It's critical that participants have the right expectations but Start-Up Chile create a huge amount of marketing fluff which seems to get in the way of that. Now they have had well over 300 participants I hope they start focusing on communicating success stories (there are a few) and the learnings (there are loads) rather than "the dream" and "the vision". Enough interesting things happened over the last 18 months that they shouldn't really need to use old school marketing techniques any more.
I previously commented about my recommended set of Start-Up Chile expectations here:
I'm not in favor of video surveillance, but if I ran Startup Chile, I'd be adding some cameras all over the place. Maybe go to a badge system for building access and egress.
Not being safe enough to leave your gear on the desk while you go to lunch or something is a big red flag that something's wrong. You can't have an open and free environment when folks are having to padlock everything they own and don't trust the guy next to them not to walk off with their iPad.
If you are uncomfortable with the security aspect you can get an office for around $600/month (I am currently sharing an office with an Argentinean company and we split things $300/month). Our office is rather large (it's 3 offices, one bathroom and one kitchen).
I'd hope then that you are using proper backups, it's a lot easier to keep copies of your work remotely, than make a copy of a laptop.
Sorta? My company incubated at StartX and we thought nothing of leaving our stuff on our desks while we left to do other things. The thought of having our things stolen was just unrealistic.
Now it is better known and there's no access control (there are security guys on the doors, but they're not really checking us). Several times in the last few months different strangers have walked in, spotted a lone laptop and walked off with it. The same thing has happened in restaurants.
This is petty theft, a pity in a co-work environment but given that it is large and open this is somewhat unavoidable. I wouldn't leave my laptop unattended (without asking a neighbour etc) in a London co-work space either.
In general I feel very safe here (really, no problems walking home for an hour at night, using the metro etc).
Then just leave them there in accessible places and catch the thieves.
That just seems really weird... Is it other people in the program, or do outside people have access, or...?
Changing subjects, I hope someone will do an analysis of the whole program 5 years from now to see what the results of it are. How many companies came/stayed/grew/died/etc...
From reading the article, sounds like it's a free-for-fall. That's good: chaos is our friend. But it also sounds like (reading between the lines) people used political connections to free-ride and perhaps they didn't get a lot of traction that they could have had. Don't know, just guessing. I'm still extremely interested in the intersection of Agile/Lean and startup incubator/boot camps.
Good point. It would be also interesting to know how the perception of Chile has changed in entrepreneurial circles through this program. I think this is really a unique idea and so far it seems as they did at least an acceptable job of running it.
One of them has already raised $16k (little but enough for a 2-months project).
The other one is still developing the project but at least is working on it :).
None of those guys was taking this seriously until they saw young people being part of Startup Chile program. This is just the people i have been in close contact with and im pretty sure there are lots of cases like this ones.
My guess is that registered folk get to walk through and everyone else has to explain their presence. It should be a good deterrent. Photo: https://twitter.com/ianozsvald/status/218833445760139264
I am starting Startup Chile at the end of July and I am seriously considering a shared office space, due to many reasons (security being one of them)
I'm in Round 2, I've been giving feedback for months to the staff. The feedback I got today about changes they're making during Round 4 (for those just arriving now) is pretty impressive. If they carry it all off then the programme will be improved by a fair margin for subsequent Rounds.
The improvements are still under discussion but ought to address many of the mentorship/fund raising/expectation issues that have been raised (at least - I have cautious optimism that that's the case).
Disclaimer - I don't work for SUP, I'm almost finished here in Round 2, I've had my complaints during the programme but generally they're reacting/improving to the significant issues. Things are improving for every new Round.
Changes being rolled in:
* Mentorship - try to provide mentors for all
* Traction Groups - get companies to start and join private self-mentorship groups (based around the prototype I organised in this round: http://ianozsvald.com/2012/05/16/mentorship-groups-in-startu... )
* Roadshow in Silicon Valley - after Demo Days take companies up to the Bay Area and run an investment/demo road show
* Academy - online & face to face courses for StartupChile members to learn about business basics (e.g. lean processes, pitching, sales etc)
* Top 20 Accelerator - cherry pick a top set of companies and super-accelerate them (private mentorship, focus on growth etc)
I don't know the details of the above changes, the ideas will evolve and a lot of questions are raised. What interests me is how a lot of the current programme criticisms (e.g. lack of mentorship, DemoDay not being too cool, lack of peer mentorship) should be addressed (and then some).
As stated yesterday I'm not employed by StartupChile, I'm nearly finished with Round 2. As much as I've criticised the programme in the past I continue to be impressed at how quickly they're iterating and improving.
And even if you are experienced doing startups it's still awesome to visit another culture and see how things work in another place. Maybe you won't like it that much, but at least you experienced it.
What Startup Chile isn't good at is creating companies that need VC funding or Silicon Valley connections. If your startup needs these things then don't look for it in Chile or anywhere else... because you won't find it here or anywhere else.
Chile is an excellent place to test/bootstrap an idea. The $40K USD Start-Up Chile money makes it nearly risk free. This is the only promise of the program. Any other expectations are misplaced.
However, the reimbursement process is awful, does make for a considerable distraction from "real work," and should just be eliminated entirely.
It's always a risk that a company might fail to demonstrate enough growth or traction to attract further investment before its cash runs out, but that happens with every kind of outside investment. And the issue is with the business as it then exists, not with Startup Chile for funding an earlier version of it.
