Start-Up Chile has been one of the most successful government initiatives to encourage startup activity in a nation. The initiative was started in 2010 to bring in excitng ventures from across the globe into Chile and in the process, foster entrepreneurship within the nation. Start-Up Chile invests $40,000 into a company without taking in equity and 663 startups have undergone the program till date. Out of the 663 startups, 5.5% of them are Indian startups and then there are dozens of entrepreneurs who were raised in India but came to Chile with a US passport. India is the 4th most represented country in the Start-Up Chile community We got in touch with Horacio Melo, Executive Director at Start-Up Chile to talk about the diversity and the trends they've seen over time.
YS: You've got a very diverse set of entrepreneurs from across the globe. How is geography kept in mind while guiding a startup? Are there exerts for different regions?
HM: No, we don´t have experts per region. Here is the thing: we need global entrepreneurs. We are looking for entrepreneurs who embrace their cultural background and the things they have seen in the world, and use that knowledge to build global solutions, global products. So, the big challenge here is to use your local, specific cultural background to identify and solve global problems with your startup. What’s helpful with this challenge is the global community that we have: we have supported hundreds of entrepreneurs from 65+ countries, so when you get to the Start-Up Chile HQ you’ll be nicely “forced” to think global, because of the people you are talking to. It happens naturally.
YS: Any characteristics of Indian entrepreneurs you noticed?
HM: We really appreciate what Indian startups contribute to our community. There is a global conversation on how important it is that startup founders use their talents to solve the world’s biggest problems, and I perceive that Indian founders are a few steps ahead regarding that. Because of the things they have seen, because of their cultural background, many of the Indian founders we welcome are coming up with solutions to improve water access, or are building health-related startups. Apps for restaurants and friends are all fine and good, but the world has great problems that need urgent solutions, and the Indian entrepreneurs we have had the pleasure to welcome are sensible to those problems and are using their talent to offer solutions. We want entrepreneurs ready to change the world, and Indian founders are not afraid of that challenge.
YS: What is the core focus of Start-Up Chile?
HM: Our mission is to position Chile as the leading tech hub of LatAm. We believe said goal can be achieved via connectedness, not isolation. That’s why we attract entrepreneurs from around the globe, and ask them to come to Chile to build their projects while nurturing Chilean entrepreneurs with their knowledge. We don´t focus on specific industries. We need 2 things when we select our entrepreneurs: 1) excellence, because only great startups will position Chile as the leading innovation hub we want it to be 2) social impact: we need entrepreneurs who want to build a different world, and who are not afraid to accept the challenge of shaping the society we want our kids to live.
YS: Do you see similarities in ideas from different regions when you go through the applications?
HM: Not so much, but, as explained before, entrepreneurs from less-privileged countries tend to be more sensible to the world’s biggest problems, and we love that.
YS: What's the road ahead for Startup Chile?
HM: At the moment we are very, very focused on our execution. 2012 was a year when we created and launched a lot of things: a global awareness campaign (the SUPBoat) and we got started with our DemoDays, both in Chile (3 DemoDays) and Silicon Valley (3 DemoDays). This year, instead, we are focusing on perfection: we want to improve our selection process (we are getting +1500 applications per round, 3 times a year) and we want to have stronger ties with investors and with key players in the startup ecosystem of Chile and LatAm.
Website: Start-Up Chile