Lots of start up activity. Meet Horacio, Executive Director of Start-Up Chile, whose mission is to boost the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Chile by inviting the international start-up community to participate in its 6 month long program.
Current Residence: Santiago
Occupation: Executive Director at Start-Up Chile
How did Start-Up Chile come about and what can you say the local entrepreneurial spirit is like in Santiago?
Start-Up Chile seeks to boost the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Chile because we realized the Chileans had good ideas, but they lacked connections. The country has been historically isolated and this has had an impact on the culture, and impact we must reverse with the help of technology. Nicolás Shea, a Chilean social entrepreneur, had the idea to boost the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Chile by investing a lot on people from everywhere in the world. Nicolás presented his idea to the government and gathered a small team of very talented people who put it all together and helped this program get up and running. In terms of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Santiago, I can say Chileans are getting more and more entrepreneurial, but we are aiming high: we want entrepreneurs to think big, to go global. This type of mindset is growing in Chile, but that´s still something we must work on and that´s when programs like Start-Up Chile become crucial.
There is much emphasis for a start-up to find its product market fit. But we live in a day and age where we are literally inundated by a new gadget, launch of another website, what is the compass you use to gage which ventures are making a real impact in people’s lives?
First of all, I must make it clear that the beneficiaries of the program are not chosen by the staff at Start-Up Chile. They are selected by YouNoodle, a company based in Silicon Valley who, we think, has the expertise to make a great selection without any bias. After their selection, a special committee at Corfo acts as the last filter and approves.
Social impact is at the heart of Start-Up Chile. This program was launched in order to make the Chileans realize that they should “Think Big” when it comes to their projects. For us, it is very important that the projects who get to be part of our program are lead by entrepreneurs who are devoted to spread an entrepreneurial mindset everywhere they go. This is the impact we want to have on people´s lives: we want people to think they can do it, too. All those who agree with this statement, and who know how to create products reflecting this idea, have a greater chance to be selected by Start-Up Chile.
Start-Up Chile starts with a nominal amount of funding. Is there a longer term trajectory for building a bigger financing pool or a fund based on the entrepreneurs that produce strong results and grow their businesses over a number of years?
Start-Up Chile works hard to create a strong environment for entrepreneurship in Chile, and is happy to have people from all over the world benefiting from it. Of course, not only start-ups are part of this environment, but investors as well, and many other actors are key players in it. This is why one of the program´s goals this year is to work even closer with investors, showing them that to invest on start-ups is the way to go. Our alumni is a strong network of people who have a life-long interest on startups: many of them are showing interest on becoming angel investors in the newest start-ups in the program, and these are the type of relationships we are working on at the moment.
How would you say an accelerator program like Start-Up Chile compares/competes with other funding methods? i.e., Kickstarter and AngelList are becoming well-known sources of funding that may have lower barriers to entry depending on the given social network for those start-up founders.
We don´t consider ourselves an accelerator program, not an incubator, either. There are key aspects of what we offer which makes us something different to an accelerator or an incubator. Actually, we consider other accelerator programs and incubators friends, and we approach them as such. It would be great for us if other countries adopt our model and create more programs which are happy to invest on people, regardless of their nationalities, while making sure said beneficiaries make a huge social impact.
Start-Up Chile has gained much interest amongst entrepreneurs since its first launch, which initiatives are in the works in the near future?
We are meant to revolutionize the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Chile. So far, we achieved the milestone of selecting the best start-ups so they could come here and start their businesses. Now, we need to work harder on the relationships we established with other actors in the entrepreneurial ecosystem: investors, talented people who want to employ themselves in a start-up, universities, etc. The entrepreneurial ecosystem involves so much more than just great startups: all these other actors offer opportunities we want to work in the near future.
Also, we want to work harder on whatever the start-ups need to really make their businesses grow so they can go from a start-up to a successful business: mentorship, access to investors, access to local talent, various tools are, in general, aspects of the program we want to get better at.