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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Puerto Rico ICON: A great event that promotes entrepreneurship

The nonprofit ICON Puerto Rico Institute has identified key players in Puerto Rican society that work with human capital, agriculture, food security and other essential issues for society to progress.

By Alejandra M. Jover Tovar

Great entrepreneurial ideas need great mentors and capital to see them through. That’s the tenet of ICON Puerto Rico Institute, a nonprofit leadership organization linking small companies and investors for two years in a think-tank model that allows companies to flourish in Puerto Rico.

Ricky Santana, who co-founded ICON with Karla Barrera and Happy Walters, is organizing this year’s encounter -- one of the main events in finance, entrepreneurship, and leadership -- between start-up companies and mentors on Nov. 8 and 9 at the Ritz Carlton Reserve on Dorado Beach.

“We wanted to do something more intimate because we are not presenting to the major stakeholders in Puerto Rico, and once we can demonstrate that, we can do a world-caliber event, then showcase it in two or three days with a Puerto Rican flavor,” said the producer of the event.

“Our focus has always been on how we help Puerto Rico by creating a platform that connects ideas and having great people talking about great ideas in Puerto Rico. Through education, we try to address specific situations on the island,” said Santana, an event promoter for the past 25 years. “Many of the efforts in Puerto Rico are redundant; we didn’t come to reinvent the wheel, but rather to get those sectors together and empower those ideas. Moreover, the Puerto Rican component will always be important; for example, the energy issue is not only a challenge in Puerto Rico, but we can frame it globally. We want to bring ideas to Puerto Rico to fix their problems or present solutions for situations around the world.”

The nonprofit has identified key players in Puerto Rican society that work with human capital, agriculture, food security and other essential issues for society to progress.

“I think the country knows how to identify the problem; we must identify the solutions and the lack of capital to bring them through,” Santana said.

This year the convention’s focus is on the start-up community. Access to capital is usually what stalls those in a more mature state and who need to take the leap to grow.

“We identify these companies that need an injection of capital to take their business to another level,” Santana said. “At this event, we have about 35 organizations looking to raise capital in Puerto Rico. You can know how to go through traditional doors, like banking and private equity firms. Still, when you want to scale up, you need access to more sophisticated capital. What we do is match start-ups with potential investors.”

To do this, Puerto Rico ICON will divide its event into two phases. One is Mentorship Day, on Nov. 8, where a company can explain its business model and why it would need a mentor and, if the nonprofit identifies it as a worthy cause, it can invite the company for a free consultation (limited to 75 companies). Mentor and mentee will converge to learn how to push the start-up to the next level, with the mentor sharing its knowledge and ideas.

The next day will be a series of conferences to cement knowledge, exchange ideas, and network. At least 50 speakers are invited that day, with forums ranging from real estate, investment and food security to brain drain and blockchain, among others. Guests can participate in an exclusive networking activity where they will be able to connect with key decision-makers from Puerto Rico, the United States, and Latin America. The event is designed for investors, developers, entrepreneurs, capital managers, directors of nonprofit organizations, and government officials, among others.

Among the prominent speakers to participate in the event are Steve Wiggins, an entrepreneur and investor in the health sector; Jacobo Ortiz Blanes, president of Las Brisas Property Management; Rodolfo Sánchez-Colberg, founder and managing partner of Parliament Capital Management; Andrew Keys, president of Digital Asset Risk Management Advisors (DARMA Capital); and Jordan Fried, CEO of Immutable Holdings (NEOHOLD).

To participate, a $2,500 donation per person will allow Puerto Rico ICON to hold the event, and any remaining funds will be funneled to the farming community that suffered losses due to Hurricane Fiona.

“I think we glorify the athlete and the singer, but we have many entrepreneurs who are doing super well, and part of what we want to gather at the event is to interview successful entrepreneurs and have them tell us their stories to inspire a future generation to dare to become entrepreneurs,” Santana said. “What we are trying to do is to represent the ecosystem’s players at different stages.”

Tickets for Puerto Rico ICON 2022 are available online: Those interested can also visit the institute’s webpage ( or contact the organization directly at

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