Category Archives: Startup Chile

A Small Win Against the Bureaucracy

In 2010, during my first six months in Chile, I worked out of the Startup Chile office in downtown Santiago in the in the Ministry of the Economy. From day one, we had all sorts of problems with the internet. The government wasn’t used to 50 entrepreneurs burning up the bandwidth, so the internet was slow. We offered to share the cost of upgrading the line, but we were told it was impossible, because the government had to bid out all contracts. Luckily, that got fixed within the first month.

At the end of the first week, my internet stopped working. I’d been kicked off the network. I went to ask what the problem was and one of the startup chile staff members told me that the password had changed. I updated the password and didn’t think anything of it.

But next friday, I got kicked off again. I asked why the password changed and was told that it was government policy: the password had to change weekly. At 4pm each friday, some bureaucrat would send us an email saying what the new password would be. At 430, the password would change and you’d get kicked off the network.

I never learned the real story, but my guess is that some government employee must have decided it was imperative to change the password weekly. So they did it. As if the Chilean ministry of the economy needed to prevent potential Peruvian, Bolivian and Argentinian James Bonds from connecting to the government wifi!

And of course, the only way to find the new password was in your email. And since this was pre smartphones with data plans, if nobody looked quickly, the only way to find the password was to call the bureaucrat in charge. One of the Startup Chile staffers, Diego, at least made it more fun when he forced the government to make the ever changing passwords the names of styles of Chilean sandwiches. That information still comes in handy four years later.

After running through ~20 sandwiches, Diego switched it to sandwich shops. Sometime during the 5th month, he changed the password to the name of one of the better sandwich shops in Santiago. And somehow the policy changed so we didn’t need to change the password each week.

I went back to the Moneda office for the first time in about a year today and the current password hasn’t changed. It’s still that same sandwich shop. Diego really should have charged a commission! It’s a small win in the battle against the bureaucracy. And one I’ll happily take it. That’s progress.

Oportunidad Para Emprendedor(a) En Chile!

Estamos buscando un emprendedor o alguien que quiere ser emprendedor para ayudarnos a hacerle crecer un ecommerce nuestro. Nuestra idea es encontrar a una persona emprendedora que quiera tomar las riendas operacionales de nuestra tienda de e-commerce. Lleva mas de un año de funcionamiento, tiene números azules, está creciendo mas de 20% cada mes y tiene mucho espacio para seguir desarrollándose.

Es la oportunidad perfecta para alguien que ha emprendido antes, alguien que quiere emprender por su propia cuenta en algún momento o algún emprendedor exitoso que está buscando un desafío.

Te ofrecemos un plan de expansión concreto, un negocio que ya está creciendo, con financiamiento y la oportunidad de aprender de tres emprendedores que ya han sido exitosos con otros startups. La persona ideal debe ser fuerte en temas comerciales, ventas y BizDev. Debe tener la intención de ser parte del equipo por al menos 12-18+ meses. Queremos entregarte la herramientas necesarias para tener éxito con este negocio y dejarte en condiciones para que puedas lanzar tu propia empresa después de trabajar con nosotros.

Podemos ofrecer un sueldo fijo bajo del mercado, con incentivos basado en metas que te ayudaría ganar un sueldo mercado y con la posibilidad de tener participación en la empresa.

Características

Puesto: Manager de Operaciones

Full Time

Lugar: En oficina central (Metro Alcantara), remoto y en terreno

Requisitos: Emprendedor, experiencia en ventas, BizDev, experiencia previa startups e e-commerce ideal, pero no es necessario.

Nuestro Equipo

Nathan Lustig – Emprendedor de estados unidos de la primera generación de startup chile. Ha lanzado y vendido dos emprendimientos, uno de una compañía publica. Socio en Magma Partners, un fondo de inversión Chileno/Estadunidense. Profesor de emprendimiento en Universidad Católica.

Enrique Fernández – El primer chileno en startup chile. Emprendedor exitoso con conocimiento de negocios internacionales, especializando en china. Profesor de emprendimiento en Universidad Católica.

