Tag: startup chile

South By Southwest Chile Technology Summit

I will be moderating a panel at South By Southwest called the Chile Technology Summit on March 16th at 1230 at the Austin Hilton, ballroom F.  Twitter hashtag #chiletech.

The World Technology Summit is a new addition for SXSWi and features panel discussions from emerging technology hubs around the world including Brazil, England, South Africa, Singapore, France, India, China and more.  The goal is to share what it’s like to do business, work and live in these countries.  We’ll answer questions like:

  • How has the technology scene changed in your country over the last five years?
  • What is hottest new media technology trend in your country?
  • How is social media developing / evolving in your country?
  • What is the atmosphere / environment like for new media entrepreneurs?
  • What kind of government support is there for the new media industry in your country?
  • What is the level of education in your country? Is there enough talent for high-tech work?
  • What are the best resources / blogs / websites for people to learn more about new media in your country?

The panelists joining me at the Chile Technology Summit are Juan Pablo Tapia, Leonardo Maldonado and David Basulto.  Each panelist is a leader in his field.

Juan Pablo Tapia

Juan Pablo is the cofounder of Bowl, one of Chile’s leading social media agencies with clients like Ford, LG and others.  He is an experienced entrepreneur and loves technology and social media and also lectures at the Universidad de Desarollo. Juan Pablo will share his perspective on Chile’s developing social media and technology business scene.

Leonardo Maldonado

Leonardo is a serial entrepreneur involved in numerous projects in Chile, including Gulliver, InsumoChina, Gestion y Liderazgo, and Blue Company, a platform for creating personal online communities.  Leonardo is also involved in creating technology entrepreneurship and business opportunities for Region Fertil, a state in Northern Chile that includes the city of Antofagasta.  He will share his insights about creating businesses in Chile and what he sees as some of the successes as well as challenges still facing Chile’s rise as a technology economy.

David Basulto

David is the cofounder of Plataforma Arquitectura and Archdaily, the world’s largest and most trafficked architecture website in the world.  David graduated from Universidad Catolica’s architecutre program and decided to start an architecture blog with one of his friends.  After a few years of hard work, David and team turned Archdaily into the world’s most important architecture website.  David will share his perspective on what it’s like to build a world class business in Chile, along with the changes he’s seen in the Chilean startup community since he started his business in 2005.


I’m extremely excited to have the opportunity to share my experience living and working in Chile, as well as help Juan Pablo, Leonardo and David share some of their stories from the front lines of entrepreneurship and high technology in Chile.  I’m also excited to showcase Chile as one of the best places in the world to start a high tech startup.  If you’re attending sxsw, stop on by our panel!

Got questions?  Want to know more about Chile?  Put questions or topics you’d like us to talk about in the comments and we’ll do our best to fit them in.

Start-Up Chile Opens Applications Tomorrow

Startup Chile is opening up a new round of applications tomorrow with hopes of inviting up to 100 new teams to come to Chile to run their startups.  Like our initial group of 23 teams, the new teams will be awarded $40,000 to develop their business in Chile.

If you’ve been following my blog, Startup Chile is a program to turn Chile into the high tech hub of South America.  The Chilean government is offering world class startups $40,000 to move to Chile to develop their businesses for a minimum of 6 months.  The goal is to import a tech scene to augment the emerging Chile tech scene.  There are already some great Chilean companies, entrepreneurs and tech teams and the goal is to inject more teams to make the Chilean tech sector zoom.

Back in November, Jesse and I were the 7th team to come to Chile as part of the program and we both agree that if we had to do it all over again, we would in an instant.  We avoided the cold Wisconsin winter, but more importantly, we’ve met amazing entrepreneurs from both Chile and the rest of the world.  Our friends from the program are Chilean, Portuguese, Israeli, German, Chinese, Canadian, Irish, South African, British and more (apologies to those I missed).  The list goes on.

We also have used the money very wisely.  Santiago is a very affordable big city and costs about as much as Madison, WI if you want to live really well.  You could live very well here on $1200 a month including housing, less if you share an apartment.   Being in Chile and out of our normal routine also helped us concentrate on our business.  It allowed us to take a step back and really work on the business, away from distractions in the US.  I fully recommend applying for Startup Chile.  It’s been a great opportunity for Entrustet as a business and for me as a person.

For more info, check out the Startup Chile application and terms and conditions, along with my Startup Chile FAQ I wrote up about my experiences living in Chile.  I’m happy to answer any questions you might have either in the comments or via email.

