Life’s tough for a French entrepreneur – you get treated like a pigeon, they try to move your ecosystem to the suburbs, they raise taxes on all your investors, and the media mocks you. Sometimes it seems like it would be easier to move to another city. London? Berlin? San Francisco (good luck on the VISA)? What about Santiago?
The Chilean government’s Startup Chile is currently looking for startups to come to Chile for 6 months, and you should really hear them out to see what they’re offering. With startups like Babelverse (whose co-founder Mayel is French) having already gone through the program, and since gained significant traction on the media front as well as the user front – their real-time translation tool was recently used to translated Barack Obama’s State of the Union address – the program is already seeing some results.
I talked with Horacio Melo, cofounder of Start-Up Chile, to talk about how the Chilean government has been encouraging innovation in South America
How do you choose startups? What do you think is the value in bringing foreign startups to Chile, if they don’t ultimately stay in Chile?
We choose the startups with the help of YouNoodle, they put together a long list of judges who review all applications. Entrepreneurs, investors, and academics evaluate each application
Start-Up Chile´s mission is to position Chile as the leading innovation hub of LatAm. In order to achieve that, there is a cultural change that needs to take place in Chile. We need Chileans to be inclined to innovation, to embrace risk and failure, and not to be afraid of making their businesses go global. This is where the Start-Up Chile entrepreneurs come in: we ask them to spend some of their time helping us impact and change the local culture, making it more entrepreneurship-oriented. We don´t ask the Start-Up Chile entrepreneurs to stay in Chile after the 6 months of the program because, during those 6 months they are here, we make sure they impact local entrepreneurs. “Suppers” share their knowledge, give away tips and contacts, mentor Chilean entrepreneurs, teach in local schools and Universities. They basically share the message of “I am doing this, its great, and you can do it, too. I´ll show you how”. There is research proving that if you put together a great innovator and a risk averse person, the risk averse folk will slowly but steadily realize there is another way of doing things: that is the cultural change we ask the suppers to help us achieve.
If Start-Up Chile participants help us impact the local entrepreneurship ecosystem, we are more than happy to “let them go” once they are done with the program, because they already made a significant social impact and, as a public policy, that´s what we care about the most.
What kind of results are you seeing so far in Chile from this program?
If we look just as numbers, the overall valuation of the startups created among our suppers more than doubles the investment in the program. The suppers have raised more than 20 million USD, and have hired hundreds of Chileans. They have organized more than 500 meetups in Chile (which help a lot regarding our goal of changing the culture) more than 1600 workshops, and have invested more than 1400 hours on mentoring Chilean entrepreneurs. About 80 thousand people have been impacted by Start-Up Chile activities one way or another. And also, there are countless stories of people who, for example, became involved with Start-Up Chile just socially, or just as an intern, and decided later to become global entrepreneurs. That is our ultimate goal and what we care about the most.
What do you think is the biggest value that Startup Chile brings to its startups?
Definitely, the connections and the community. 40k equity free is a very interesting offer and I´m sure it grabs people´s attention, but that is definitely not what makes the participants recommend the program once they graduate. The people and the connections is. We are trying to build an ecosystem that is different to Silicon Valley, and ecosystem with its own unique characteristics. Chile is a very family-oriented country, and I think a little bit of that permeates the Start-Up Chile community. Suppers stay in touch and involved with the program years after they graduate, and help each other when they meet in other cities. There is a little bit of “collaborative competition” growing in this community, and that is what suppers tend to highlight once they graduate from the program.
Needless to say, if you are trying to break in the LatAm market, Start-Up Chile offers more connections and inside knowledge that what you can find anywhere else!
If you’d like to know more about Start-Up Chile, there is an info session tonight in Paris! RSVP via Meetup