A Puerto Rican entrepreneur has opened the first ´hacker´ school in Puerto Rico, and in all of the Caribbean, and has said that problems faced by the island, such as a large public debt, are more than offset by incentives and other resources that this U.S. territory offers to new businesses.
"The word 'hacker' has in the past carried a negative connotation," Sofia Stolberg, co-founder of Codetrotters Academy, said during a phone interview from the island. In the technology community, the word is being used nowadays to mean just a person with a technical ability to solve situations, Stolberg said.
"Most people who know programming use the skills for a positive end," Stolberg said, adding that Codetrotters likes to use the term "hacker" to emphasize its new positive connotation.
Students can train at the school for 10 weeks for approximately $3,500, while a similar educational program in the U.S. would cost more than double that -- even at the lowest-priced schools, Stolberg said.
There are plenty of opportunities for jobs in computer technology in the U.S., and the field offers more and higher-paid jobs than those in other fields, Stolberg said.
"We had a lot of demand, with nearly 600 applications," Stolberg said, adding that the school has been open for only a month and a half and already offers training in Spanish and English for some courses.
Despite news from the island that most recently has centered on the country´s large public debt and lack of repayment capacity, Puerto Rico offers companies very important fiscal and other incentives, Stolberg said.
"We have a highly developed human capital ... and have some stability in currency, judiciary system, laws and infrastructure," Stolberg said. Because Puerto Ricans are a cultural U.S.-Latin American "hybrid," this could help the islanders become a bridge, Stolberg said.
In addition to Codetrotters, Stolberg also was involved in the creation of the first co-working space in San Juan, which gives start-up companies a place from which to launch products in an entrepreneurial environment.
Stolberg also has worked with start-up entrepreneurs at the Founder Institute, where six companies from the island "graduate" every year. Companies that graduate are those that develop a business model that can also function globally.
"We are betting that the way to generate sustainable economic development will be through technological entrepreneurship. It is easier to create a company in the technological entrepreneur environment," Stolberg said.