Coworking on the Isle of Enchantment: Workbar Travels to San Juan
It’s 12 degrees in Boston and I’m ready to board a flight to Puerto Rico, where the current temperature is 84. Just a short 4-hour flight from Boston and I arrive in San Juan Puerto Rico, where the concept of coworking is new but the idea of a working community for small businesses is the same. Coworking allows entrepreneurs and those who work remotely the opportunity to embrace multiple landscapes, cultures, and spaces. With the rise in international coworking spaces, anyone can take a trip, rejuvenate, and still make that 2pm conference call they had hoped to leave at home – myself included.
I hop on my rental bike and head over to Piloto 151, one of the first coworking spaces in Puerto Rico. The space is well designed – bright, hip and airy. Similar to other coworking spaces, it offers a mix of shared space, event space, conference rooms, outdoor patios and private offices. Much like Workbar, Piloto 151 was designed for collaborative productivity, fulfilling the need for a remote office and at the same time offering up an energetic vibe via events. Here in the heart of Old San Juan, small businesses and entrepreneurs work out of the space and attend a variety of events such as Hackathons and FuckUp Nights.
While touring Piloto 151, I met with Sofia Stolberg, the coworking space’s cofounder and an entrepreneur herself, to chat about her experience as an entrepreneur running Piloto 151.
Tiffany: What were your favorite projects as an entrepreneur?
Sofia: Two of my favorite projects as an entrepreneur have been Codetrotters and Womentechover. Codetrotters is an internship exchange program that we developed where we select the best and brightest coders in under-tapped markets and give them an opportunity to intern at a globally oriented startup. In exchange, participating startups pledge a minimum of 8 hours of mentoring to existing startups in under-developed ecosystems, including Puerto Rico. Womentechover is a forum that seeks to promote more women in tech by sharing success stories and talking openly about challenges.
Both these projects have been critical to the development of our ecosystem and are close to my heart because I truly believe that tech is and can become a catalyst for change in under-developed economies, and amongst minorities and under-represented populations.
Tiffany: What challenges have you faced as an entrepreneur? What were your takeaways?
Sofia: As entrepreneurs, we face challenges every day. The important thing is to be optimistic, and become an expert at making lemonade! You always have to do the most with the cards you’re dealt at any given time and the resources you have at hand. When we were still in the construction phase of Piloto 151, for example, the pigeons in the plaza in front of our building dirtied our walls the same day we finished painting. That’s when my brother and I decided to turn something negative into a positive and the aviator pigeon became the brand behind Piloto. The Piloto pigeon has become an emblematic symbol for the startup and tech community on the Island, and it arose out of an initial pain point.
Tiffany: What are the current coworking trends in Puerto Rico? How do you see these evolving?
Sofia: We were the first, and after a year in the making, a few more spaces have sprung up. At first we had a lot of foreigners who were already familiarized with the concept join, but now that locals are familiarized with the concept and virtues of coworking, more and more are embracing it every day. That’s why we are all expanding to 2 additional locations by the end of this year.
Tiffany: Have there been any notable collaboration’s in your coworking space?
Sofia: Piloto 151 has triggered many collaborations in Puerto Rico’s startup and tech ecosystem. Incredible collisions have occurred resulting in the launch of Piloto Labs, a community-based nonprofit organization that groups over 15 tech and startup community organizations and movements. Many members have started to work with each other as well. ITPC and Force Interactive Media, started working together shortly after having met in Piloto.
In an attempt to diversify the tech industry and bolster the economy in Puerto Rico, the local government has created tax incentives for businesses that establish themselves in PR. In my opinion, the near perfect weather and the vibrant community in Piloto 151 and out on the streets of Old San Juan is a motivation in itself to set up shop. If you’re looking for a change of pace or a new location to start or run a business- I’d recommend Piloto 151.
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