Start-Up Chile FAQ

After our video in TechCrunch, I got a bunch of emails from entrepreneurs who were interested in applying to Start-Up Chile and wanted to know more about the program.  I decided to make a little FAQ for anyone who has questions about Start-Up Chile.  If you have any questions that I didn’t answer, put them in the comments and I’ll be sure to answer them.

Do people speak English?

Not really.  Most Chileans don’t speak much English, especially in stores, in taxis or restaurants.  People in the tech companies, top government officials and young, upper/middle class Chileans speak some English.

Do I need to speak Spanish to come to Chile?

No.  Most of the entrepreneurs in Start-Up Chile don’t speak much Spanish, or any at all and are doing just fine.  I would suggest taking some Spanish classes before you get here because your life will be much easier and more rewarding if you at least make an effort

How is the $40,000 grant distributed and what can I spend it on?

Currently, we spend our own money and then submit receipts.  We can pay ourselves whatever we want, but can only submit about $2,400 per month for reimbursement.  We can deduct our rent directly from the grant.  For everything else, we have to submit receipts and then the money will be transferred to our bank account.  We’re taking a salary and then submitting receipts for web hosting, travel, rent, ssl, employees and other costs.  We’re not allowed to submit receipts for alcohol or tips.  I’ve heard that they are trying to simplify the process, but it’s not too bad.

Where is the office?

Moneda 975, which is right in the center of Santiago, about three blocks from La Moneda, Chile’s version of the White House.  The office is very modern, open and has plenty of space for us to work.  The area around the office is very busy with lots of people, shops, restaurants and food stands.

What’s the cost of living?

Housing is between $350-$700 per person, depending on how nice of a place you want, how close to a metro stop you want to be and what part of the city.  Most of us live in Providencia, Las Condes, Bellas Artes because we want to be close to the Metro.  If you don’t mind walking or taking the bus, you can save a ton of money by checking out places farther away from the Metro.

Does the program help you connect with people?

Yes.  We’ve met many Chilean entrepreneurs, government officials and academics, along with interesting people from the US like Steve Blank and Vivek Wadwha.  We do weekly meetups every Thursday where all of the Startup Chile entrepreneurs get together and hang out with 30-50 locals.  It’s been a great way to make connections.  Even just saying you’re in startup chile has allowed many of the teams to get contacts with businesses or investors.

What is the local talent pool like?

I’m still not quite sure.  There seems to be some skilled tech people, but so far it’s been hard to find at least for us.  I know of at least 5 companies that have made successful hires since coming to Chile and we now have our own jobs portal where you can post jobs specifically for startup chile companies.

What is the weather like?

So far, 80s and sunny every day.  It’s dry, so it’s not too bad.  I’ll update this as we fully move into summer.

Is it safe?

Yes.  Santiago is a safe city, especially if you stay in the nicer areas.  Where we live in Providencia is completely safe and reminds me of parts of California.  Santiago is 1st world in infrastructure and lifestyle.

What’s the application process?

We filled out a 3-4 page form that required an executive summary, ideas about what we would spend the grant money on and information about why we wanted to come to Chile.  We submitted the app, then were interviewed by the startup chile team so that they could ask us any questions.  Next, they asked us a few more questions and then told us we were approved.  I believe there were close to 100 teams (maybe more) that applied and they picked 25.

What kinds of companies are they looking for?

Any smart founder who wants to develop their business.  Right now, most companies are IT related, but there are a few alternative energy projects.  I believe that Startup Chile would pick any smart, motivated founder and are not just looking for specific industries. Here’s some more questions I received and the responses I sent back:

Can you please let me know if you have found the program beneficial.  Has the incubation culture there and the ability to work with other startups helpful?

For me, it’s been great.  I really enjoy traveling and being in other parts of the world, so this was perfect for me.  The weather is nice, santiago is 1st world, modern, safe, efficient.  We’ve been connected to some of the best people in Chile, but there doesn’t seem to be that many people in the IT space here, so it’s going to be tough to find mentors/partners outside of the program.  It could be that I’m looking in the wrong place.

The office is really great: anytime you get 15-25 smart startup founders in the same room together, good things happen.  We’ve already partnered with one of the other startup chile teams and are doing a side project with another one as well. There seems to be a few VC/Angel funds here that are looking to invest in startup chile startups.

I was also wondering where the offices are located and how the funds must be spent?

The office is located moneda 975, Santiago (google map it, its right in the middle, right near la moneda, the Chilean white house).  The area around the office is very busy: lots of people walking around, street vendors.  The office itself is on the 12th floor of a government building and is really nice. Right now, we can take a salary of about 2.4k per month for living expenses (not including rent) and then you can spend your 40k on anything you want besides tips, alcohol and gambling.

You need a receipt to backup the big purchases.  You can pay overseas developers up to 2.4k per month without doing a “bid” but you can pay them whatever if you produce a document that shows that they are getting paid market rates.  Some of this info will change, as they’re trying to make it much more simple, no receipts and fewer restrictions on what to buy.

We are currently paying ourselves more than $2,400 per month from our own revenue or investment, do we have to take a pay cut to come to Chile?

No.  You can pay yourself whatever you want, but you can only submit $2,400 per month to be paid back by the grant.

Can you get around in Santiago without a car?

100% yes.  The metro is efficient, clean and fairly new and gets you wherever you want to go.  Taxis are plentiful and cheap and buses run all over the place.  I don’t think any startup chile entrepreneur has a car here.

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  • Gaurav569

    Hi

    The new program limits compensation to 350,000 pesos per month. Is that whats being paid out currently?

    • http://www.nathanlustig.com Nathan Lustig

      My understanding is that you can pay yourself however much you want, but only 350k pesos ($700) per month can be reimbursed from the program. Since you’re able to pay about 400k pesos for one person or 600k pesos if you’re a team of two for apartment/utiltiies, you should be good to go. I think the total salary could be higher now, but not many of us are taking it because we did not want to go through the hassle of registering with the government.

      • http://trqsunlabs.com Gaurav

        ” Right now, we can take a salary of about 2.4k per month for living expenses (not including rent) and then you can spend your 40k on anything you want besides tips, alcohol and gambling.”

        Ok, so the 2400$ salary figure you quoted is cumulative and is reached at after adding the rent part.

  • http://www.nathanlustig.com Nathan Lustig

    The beneficiary, ie the person who signs the papers, can currently take 1.2m pesos per months, which is about 2.4k in salary. I havent read the new terms and conditions, so if its true that you can now only take 350k as a salary, that is indeed much lower.

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