Tag: enrique fernandez

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.

Real Starters: Entrepreneurship Classes at Universidad Católica

I had the privilege to moderate and judge demo day for the entrepreneurship classes at Universidad Catolica today. It all started two years ago in November 2010. My fellow Startup Chile pilot round entrepreneurs Enrique Fernandez, George Cadena, Vijay Kailas, Tiago Matos, Shahar  Nechmads, Jesse Davis, Raj Utamachani and I we were motivated to create the startup class we’d all wished we’d been able to take when we were in university. We got together in the Startup Chile offices and sketched out a 10 week class that would teach students the basics of starting a company: everything from researching an idea to customer development to pitching investors to launching.

We stated with De Emprendedores, Para Emprededores (De-Pe) at Universidad Católica del Norte, a university in Antofagasta. Startup Chile entrepreneurs make the trek each week to the north to teach eager students how to make their ideas into businesses. It was a huge success and the students loved it. We saw some great business ideas and decided we needed to expand.

Enrique Fernandez, along with George Cadena took the lead. They morphed the idea into Real Starters and pitched the idea of an introductory entrepreneurship class to Professor Stephen Zhang at Universidad Católica here in Santiago. The goal of the class is to take students from just an idea and put them through the customer development process to get them ready to have a launchable business by the end of the semester. We give each student a mentor and off they go! Last semester, 13 projects went through the course, which ended in a demo day. It was another massive success.

This semester we had 10 great, motivated teams. At today’s demo day, it was amazing to see how far the teams have come from the first day of class to their final pitches. There were three companies that already have clients and are already making money. There were five more with potentially viable business models. Every single project has the potential to have success if the teams continue to work, respond to customer feedback and refine their ideas.

It’s been an amazing experience to be a part of this class and a privilege to advise some of the teams. All of the teams deserve a huge congratulations. As I told them during the competition, of all the students on their campus, they are part of a select group of students who are actually learning by doing, not just in the classroom.

Last but certainly not least, I want to congratulate the three winning teams. All three have an extremely bright future.

First Prize: Diza Shoes

The Diza team has created a platform to make every girl’s dream come true. They allow anyone to create their perfect shoe by changing the color, heel height, laces and other aspects of their shoes so that they’ll have a unique pair. They’ve already sold 500 pairs and make profit on each pair. They won an all expenses paid trip of their choice to either Stanford Entrepreneurship Week or Babson College where they’ll represent Chile and learn from some of the top minds in entrepreneurship.

First Runners Up: Webdox

The Webdox team digitizes attorneys’ documents and  then provides them with a searchable platform so that attorneys don’t have to manually find paper documents. They already have signed up three law firms in Chile and have more than 100,000 documents under contract to be digitized. They have a massive potential market not just in Chile, but in the rest of Latin America.

Second Runner Up: Biodgas

The Biodgas team invented a way to convert common house hold trash into gas that can be used to power a house. The team already is testing their invention with schools and orphanages. They not only have invented a machine that converts trash into gas, but they’ve dressed their machine up as a robot to help teach kids the value of recycling and science. Their future is incredibly bright!

Congratulations to all of the teams. You all deserve it. And if you are interested in participating as either a student or a mentor, please contact me. We’ll be starting another class next semester!