Gonzalo Saieg – Emprendedor chileno con dos compañías exitosas. Profesor de emprendimiento y negocios internacionales en Universidad de Chile.

Habilidades Requeridas

  • Fuerte en temas comerciales
  • BizDev
  • Auto motivado
  • Emprendedor
  • Ideal si habla por lo menos un poco de inglés

Interesados mándame un correo con un párrafo explicando por qué eres la persona perfecta para esta oportunidad.

Tips to For Your Startup Chile Application

The startup chile application phase is open again and that usually means a blog post offering startup chile consulting and help with applications. Even though I’ve gotten emails from 10 companies wanting my help and I still have a 66% hit rate for the companies that I help, I won’t be offering my services this time. I just don’t have enough time this time.

Instead, here’s my tips for writing your application and getting into startup chile:

1. Public description, video, website

The most important parts are your public description, your website and your video. I know many judges who read your public description, then go to your website and watch your video. If they’re bored, they’ll skim the rest of your app and toss it in the no pile.

The judges are reading a huge quantity of applications, so make sure yours stands out.

2. Don’t write to fill space

Say what you need to say as directly as possible. Don’t write like a college term paper. That’s the opposite of business writing. Write directly and clearly.

3. Native speaker english

If you’re not a native speaker or aren’t a great writer, find someone to help you edit your application. It’s completely worth it.

4. No passive voice

It’s weak. Doesn’t inspire confidence. And it’s boring to read.

This: We make money three ways:

Not This: Money is made three ways by the company

5. Use present tense as much as possible

This: Our company sells sunglasses online

Not this: Our company will sell sunglasses online

6. No business buzzwords

Be direct. Buzzwords make you look weak. And they generally don’t mean anything.

7. Write like you want a 10 year old or your mom to be able to understand it

It’s not impressive to write in jargon. It doesn’t show that you’re smart. Clear, direct writing does. I’ve read countless applications where I truly don’t understand what the entrepreneur is trying to say. But it sure has lots of big words! And buzzwords.

8. Use Lists

You should answer a question about revenue model like this:

We make money three ways:

  • Selling products via our online store
  • Charging placement fees to vendors
  • Logistics fulfillment for partner vendors

This way you save words and go right to the point. Then add a few descriptive sentences and you’re set.

9. Start with your niche, then go bigger

For the target market, scaling plan and your plan, start with your niche, then describe where you’ll be in 6 months or a year. Something like:

Our first clients will be young males between the ages of 18-24 who go to our university and study engineering. They have the biggest pain point for the problem we’re trying to solve. After we win our niche, we’ll expand to the rest of the university, then replicate the model at other universities in our city, then expand internationally following the same model.

10. Tell a story and don’t be boring

Tell a story. Make it fun. The judges read a ton of applications. Stand out by not being boring.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, there are about 2000 applications per round. 100 make it in. Probably half will get thrown out quickly. Your job is to get into the top 300, where it’s going to be a crapshoot. It’s the luck of the draw that the three judges assigned to you will actually like your project.

You just never know. My favorite project ever didn’t make it. Some projects I’ve helped are decent, but not great and have won. Good luck and happy applying!

Andes Property: Furnished Apartment Rentals in Santiago Chile

When I first got to Chile in 2010 as part of the pilot round of Startup Chile, my first task was to find an apartment. We rented a hostel for the first week, and set out to rent an apartment.

It was a daunting task. I spoke a bit of spanish, but my business partner Jesse didn’t really speak much at all. We started looking for shared apartments, furnished apartment rentals and unfurnished units in Providencia, Las Condes and Bellas Artes, but quickly were stymied. We didn’t really know where to search, our spanish wasn’t up to snuff and even when we did find a decent property, many landlords either didn’t want to rent to foreigners or jacked up the rent 2-3x when they heard my broken spanish.

After looking for a few days, we thought we’d found the apartment we wanted right near Metro Pedro de Valdivia. The photos were amazing (like our three bedroom in Las Condes pictured below). It had a pool. Two bedrooms. A balcony facing the Andes. I called and asked for the price and a time to go see it. When we got there and walked in, I knew we’d been taken for a ride. It was a one bedroom studio that was no way close to what we’d seen online.

three bedroom apartment las condes

One of our 3br apartments in Las Condes.

