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.
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.
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.
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.
Note 22 January 2017: Santiago Times no longer hosts my article, so I reposted it here.
Chile needs to foster value creation over extraction if it wants to establish a real entrepreneurial ecosystem.
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. (more…)
I’m writing a bimonthly column for The Santiago Times, one of Chile’s English language newspapers, about doing business in Chile and the entrepreneurial ecosystem. My first article was published today and it overviews some of the changes I’ve seen in the Chilean entrepreneurial ecosystem since I first came to Chile in 2010. From the article:
But entrepreneurs in 2010 also had to face powerful cultural obstacles. Chile was risk averse and punished failure. A typical conversation went something like this:
Chilean: “What do you do?”
Me: “I have my own business.”
Chilean: Blank look … “But what do you do?”
Me: “I have my own business!”
Chilean: “So you don’t have a job?”
When new businesses failed, as many do, the typical Chilean response was that the entrepreneur was either: a) stupid, b) lazy, c) stole the money or d) all of the above. Almost none of my new Chilean friends even could imagine themselves starting a business and looked at me like an odd duck who was on a weird path — not the traditional one of getting a job at a big, prestigious company with a comfortable salary and three weeks of vacation, plus fifteen days of “feriados.”
Nathan Lustig, 28, is an entrepreneur from Milwaukee, US, who came to Santiago in 2010 under the government’s Start-Up Chile programme, which offers grants to promising new businesses, both foreign and Chilean, who set up in the country. Many are in the ecommerce, biotechnology and finance sectors. “Santiago is the most livable city in Latin America and there is wonderful hiking on your doorstep,” says Lustig. “Business-wise, there may be some extra bureaucracy here [compared with the US], but the rules are understandable and you feel confident that they are not going to change suddenly.”
Lustig’s main gripes are air pollution and petty crime, while the distance from home is also a drawback: “It takes 14 or 15 hours to get to Wisconsin. On the other hand, if you are doing business with New York, or just watching sports or talking with friends there, there is no time difference in the southern winter, and only two hours difference in the summer.”
I was also featured along with my business partner Enrique Fernandez and many other entrepreneurs and stakeholders in the Chilean entrepreneurial community in a special entrepreneurship section of the Chilean national daily La Segunda in an article titled Nathan Lustig: Si Y No Con Santiago.The article talks about the pros and cons about doing business in Chile and how Chile can improve its ecosystem.