The Future is Green: How climate change is shaping up Puerto Rico’s startup ecosystem

By Maria Delgado, Vice President, Publicize, United States

October 24, 2022

Hurricane Maria’s devastating pass left roughly 3,000 dead and close to $91.61 billion USD in damage, becoming the deadliest and costliest tropical cyclone on record to hit Puerto Rico. Five years later and while Puerto Rico was still recovering, hurricane Fiona hits, bringing on catastrophic flooding and leaving thousands without power, exacerbating the havoc. However, due to Puerto Rico’s resilience and innovative solutions, its future is not as grim as it sounds.

Government-funded organizations such as Colmena66 and Parallel18 provide local entrepreneurs with the tools, funding, and mentorship needed to jumpstart their businesses and recover from natural disasters. Colmena’s program, Levanta tu Negocio Puerto Rico, has supported small-to-medium businesses during Hurricane Maria, earthquakes, Covid-19, and now Hurricane Fiona. The program collects data through a survey to analyze the current state of the startup ecosystem and identifies the areas that need more support. It later connects the community with large organizations that help fill in the gaps and come together to support their community. 

As more and more data is collected reflecting the vulnerabilities the island’s businesses and communities have, Puerto Rican entrepreneurs leverage their understanding and experience to offer support. Raincoat, founded in 2019 in response to Hurricane Maria, emerged as a tech company offering insurance solutions working with governments, financial institutions, and insurers to provide end-to-end automated products to help protect and support those affected by natural disasters. The company offers a tailored solution to those in need of coverage, completely integrated with their partner’s channels, making it easier for them to respond to insurance claims. Their product is scalable and is currently active in Jamaica, Mexico, and Colombia, helping other regions disaster-proof their businesses.

TerraFirma, a software company offering environmental insights founded in 2018, allows community planners and governments to mitigate environmental risks. Through the use of big data, AI, and physics simulations presented on 2D and 3D dashboards, users can access and combine solar, wind, and water data to asses risks of flooding and erosion, among others. This platform is currently available in Puerto Rico and has helped organizations aid communities during earthquakes and floods and become better prepared for natural disasters.

However, Puerto Rico and the rest of the Caribbean is not the only region vulnerable to natural disasters. Miami for example is extremely susceptible to getting hit hard by hurricanes and tropical storms. Historically speaking, a hurricane will pass within just 50 miles of the Miami metropolitan area every six to eight years, with a 16% chance of getting hit by one in any given year–not to mention Colombia’s Caribbean coast region which is constantly affected by tropical storms.

Building, investing, and scaling these solutions can help governments, local authorities, businesses, and communities better prepare themselves for natural disasters. Parallel18, a performance-driven startup accelerator working to position Puerto Rico and LATAM as a unique hub for innovative businesses and technology, believes that now is the time for local entrepreneurs to take charge in shaping their startup ecosystem driven by sustainability goals.

However, after every natural disaster on the island, there is a population drain fleeing mainly to United States’ east coast where they’re not particularly as safe from these disasters as they think. That’s why these Puerto Rican startups, aiming to help not just the island but other regions to disaster-proof their businesses, need greater attention from investors who really want to make a positive impact on their communities. As more investments come, the greater these businesses will scale, spreading these green innovative tech solutions to other industries and regions worldwide, minimizing risks, and providing coverage to those in need.