Chile’s Wave of Global Startup Culture

…and how to get in.

You’ve heard all about it. This mystical city in South America where money rains from the clouds to any startup company that is able to migrate to the “Chilecon Valley”. This is half true, and also an over dramatization of how Startup Chile, CORFO and many others are “making it rain” in Santiago, Chile.

It was only last year that I was on Twitter where heard about this amazing government initiative in Chile. To my knowledge, the government was taking applications and funding startups from all around the globe. Little did I know that I would be walking through their halls, speaking with their directors, and eating their Medialunas after exchanging emails for a few months. While talking shop and discussing details about the program, I was able to meet a great bunch of people from all around the world who were seeking to change the startup climate in a region of the world that’s just getting started.

“We believe that in 10 years LATAM countries, mainly Mexico, Colombia, Perú, Brazil an Chile will start to move from a traditional economy, based on the extraction of natural resources, to a one more innovation-driven that contributes to diversify the productive matrix and where technological-based companies are adding value to the LATAM economy offering products and services with a clear global competitive advantage.”
— Rocio Fonseca, Startup Chile Executive Director

Let me paint a bigger picture…

So, where the hell is this money coming from? What do they get out of it? I’m sure these are a few questions you have for me. Simply put, in 2016 you need to have a global vision. While everyone is shutting down their borders, it’s important to keep in mind that talent needs to find a way in. We’re not talking about street performers, or that cool chef that can crack an egg on a spatula … we’re talking about developers, designers, entrepreneurs, creators, and movers. These are the types of talent Startup Chile is bringing into their program and their coming from all around the world and with a product in their hand or valuable service at Chile’s doorstep. This has created a global mindset, thousands of jobs, and a state of mind that says, “I can be the next Elon Musk, here, in Chile!” (well, they can try at least…)

During my visit I was able to reveal that this is a country-wide mission that has many venture capital initiatives, many of which funded by CORFO (Chilean Economic Development Agency), which opens up funding and training for many startups in the region. Without doubt, the one program that stands out and has been given all of the global attention, and remains hyper-connected with the community, is Startup Chile. Now, don’t let the name confuse you —they have startups that currently operate in cities all around the world. Europe, Brazil, North America — you name it. It’s like that club in high school for all the cool kids… Any startup that’s been in Startup Chile is known around the community with an occasional, “which batch are you from?”

You may not find any success stories on Google that knock the socks off investors, or make it to the front page of TIME, but you will find a group of individuals that want to change the ecosystem. This is the purpose of the program in my opinion. The value of Startup Chile (we know it’s not the money…) is to get the chance to be part of a community of more than 3,000 entrepreneurs from more than 70 countries, oh, and at the same time, to be working on the same space with more than 100 startups. Yeah, it’s awesome.

The community and the collaborative environment are the best things of the program in my opinion. While in Santiago, I had the chance to join some of the community’s events, and meet a handful of passionate entrepreneurs from all around the world. From my perspective, the ability to run your own startup that has the potential to change how people live, step out of the office for some Completos (Chilean hotdog) with new colleagues, and work within Santiago’s amazing culture for six months sounds like a dream to me.

How do I get my startup to Santiago, Chile?

So, if you want some Chilean pesos to kickstart your startup and give yourself some runway in, personally, one of my favorite countries, check out Startup Chile’s programs!

1. Seed

Apply for Startup Chile’s “Seed” Program. It’s an acceleration program for startups with a functional product and early validation. So, early stage companies. This program seeks to attract world class entrepreneurs to strengthen the enterprise environment, support the culture of innovation in Chile, and connect with LATAM to grow from this region to scale globally.

Selected companies receive $20 million CLP (around USD$29K). The grant is aimed at individuals of any nationality, including Chile, who are founders/ owners of their given startup. In addition, this program will provide work visa for one year the beneficiary of the program and a team of up to 3 people (including the recipient), all presented the program during the application process. There’s two rounds a year with a total of 80–100 companies each. Make the leap!

2. Scale

Is your business too far along to play with the newcomers? Check out “SCALE”! Selected companies receive $60 million CLP (around USD$86K) equity free with the condition that they incorporate and open operations in Chile. This program is for companies that need capital to grow in Chile and scale to the rest of LATAM, and globally. There are currently only two rounds a year of 20–30 companies each, so you have to be quick.

3. S-Factory

The purpose of TSF is to encourage and foster the rise of female entrepreneurs. Hence, the team applying must have at least 1 female co-founder, entirely committed to the project and willing to live in Chile for the 12 weeks of the program. Oh, and just in case you didn’t know, the new Application Process for The S Factory is open from July 4th-18th!

If selected, the team will receive an equity free grant of CLP 10,000,000 (around USD 14,000), a one year visa, free co-working space, incredibly broad and diverse network just to name a few, and a special training to turn their ideas into a viable business. Teams with at least one female founder that have an idea or project that has not been in the works for more than 6 months can apply to be part of the 4th generation of The S-Factory. Make sure to apply for access to 15k USD dollar equity free fund, a one year working visa, and an acceleration process to take your concept to MVP…and on!

Signing Out.

Matt Wright