Why would you come to Chile and expect:
- There will be no bureaucracy (this is a government run program..)
- You won't have to give anything (RVAs) at all back - (equity free capital in return for what ? in that case..)
- Connections to US accelerators and investors (WTF ?)
To be honest, it's unrealistic to expect all of the above. I do agree that Startup Chile can do MANY good things (connections to latin american investors, more guidance/mentorship, etc.) but why not take into account the fact that this is a young program being run by a government in a country with very less startup experience.
Here are some positive points I've heard from people:
- Use government connections. Folks who have their startups in fields where government help can work eg. education, social service, etc. are able to uniquely utilize startup chile's clout in the government sector.
- Learn some Spanish.
- Do something relevant. You're hardly going to get support if you're designing a product that solves a problem in the US or elsewhere (with no possible extension into Latin America). Besides, why would a local investor be interested in that case ?
As for the part where filing statements, getting reimbursed, etc. - there's no need to whine about that. The processes have been streamlined a lot over the past few months and these guys seem to be working on it more, there is definitely good faith involved and it's not all "Oh yeah we're going to make them WORK for their money". They just need to be sure that your expenses are justified. I know of people who are trying to squeeze out an iPhone or two in their reimbursements. They naturally have to be very careful due to the fact that this is taxpayers money.
Furthermore, all the pains of startup chile are pretty well known. It is definitely not an accelerator, you will probably not have a lot of events and guidance. But, if $40k equity free capital and a reasonable amount of freedom (in how you use it..) are important to you - then sure, I think it's a program worthy of mention.
/ Just sick of all the whining that goes on about how Startup Chile doesn't connect you to the US blah blah blah.. -- why should it ? Also the sense of entitlement a lot of people carry is sickening. A lot of folks seem to treat startup chile as a 'gap year' and then whine about how they didn't manage to make the next $1B company (not saying that the author is doing this...). That's just messed up.
- they don't invest on you, instead they give you access to a grant
- there are no real investors backing the program
- there are no real entrepreneurs backing the program
- they don't know anything about technology
- nobody is thinking about getting rich except the entrepreneurs joining the program.
EDIT: Well actually there are local entrepreneurs too.
What makes you think the foreign entrepreneurs are better than the local ones? I have not seen any such pattern in Startup Chile. In fact some of the best products (and teams) are Chilean.
In any selection process, any group that gets a boost due to irrelevant factors needs to meet a lower standard. Typically, a group of people meeting a lower standard will be inferior to a group of people meeting a higher standard.
Of course, if I'm wrong about Startup Chile boosting local teams, this reasoning wouldn't apply. Anyone know what their policies are?
We were offered a space to be in the same batch as you, but we kind of realised this would be the case before going. Whilst the money was attractive, the admin, the inflexibility on the length of the programme, and the fact it would be a distraction to actually launching our product meant we just stayed bootstrapped working from home.
Notably, the fact they don't give you the money up-front shows that they're not investing in your company (and that they have no interest in equity). You are going to be made to work for that cash - and that work is time not spent on your startup.
I'm confident we launched quicker this way - whether we would have made a killer connection to make or break our company through the programme, I guess we will never know! But it does seem unlikely from your review and the others that have gone before it.
That being said, there's really no excuse for having poorly-secured and lit office space.
Otherwise, I think the program is pretty clear about it's objectives from the get go. It's about bringing techies/entrepreneurs from all over the world to start businesses in Chile.
Expecting exposure to US investors is not fair I think. But the program should provide exposure to Latin American investors.
Overall I have found people's perspective on the program depend entirely on assumptions and expectations before they arrive. If you expect a suitcase of cash when you land, if you expect all the processes to be pre-arranged, if you expect to never have to deal with any bureaucracy, you will be in for a surprise. If you expect lots of opportunities to network and get connections, if you expect that the government will throw the odd curve-ball now and then, then SUP will be what you expect.
All in I'd expect 1-2 days per reimbursement meeting (including meeting time), less as you get better at it, less if you reimburse just a few big things (rather than lots of small stuff). Cash payments require less proof (less paperwork) than debit or credit cards (CCs require most). That's about all there is to it.
"I believe companies with the following would get the most out of Start-Up Chile"
She also talks about not having access to mentors, and I know that is not completely accurate. Startup Chile has a mentorship system (godfather/godsons) in which experienced entrepreneurs help the teams participating in the program.
I was there for Demo Day too, there were two rooms with presentations. And even though they had some pretty bad technical issues at the room I was in, the whole thing there was in English (I can't say anything about the other room).
I hope that in spite of her disappointments, she had a good experience and that Startup Chile keeps improving in the future.
They could be more useful to the startups if they were provided with some mentorship training and if there was some light-weight facilitation like YC's Office Hours to help it along.
So, two different groups of people.
Thanks for letting me know about it.
Isn't this just part of the life of starting a business?
It has discussion from Round 2+3 people on the pros and cons of the programme. Sidenote - I knew Liis (she's lovely), her concerns are echoed by others (including me). My take on the programme is nonetheless positive, you just have to come with eyes-wide-open.
I wonder if a US state or AU/NZ would do something similar someday. English would be a big advantage, and if they outsourced the management of the program, they could deal with the bureaucracy, selection, etc. a lot better.
I love Japan.
This only backs up my impressions and feedback from others.
As a founder you need a handful of crucial things (amongst so many including drive to succeed):
Obviously there are more, but these are important.