For the world’s entrepreneurs, Chile might not seem like a good place to start a tech business, especially if no one involved speaks Spanish. However, for those willing to take another look, a new program from the Chilean government is helping bring entrepreneurs to South America.
Known as Start-Up Chile, the program was created by the Chilean government, executed by Corfo via InnovaChil. It seeks to attract early stage, high-potential entrepreneurs to bootstrap their startups in Chile, using it as a platform to go global. The end goal of the accelerator program is to convert Chile into the definitive innovation and entrepreneurial hub of Latin America; this is a mission shared by the Government of Chile and is a primary focus of the Ministry of Economy.
Former Minister of Economy, Juan Andrés Fontaine stated, “Instead of changing the world through revolution, we can change the world through innovation.
In 2010, the program, at that point just a pilot, brought 22 startups from 14 countries to Chile, providing them with $40,000 (US) of equity-free seed capital, and a temporary 1-year visa to develop their projects for six months, along with access to the most potent social and capital networks in the country. These selected entrepreneurs were approved by an admission process conducted by Silicon Valley experts and a Chilean Innovation board that focuses ardently on global mindsets and worldwide potential. Of all required criteria, it is essential that the chosen entrepreneurs work in a global mindset, believing that the route to success is via expansion not isolation.
The first application process of 2011 brought 87 startups to Chile from over 30 countries, after having received 330 applications. In July of 2011, 650+ startups applied for the program’s second process, though only 100 slots were available. The program’s website states it hopes to have “1,000 bootstrappers participate in the program by the culmination of 2014.”
While the long-term benefits of the program for Chile are still coming to light, immediate benefits come from the entrepreneurs themselves. Since they come to Chile they have to pay for housing and other day-to-day necessities.
Bungalow.com founders Scott Thompson and Scott Bird took advantage of Start-Up Chile, with Thompson recently telling SmartPlanet, “Most of our money was spent in Chile,” adding that 17 people visited them while they were in Chile, bringing tourism to Santiago.
Bird added, “My mom did all the Christmas shopping for ten relatives to take back to the U.S.”
Perhaps Chile is looking to get Chileans to invest in their country by using their own money to finance entrepreneurs like Bird and Thompson.
”Chile has a lot of mining money,” Bird told SmartPlanet. “There are some very rich people in Chile who don’t yet invest in start-ups. I think when they see successes it will encourage them to invest locally.”
It would appear Chile is looking to become Latin America’s answer to the U.S.‘s Silicon Valley.
Check out a video from Start-Up Chile below.
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