Advice to New Startup Chile Teams

Since the next group of 110 Startup Chile companies got accepted, I’ve gotten a ton of emails asking for advice.  Where should I live? What should I make sure I avoid doing?  Where should I travel?  What do you wish you had done?  Any tips and tricks?  I’ve responded to most of them, so I took a compilation of all of the questions and made a list of my advice to the new Startup Chile Teams.  If you’ve got more questions, I’m happy to answer either via email or in the comments.

1. Spanish

Enroll in a Spanish class in your home town.  Take another one when you arrive.  While Spanish is not required, take a crash course before you leave.  Take a 2 week course, at least when you get here.  I regret not doing it.  I had a ton more fun once i started learning in earnest in early January as I made friend with more Chileans and drank beers with the aweome Juan Pablo Tapia twice a week to learn Spanish.  There’s just so many more opportunities when you can at least understand what’s going on and participate a little

If you don’t speak any Spanish, you’ll survive and do fine, but being able to speak just a little bit will make your stay that much more fun.

2. Where to live

If you’re young, live in Providencia between Salvador and Tobalaba metro stops or in Bellas Artes.  Providencia is a little nicer, but Bellas Artes is an up and coming, sorta hip area.  Both are close to the metro, walking distance from bars, restaurants, grocery stores.  I lived right by the Pedro de Valdivia metro stop.  I wished i had lived about 2-3 blocks off of Av. Providencia as it is much quieter.

I also love the Pedro de Valdivia neighborhood across the river, close to Cerro San Cristobal. If you find a good apartment, get it quickly, they fill up fast.  You can live farther “up” in Las Condes, but it gets more expensive and there are fewer things to do at night.  El Golf to Alcantara metro stops is expensive and is the finance center “Sanhattan.”  Farhter up is more high rise condos, around Escuela Militar and Manquehue not much to do.  These are good places for families.  Vitacura is good if you plan to work from home or have a family, but its not close to the metro and is one of the most expensive places in the city.

It’s a good idea to start looking for apartments before you get here.  You can save time, effort and money by doing research ahead of time.  Also, consider living with Chileans.  A few of my friends did it and they paid less, had friends right away and could ask questions of people when they were lost.

3. Internet

We had VTR highspeed internet in our apartment and also an Entel Banda Ancha Movil (high speed broadband card).  They are fairly cheap, soget the fastest one you can.  You can travel and work from anywhere and it works in some of the most remote parts of Chile.

4. Make friends with your fellow entrepreneurs

My friends from Startup Chile are one of the main reasons I had such an amazing time.

5. Accept all invites you can from chilean entrepreneurs and friends

It’s the best way to know the country and were some of the most fun times I had.  I wished I had accepted more.

6. Grocery Store Advice

At the grocery store, they will likely ask you two questions when you’re checking out.  First, they’ll either say “club lider?” o “acumula puntos?” ,which is their rewards points club.  You can either say no or give them your RUT number.  You can use the points for discoutns later.  If you pay with cash, they’ll ask you if you want to donate the last few pesos to a charity.  Say yes, even the homeless won’t accept 7 pesos.  Seriously, a guy gave my friend back the 1 and 2 peso coins today and kept the 10-100s that he gave him.  If you pay with a creidt card, they will ask “cuotas?” which means payments.  Say no o “sin”.  That just means you want to pay it all at once.

Look for a local produce stand.  The one we go to is el changuito on Manuel Montt.  Its 50% the price of Lider and way higher quality.

7. Arrival

When you first get here, walk all over the city to get to know the place.  Try to make sure that you arrive when Startup Chile can help you get your bank account, RUT and id card.  Your life renting an apartment will be 100x easier if you have these all set up.  Stay in a hostel in Providencia to get acclimated.

8. Taxis

They will likely try to rip you off.  They probably got all of us when we first got here, but just always insist on the meter.  And if the meter looks like it’s going up too fast, just say no, get out and get the next taxi.  There are tons.  Rates should be: $13-15k from the airport to providencia. Bellavista-Central Providencia $1000-2000.  providencia to vitacura, between $2-6k, depending on how far you are going up.  You don’t tip in taxis.

Another sure fire way to make sure you don’t get ripped of is to just get in, say your address with authority, then shut up.  Then they don’t know if you’re a foreigner who lives in Santiago or a tourist.  Or if you start to get comfortable, talk to the taxi drivers.  They are usually super interesting and are the best people to practice Spanish with.  If you screw up, you’ll never see them again and if you don’t understand you can just stop talking.  They also won’t rip you off if you’re trying to talk with them and say that you live here.

9. Metro

The metro is your friend. its easy, cheap and safe.  Buy a BIP card (metro card) your first day here.  Put $5000 on it and recharge as necessary.