When another apartment quoted me $1500 a month, I asked my Chilean friend Cristobal to call and try to rent it. He got quoted $700. They’d tried to gringo tax us! Other apartments just flat out told us they wouldn’t rent to us unless we could show a year of income in Chile, or have a Chilean cosigner.

We ended up using an agency that worked out ok, but we ended up paying high broker fees and having to put four months down. Other friends weren’t so lucky and ended up getting taken advantage of by brokers.

one bedroom apartment bellas artes

1 bedroom apartment in Bellas Artes

Many of our friends ended up paying way over market value or having to pay their entire lease up front. And forget about getting your security deposit back at the end of your lease! Most of our friends ended up losing nearly all of their deposit and had no recourse. It turns out that for most Chileans the idea of a security deposit is really a “I use your money as an extra month’s rent” deposit!

In 2012 when I first got back to Chile, I decided to start to solve the problem. Two of my ex startup chile friends and I decided to create Andes Property, a company dedicated to helping foreigners find apartments to rent with a US level of customer service, fully bilingual service and without the typical Chilean paperwork and demands.

We started by buying our own apartments in Bellas Artes and then have taken over management of Chilean owned apartments that allow us to rent to foreigners using our standards. If you’re looking for an apartment, shoot us a message. We’d be happy to help you out. Click on the logo below for more info.

andes property apartments in santiago chile

The Chilean Mindset Needs to Change from Extraction to Value Creation

People always ask me questions along the lines of “what’s the one thing holding Chile back from being an innovative country?” It’s a question I’m really interested in, not just for Chile, but for the US as well.

My latest column in the Santiago Times titled The Extraction vs. Value Added Mindset talks about Chile’s current preference for business models that extract value, either from the ground, the sea, or even other people, rather than business models that create new value.

From the article:

I was invited to speak at a roundtable at the Universidad de Desarrollo about the challenges of teaching entrepreneurship in Chile. We had a lively and wide ranging discussion about how best to continue to foment entrepreneurship at all levels of Chilean society. One of the best debates was about trying to answer the question: What is the biggest factor holding Chilean culture back from being more entrepreneurial?

The general consensus was that it’s the Chilean family’s fault. Kids live with their parents until their mid- to late-twenties and generally only move out when they get married. Moms and Dads tell their kids they can do no wrong. Many lead pampered lifestyles with doting parents (and sometimes nanas), who solve even the most trivial of problems.

Since entrepreneurship is opportunity recognition and problem solving, the thinking goes that if you never have to solve problems on your own and always turn to Mommy and Daddy when things get tough, you won’t be a good entrepreneur. And if we just got kids to move out at a younger age like they do in the United States, we’d have more successful Chilean entrepreneurs.

I agree that this is part of the problem, but I actually think the real root of the problem goes much deeper and that the solution is much harder to achieve. The real problem is that Chilean culture values extraction over value creation. Look at the biggest Chilean industries: mining, fishing, fruit, wine, logging, banking and retail (trading). Of the principal exports (mining’s currently 56 percent of total exports), only salmon exports are showing growth in the past 12 months, (+53%) while forestry (0%), wine (-8%), fruit(-16%) are in decline. Some are literally extraction, like mining and fishing, while others are extracting wealth from their fellow citizens via banking or arbitrage opportunities in trading.

Read the full article at The Santiago Times.

If you want to help change the culture to make it more entrepreneurial, we have to start valuing value creation above all else. We need to stop making entrepreneurs (especially those who are using extraction business models) into rockstars and heroes. The real stars of an entrepreneurial ecosystem that’s starting to take root are those who are creating new opportunities and creating value for their customers.

The most important piece of the puzzle is the entrepreneurial mindset. My partners and I have been working on trying to help shape this mindset via teaching classes at universities, but would love to see this effort expanded. I believe changing the mindset is the key to creating a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem.