De-Pe: Real Entrepreneurship in Antofagasta Chile

Last Thursday was Demo Day for De-Pe, the class I teach at Universidad Catolica in Antofagasta, Chile. It was the culmination of a 12 week class designed to give the students in the class the tools they need to be successful running a business. Nine teams showed up to the first class twelve weeks ago. Some had an idea, others a functioning business, others just a dream. But by the last Thursday, everyone had something they could be proud of.

It was amazing to see the progress the entrepreneurs made by the end of the course and I’m really proud of all of our entrepreneurs who were willing to keep an open mind and improve their product each week.

But the best part, for me, was that each entrepreneur was working on a real problem. It was refreshing to see. Nobody was there because entreprneurship is cool. Nobody was there for the free food. Nobody was there for the free beer. Nobody was there to get famous. Nobody had the next photo sharing app or the next cat social network.

Everyone had a real problem they wanted to solve. Everyone was working on their idea because it was a problem they had. And that helped someone. By the end of the class, everyone found a niche where a customer was willing to pay them to solve the problem. There were no bullshit.

Our class follows a methodology we call EPIC. Luckily it works the same way in English and Spanish:

Enganchar – Engage

First, we break down the myths of entrepeneurship. You don’t need a ton of money. That it’s necessary to fail small in order to avoid failing big. That if you fail its not because you were stupid, lazy, stole the money or a combination of the three.

Poder – Power

Second, we empower the teams by giving them the tools they need to succeed. Entrepreneurship has become more scientific and we give the teams the best practices to be able to succeed. We force them to pivot to find a niche, simplify and find success on a small scale.

Integrar – Integrate

Third, we integrate our students into the entrepreneurial ecosystem. We bring local and international entrepreneurs to Antofagasta to help mentor students. We force the students out of the classroom to speak with their clients and share their ideas with entrepreneurs and actually listen to their feedback.

Comunicar- Communicate

Fourth, students need to be able to communicate their value proposition to clients, to potential business partners and to potential investors. That’s the first step toward sales. We teach clear communication via multiple presentations that end in Demo Day.

While it was a bit of a long haul traveling to Antofagasta 8 times in 12 weeks, it was completely worth it. Our students are exactly what entrepreneruship should be, not the bullshit that’s permeating most entrepeneurial ecosystems. I have no doubt that a year from now all of our entrepreneurs will be successful in whatever they’re working on. Here’s some of our projects (spanish news story):

1st Prize – $5000

Veneno Detect – The world’s first rapid detection test for araña de rincón spider bites. The current test is to go to the hospital to wait for your flesh to start to rot. If it does, it’s araña de rincón, if it’s not, you’re safe.

2nd Prize – $3000

Ecocrea – Solar panel arrays for off the gird mining offices to replace diesel generators at lower cost.

3rd Prize – $2000

Standmat – 3d video animations to increase sales for companies wanting to sell to mining companies.

Other notable projects

Purorugby – Chile’s first online rugby store.

Maestroalaobra – A Chilean version of Angie’s List, a way to get handymen you can trust.

Melanie Stylo – Solo entrepreneur who makes custom made sheets and curtains. Her business supports her family and grew during the class.

Ludico – Online costume rental with offline store. Solo entrepreneur who is supporting her family with her business.

Rincón Sano – Food truck to sell healthy salads in Antofagasta to give people another option besides crappy fried food.

CleanSubZero – Machine that uses dry ice to clean mining heavy equipment.