1o. Restaurants

They are fairly expensive for what you get.  There are good restaurants here, but you have to find them.  It’s not like in NYC, San Fran or even Madison where you know that if you walk into a restaurant it’s gonna be good. Check my list of my favorites here.

11. Take advantage of the ability to travel.

Go to Mendoza, Viña, San Pedro de Atacama, whatever you can.  Buses are cheap, safe and excellent.  Check last minute deals on LAN or on Sky for cheap flights.  Specials come out every tuesday.  Look in Spanish, the prices are cheaper.  Also, use your RUT to book, you sometimes get better deals.  Be sure to not miss your LAN flights or want to change them.  They are really hard to deal with.  Or just pay more to have the option to change.  Their inflight service is awesome.

Note: If you’re a US citizen and are traveling to Argentina, fly into the non international airport in Buenos Aires, you can likely avoid the reciprocity fee.  If you’re going into Bolivia, you can likely bribe your way in and pay way less.

12. Eat Peruvian food, drink Chilean Wine.

They are both awesome.

13. Take advantage of the networks

Startup Chile gives you a direct line into Chilean entrepreneurship and business culture.  Use it as much as you can.  Make connections.

14. Blog about your experiences

My Startup Chile posts are some of the highest trafficked on my blog.  Plus, the memories are worth it.

15. Going out

Learn to like Pisco.  It’s cheap and it gets you drunk.  Plus, it’s good.  Try pisco sours, piscola (pisco and coke) or piscola blanca (pisco and sprite).  People eat late and go out late.  If you go to a club before about 130, it’ll be empty.  Thursday and Saturdays are the best nights to go out.  Fridays are ok, but not as good.

16. Nothing is open on Sunday

Only the big chain restaurants, big malls and a few of the grocery stores are open on Sunday.  Most restaurants are closed.

17. Enjoy every minute, it goes by way too fast

It seems like just yesterday, I was getting off the flight with Jesse, not knowing what to expect, meeting Shahar and Brenna.  Next, Tiago, George, Raj, Felipe and the rest of the crew in the hostel.  Then Paige, Diego(s), Jean and everyone else in the office.  It’s gone by so fast.  I wish I had the energy to do more and would have taken advantage of more of my opportunities.  That said, it’s been the best six months of my life.  It goes by so quick, so take your changes with alacrity!

UPDATE May 7:  I got lots of questions emailed to me, so I added a few here:

1. If you had to do it over again and got the chance to choose any incubator in any tech hub in the world, would you choose Chile again?

From a strict business perspective, there’s no doubt that Y Combinator or Techstars are better programs than Startup Chile.  Business wise, this is a perfect program for founders who don’t have a product fully launched and can build one and start to get results quickly, or a team that has a product launched, but has yet to get lots of traction.

2. How was your experience overall? Is it worth it? I am in India, in what terms was it better than being in your homecountry?

It was a great experience and well worth it for me and the business. $40k in cash, connections with other SUP entrepreneurs and Chilean entrepreneurs, plus connections into the Chilean business networks.

3. What happens to your startup after the program? Do you take it with you? Or are you supposed to leave everything behind? My co-founder has been wondering about that.

It’s your startup. You take it wherever you want.

4. Where did you choose to live during this period? I saw that organizers recommended Ameristar Apart hotel. Did you live there?

I lived in Providencia near the Pedro de Valdivia metro stop.  The Ameristar is in Bellas Artes and a bunch of the teams lived there.  They have good lease terms, but for me, I would rather be in Providencia.

5. About 40K$ subsidy that organizer promise, did you get the full sum?

6. How exactly do you get it, is it only comes exactly for covering your business and living expenses during 6 months or is it your money that you can spend as you wish?

I’m not sure how it works for the new teams, but for us, it was all reimbursements.  We could spend it on business expenses, rent, food etc.  No alcohol, vacations, gambling etc.  $40k was $40k no matter how we spent it.  We lived cheaply and spent the rest on the business.  Not sure what the rules are for the new teams.

7. How productive was your work at Chile? Are you satisfied from it?

We were less productive while in Chile, no question, but I think the loss of productivity was probably 10% or so.  I think the lowered productivity was a result of becoming friends with new entrepreneurs and taking advantage of the opportunity to be in a new city.

8. Did you succeed to create any new business possibilities in Chile and South America or your worked mainly for your original home market?

