I added a few notes too (I'm Round 2) - definitely think more along the lines of £10kGBP (about $15k) if you want to have a smooth ride. Two months from landing to getting money in CLP into your Chilean bank account (it'll only go in your new Chilean account) is a minimum. Sending money aborad is a pain and requires bank visits (online banking here isn't brilliant).
There's a comment on this post about Mentorship Groups - I setup the first (as best I know) which we've been running for 3 or so months, details here if you want your own:
The lack of mentorship will apparently we changed for Round 4 (fingers crossed). Definitely come here knowing what you want to achieve and take all collaboration/support as an unexpected bonus.
Overall I rate my experience here as positive, it certainly got me out of a rut back in the UK. The participants and staff are supportive (and generally lovely), the push to make us achieve is rather weak (hence starting our self-mentorship group). The programme will improve with each new round.
Be prepared to spend about one month just settled when you arrive. Most important advice I can give is to work on finding an apartment before you arrive to Chile as this has been a challenge to many who arrive. Startup Chile connects each team with a local who can help you by visiting apartments before you even arrive. Also, spring time will be coming soon and if it makes sense for your team, you can stay anywhere in Chile on the coast or in the south where the natural surroundings and outdoor activities are quite inspiring.
Start-Up Chile is great for early stage start-ups. But, if you are already receiving traction and trying to land investments, I would recommend being located closest to your domestic market.
For our company, Student Loan Hero, it made a bunch of sense, we were able to pivot our business model from the beginning without feeling rushed to pursue a bad business model, as opposed to the feeling I think I would have in a 3 month incubator.
I do recommend each member that comes to Chile have at least $5-$10k USD each. (This is excluding flights and the costs of getting to Chile) This should cover your rent deposit, and float your cash flow until the reimbursement starts to hit. (Typically in month 2 after arrival)
As for mentorship, this has been the weakest part of the program. Young entrepreneurs need experienced veterans when solving business model roadblocks. SUP is actively working to bring more investors, mentors, and support from all over the world here to help improve this situation.
Although, there are plenty of brilliant people in the program who are willing to help you as well. It is what you make it, and you need to hustle. There is little accountability and pressure to show results, hence leaving you in ultimate control of what you get done in your 6 or 7 months here.
One really positive comment about the program is it like a "family". I can't speak about YC, MassChallenge, or other incubators, but all the SUP companies are in this together versus being competitors to each other. This atmosphere fosters positive collaboration between our start-ups, and I know I can go to any other company in the program and ask for help.
As for the environment, SF and NY are much better for meet-ups and meeting like-minded people, but surprisingly a decent tech scene is also developing here.
My experience has had it's ups and downs, but overall I have learned a lot, met amazing people, and given the chance again - I would still have decided to come to Chile.
To sum it up... You get $40k at 0% equity. The rest is up to you.
I've seen more opportunity here for actual business entrepreneurship - more than just an app or webpage - than I've seen elsewhere in the world. I'm a big fan of the business environment in Chile for both growing your existing start up or possibly ditching your brilliant idea in favor of an even better one you discover here!
The networking and mentorship will improve with time, but the LatAm networking is unlike anything in the States. In Chile, there's a good chance the person standing next to you is only two phone calls away from the President of a major company.
Here is my answers to a few of the FAQs.
Lack of Mentorship
Though there is no mentorship program from Startup Chile. There IS a 3rd party program that matches you up with powerful Chilean business people.
You fill in a questionnaire about what you are looking for, and they try to match you up. I was looking for someone with lots of marketing experience and gets technology. They come back with exactly the right guy for me. My mentor works for TVN (equivalent of CNN in Chile) and used to be marketing manager for P&G, BP, and Coca-cola.
I frankly cannot imagine having a mentor with similar experience elsewhere. Being a Startup Chile entrepreneur definitely gives me lots of leverages within Chile.
This has been a concern for lots of people. But it comes down to being organized and be sure to bring enough dough down here.
If you keep track of the spending, it's really not such a big deal. Sure, paper work sucks. But it's nothing that an organized person cannot handle.
If you have hard time adopting to rules, look elsewhere. Seriously, you probably should just take a job and not play the survival of the fittest game.
I've never stayed in SF. But there are lots of Startup Chile participants who had lived in SF in the past. Sure, it's the center of the universe for startups, but the price you pay for living in SF or even just another North American city is the tunnel vision.
Living in Chile has given me so much more perspective about how the rest of the world operates. This could be handy down the road.
Giving back to Chile
You can travel to teach entrepreneurship in other regions of Chile. It's a great way to travel to other regions of Chile as well as giving back what you know. I am half way through the program, and I am already done with my RVA points. It's really pretty simple and fun.
There are 20 of us who taught entrepreneurship in a university in Temuco. Where is that? Exactly, how else would you travel to the beautiful southern part of Chile, teach university students about entrepreneurship and get almost all travel expenses paid for?
There are tricks to go around this.
I am paying a Chilean intern to help me with setting up customer development meetings. So far we have done 5 sessions in Santiago. Almost all of our clients speak English.
And if you want to learn Spanish, the program pays for the tuition!
Below is a list of my surprises so far.
I got invited to Chilean family parties. I served tequila to grandpa all the way down to the people who are barely legal to drink. And I speak very little Spanish. I am totally surprised by how friendly and welcoming Chileans are to foreigners. If you are friendly and positive, you will have little problem adapting.
By far, this is the biggest surprise for me. Before coming to Chilean, I read some report saying that Santiago's living expense is 30% of that of Vancouver. That totally throw me off.
The living expense here is actually pretty HIGH. I would argue it's pretty much the same as any other North American cities.
But the program pays you a sufficient salary as well as your monthly rent. So, that definitely helps.
This has been stated over and over again, but I didn't expect to meet so many talented entrepreneurs from all over the world. I got helpful feedback on my product from people who worked at 37signal, pivotal tracker, london school of economics, stanford, harvard, microsoft, techstar, Skype… The list goes on an on.
The community here is superb. No wonder it was recently rated #12 tech hub in the world:
Maybe I am just very lucky. But I cannot imagine what I would do if I didn't get into Startup Chile. Prior to coming to Chile, I was burning through my savings on a $2000/month burn rate trying to bootstrap my business. My other option was to go back and find a job.
Startup Chile gave me the chance to continue working on my business. The only thing they ask for is to give back to the Chilean entrepreneur community. This is a no brainer for me.
The program is getting increasingly competitive every round. So, there is really no better time to apply to get your $40K equity free grant while living in the jewel of Latin America.
If you have any other questions, send me a tweet @tianjerry
Do you know anything about the tax implications of the $40k? I assume you pay taxes on it down in Chile, but does it count as earned income in your home country (specifically the US if you happen to be from here)?
You can elect to draw a small salary from the grant money here in Chile (which most do) and you must register with the tax office here, but the salary is not high enough to require you to pay taxes here in Chile either.
Also, how much time do you find yourself spending on program overhead (preparing receipts, meetups/mentoring/trips/presentations/etc)?
If you don't have enough money to pour in up front, cash flow will drive you crazy. Put together a six-month budget, even if it's loose. Put every expense you can think of in it. Reimbursements can only happen once a month and you absolutely need to plan things out to get the most out of the funding.
As for time on program overhead, minimum probably 2 days a month. Much more if you want to be more involved with the community. You are not forced to do much more than the reimbursement process and finding some ways to give back to the Chile. You could go to meetups and such 3-4 days a week if you wanted, a lot going on.