I am currently participating in the 3rd round. I stay in Santiago. It's rated #1 on the NYT list of 41 places to visit last year. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/travel/09where-to-go.html?...
My experience with Chile and Startup Chile have been very positive so far. For me, it's the best way to bootstrap a 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.
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
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).
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.
I should clarify - if coming from the UK you'll want more cash than if coming from the US. In the UK the Chilean work visa costs £1220 (the highest in the world from memory - set by the govt., nothing to do with startupchile). Flights were also over £1000. Coming from the USA will be much cheaper.
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.
This is true. If possible it is best to start with $10k of extra funds beyond this in order to remove any worry of cash-flow issues. We are participating in Round 3 and the experience although not without it's challenges has been quite positive so far. Startup Chile held a graduation party on Friday for Round 2. Most of the teams are leaving Santiago either this week or within a few weeks and it is obvious they would prefer to continue. The staff and fellow entrepreneurs are most supportive of each other.
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.
This is a great way to work on your venture and be part of a community of entrepreneurs from all over the world. The biggest plus is the constant collaboration within the co-working space and the local ecosystem: exchange ideas, get quick feedback, learn from others' area of expertise, boost up on positive energy from the whole group...
Anyone who applies for the current round and makes it in should know that there are more places to live in Chile than Santiago! Come live down in Pucón with us. We've got a live Volcano in our backyard! Best place to go if your business is tourism focused, for sure :)
Start Up Chile staff are very open to people living in different parts of the country and work to make the program fit with what your start up needs. Attending SUP events, Meetups, and other events are a critical part of the program, but joining via Skype, phone, or other technology methods is generally just fine.
I live in Pucón, and come to Santiago for about a week every month. This way I get to take advantage of the entrepreneur network but also live in the mountains. There was one mandatory event I couldn't attend; so I skyped in. I also am creating some events in the South and think the impact we can have on the regions is really positive and powerful. But yes, most stuff happens in Santiago! It depends how you want to live and whether the capital city is useful to you or not, if your team is here or virtual... I know an energy guy in Punto Arenas, way south, and a few others are now in Puerto Varas too. So get down here!
This is partly true. Start-Up Chile makes a big effort to bring in speakers and mentors. That being said, Santiago isn't Silicon Valley, and Start-Up Chile doesn't have the network of a YCombinator or TechStars. I'll also say that outside of formal mentoring, there is a lot of value in the community of international entrepreneurs that take part.
Growing my company down here in Chile has been an amazing experience. Like Ian's comment, I was also in a bit of a rut in the States. The international experience alone is critical to any good business - especially if you are from the US where the mentality is much more single-nation focused.
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.
Certainly coming here I've realised that I ought to consider non-English languages (particularly Spanish) for web apps. Most folks here in Chile don't speak much English yet their middle class has a growing disposable income. LatAm's power does seem to be growing.
Also some of the companies in our rounds (Round 2+3) were quite inspirational - water purification, classroom neuroscience, human-waste->fertiliser solar cookers, solar powered food cookers, wind farms, safe remittance systems for migrant workers.
I'm most curious to see what Round 4 brings (quad-copters from one I think). Accelerator high-tech is more than Web2.0.
I'm also participating in the current round and happy to answer questions. Start-Up Chile isn't for everyone, but it is an awesome opportunity if the fit is right and a great way to experience a new part of the world.
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)?
I am from the US and I have not heard anyone paying taxes on the $40k as a US citizen. I can not say if this is the correct way to handle it or not. Since the money is split up between the team it is a bit complicated if you have more than one team member, but the money does get reimbursed to the head team member so if someone was responsible for paying taxes on it, it would be the head team member. All charges that you submit for reimbursement must be made from an account of a human team member on the contract or a Chilean company, and not from a US entity such as an LLC.
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.
I'd say have $5-10K for out of pocket business expenses after "getting to Chile" expenses. The things that you need to begin the program - plane flights, visa costs, mandatory 6 months of travel health insurance - can easily eat up $5K all by themselves, depending on where you're coming from. The visa fee for UK citizens is almost $1500, for example.
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.
Yes, they make it pretty clear that you should have $5k per person to get you on your feet. I took it pretty lightly but it ended up being quite accurate and we ran into some cashflow issues.
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.
Great point. I initially thought I would float everything on my credit card until I got reimbursed. I found out it doesn't work like that unfortunately. You have to show that the credit card has been paid off for the transactions you are submitting.