We mostly attacked the US market, but Chileans are now our second most registered users.
Travel posts:

Travelogue: Torres del Paine, Patagonia

Travelogue: Mendoza, Argentina

Travelogue: San Pedro de Atacama

Travelogue: Uyuni, Bolivia

Travelogue: La Serena and Valle del Elqui

My Favorite Places in Santiago

Travelogue: Pichilemu

A Quick Trip to Viña del Mar

Chile posts:

Startup Chile FAQ

I am United Statesian

Chile at Ten Weeks

Punishing Failure

Christmas in July

Futbolito, Facebook and Other Observations from Chile

My First Christmas Away from Home

First Impressions from Santiago


If you’re looking for a furnished rental in Santiago, Chile, check out Andes Property, my furnished apartment rental service.

  • 1Paige Brown

    Great post Nate!

    Just to add on housing, you can find great shared housing opportunities through chilean websites and others like Couchsurfing. These are nice because you most likely won’t have to set up your cable and internet and they will be more flexible. PLUS great way to practice Spanish and get to know more local Chileans.

    Also highly recommend Escuela Fronteras for Spanish lessons. Speaking Spanish will allow you to take advantage of even more opportunities with local entrepreneurs.

    • Nathan Lustig

      Awesome advice Paige! Keep it coming! New startup chile people, you should check out Paige’s blog and twitter for some great travelogues and places to visit.

  • Marshall Haas

    Hey Nathan,

    What’s the story with cell phones, minutes, and data plans?

    My company is mobile dev so it’s important to me to continue using an iPhone in the country if they’re supported. Have any knowledge on that?

    • Nathan Lustig

      You can use iphone, but you’ll have to unlock/jailbreak it, or buy a new phone here. entel is the best phone company, but claro and movistar both offer iphone service, i do believe. you have to buy a plan and you need to have your RUT and a bank account in chile. lots of people in the program (and lots of chileans) have them.

      • Nathan Lustig

        if you dont have a smart phone, you can buy a really cheap prepaid phone. that’s what i did. i have a $15 phone and add credits about once a week, maybe less. texting is expensive, calling is fairly cheap.

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  • Nischal Shetty

    Awesome post! I’ve been reading up blog posts from you and Jesse for a while now and every post gives some new insights into this program.

    This has to be the most comprehensive post about start-up Chile. Thank you, it helps a lot!

    • Nathan Lustig

      Hi Nischal, thanks for reading, i’m glad it helps and I hope you enjoy your time in Chile as much as Jesse and I did.

  • Nicoletta

    Hi Nathan, thank you for your great post! The value that you have writed are chilean pesos or us dollar? Excuse me for my bad English, I’m Italian.

    Thank you, it help a lot!

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  • Christian Jessen

    Very nice post, with some good advice to people coming to Santiago. For bootstrapping purposes, I would also recommend people to look for something in el centro of Santiago, doesn’t have to be Bellas Artes. Personally I live a couple of Metro stations south of Bellas Artes (called Santa Isabel), where the rent is a lot lower, completely new buildings and a district that is “rising” at the moment, as they are building more and more bigger projects around.

    While it might not be as “exclusive” as areas like Providencia and Bellas Artes, I would definately recommend it for people on a budget. Use to have a look around for prices – I found a lot of good options from that site.

    Regards, Christian Jessen
    – Fellow entrepreneur in Santiago

    • Nathan Lustig

      Hi Christian,

      You’re very right, it’s much cheaper in el centro. Some of my friends live near Santa Lucia metro, south of alameda. I personally didnt like it as much becasue there wasnt as much to do at night or during the day, but if you are truly on a budget, its safe and cheap.

  • ProposalRocket

    Very useful, Thanks for sharing ;)

  • Nathan Lustig

    Hi Nicolleta,

    I was using an even $500 CLP per USD. The actual exchange rate is about $465 CLP per USD right now, but its still easier to just use $500. If a price is $15,000 pesos, just double it and take off 3 zeros. $15,000*2= 30,000/1000= $30USD.


    And don’t worry about your english!

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  • Carlos Tobin

    Thanks for the post.  

    I created a collaborative Google map with some of  the locations you mentioned.  Feel free to add any other places you found.,-70.603294&spn=0.078946,0.110378

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  • Andrés Felipe Díaz

    Nathan, thanks for taking the time to write this post and update it. We are going to Chile on March 2014 and your post has been very helpful to get an integral view of everything related to the experience. What happened after Startup Chile? What was the next steps for you and your startup. I know It has been 3 years since you wrote this post so it would be great to know what happened next.

    • Nathan Lustig

      Hi Andrés, I went back to the US, sold my company, came back to Chile, worked with a chilean company, taught entrepreneurship at a few universities and now started a new company in Chile. I’m still here now. Check out my blog over the past three years for more info, plus my book about startup chile and living in chile! Drop me a line when you get to chile and let me know what you think!