corona with the plan to help start-up businesses ‘Live the idea you love’. With a focus on businesses in the global software sector, Nerdcube’s incubator program targets the design and development stage of a product. One of the main requirements that Nerdcube desires is for start-up businesses to be able to point to a clear and plausible market for their products. As part of the coaching from industry professionals, Nerdcube will help entrepreneurs with skills in management as well as technological design. Additionally, you will have access to a shared workspace to bounce creative ideas off one another.

You can find out more about the incubator program at their website here: http://www.nerdcube.club 

Grupo Guayacán

Founded in 1996, Grupo Guayacán is a non-profit organization with an admirable aim to help flourish the economy of Puerto Rico. Entrepreneurs will have access to a multitude of means of support including mentoring, market research and investment. In terms of incubator programs, the EnterPRize program is ideal, with a six-month process where Grupo Guayacán provides seed capital as well as group workshops and individualized mentoring.

You can find out more about the incubator program at their website here: https://guayacan.org 

The Small Business Incubators and Accelerators Program (SBIA)

In previous years, the Small Business Incubators and Accelerators Program (SBIA) has allocated $85M to support the growth of new and small businesses in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Their programs have included consulting, technical assistance and professional networking. Currently, they are not advertising an incubator program but it is worth keeping an eye on this organization for future possibilities.

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