Chile at Ten Weeks

I’ve been in Santiago, Chile for about two and a half months now and have gotten pretty used to living here.  I really like it here.  The people are nice, the weather is amazing (especially if you compare it to the snowpocalypse in Wisconsin this week) and I’m making great friends in the Startup Chile program.  I had always wanted to live in another country, but couldn’t study abroad because of my previous business.  I’ve been meaning to write more about my experiences here, but nothing has been worthy of a full blog post.  Jesse wrote up a grab bag of his reflections on life in Chile and inspired me to stop being lazy and write it all down.

Why are you here and do you like it?

Most Chileans are confused by why I am here.  They always ask the question almost disbelievingly, especially when I meet them for the first time.  I feel dumb when I answer by saying, “we were working on our startup for about a year and a half an we saw the article in forbes and tech crunch and decided to apply.  it’s really cold in Wisconsin and we wanted to avoid the winter and we wanted to live in another country and the money was the push we needed.”

And yes, I honestly do like it here.  Many Chileans don’t seem to believe me and they ask what I like.  I say that the people are nice, the mountains are beautiful, I live being close to the beach and not being in winter, but again, I feel like they expect more.  It’s especially bad when I’m doing this in Spanish because I think people think I’m saying basic things because I don’t speak much, but in reality I say the same things in English.

Food and Wine

Restaurant food is expensive and most doesn’t seem to be a great value for money.  I am used to spicy, flavorful meals with lots of salad and veggies, but the typical Chilean lunch is meat and potatoes, with hardly any spices, if any.  Peruvian restaurants are a better deal because the food is better and spicier.  Chileans make great sandwiches though and if you like to cook, you’re in luck.  Produce is incredibly cheap, fresh and good.

I’m not sure why Chilean food is bland, but it’s clear that most Chileans don’t like spicy food.  I’ve heard speculation that it’s because Chile is very strict about food imports, so they don’t get all of the spices, but if you’re thinking spicy food, you’re not gonna find much.

On the other hand, wine is great here.  If you spend $10, you’ll get something really good.  If you spend $20, which is hard to do, you’ll get something exceptional.  I’ll miss cheap, good wine in the US.

Cost of Living

The general rule is that services cost way less than the US and goods cost more, sometimes way more.  Taxis are cheap, electronics expensive.  People’s time costs less here, but imports seem expensive.  Housing is about on par with Madison, which is cheap by US big city standards, but not overall cheap.

Physical Interaction

When you meet a woman you kiss her on the cheek, no matter if it’s a business situation.  I kiss my banker on the cheek when we have a meeting the same as one of my friends.  I do the same when I leave.  Men who are friends do a handshake/hug type thing.  It was hard to get used to and it’s still weird when you meet another American, because it’s hard to decide whether to do the kiss on the cheek/hug or just shake hands like we were in the US.  It’s a nice change from the states.

Walking in Crowds

The area around our office is really busy.  There’s lots of people walking fast on pedestrian only streets.  In the US, you walk on the right and if someone is walking toward you, you’ll both go right.  In the UK, it’s the opposite, you go left.  Here, there’s no rule.  You just walk forward and play a game of chicken.  There’s no rhyme or reason.  I think they should send athletes here to practice their quick cuts.

Santiago is an Orderly City

After walking around the centro with no rhyme or reason, it’s strange that the rest of life in Santiago is extremely orderly.  It’s completely normal to see 50-100 people waiting in a perfectly calm line to get on the bus at rush hour.  During rush hour, the metro is hot and crowded, but you never see any pushing and shoving.  People seem to go the extra mile to be courteous.


Chileans of different classes don’t mix much.  The rich live in Vitacura, Las Condes and Providencia, with the middle in the surrounding areas and the poor to the south and to the west.  It seems to me that people in the upper classes are generally more worried about image, whereas the middle class seems more open.  It’s sort of like the LA mentality vs. the Chicago mentality.  Many seem to look down on those lower than themselves.

There is a Chilean word “flaite” which basically means “white trash.”  It can mean anything from low class, to dangerous, to criminal or just crappy.  I’ve heard Chileans of all social classes that I’ve met describe someone or some location as flaite, but it’s all in the eye of the beholder.  Here’s an example.

When we first got here, we didn’t know anything, so we just went out and had fun.  I’ll call it Club A.  After meeting Chileans who were our age, they told us that Club A was “flaite” and they recommended new places (Club B).  We tried Club B and had fun.  Then we met some more Chileans in a higher social class and they told us Club B was flaite and that we should go to Club C.  We tried Club C, had fun and then and the same thing happened, where we maxed out at Club D, which was only ok.

What I’m trying to say is that flaite is in the eye of the beholder and the higher the social class, the more isolated they become because they think more and more is trashy and not worthy of their presence.  I’ve seen the same in the rich in LA and NYC, but it seems to be more prevalent here, or we’re just exposed to the upper class more here than I’m used to.  As Americans/Europeans, we basically can do what we want and move between classes, but regular Chileans either can’t or won’t.

Another quick example: I told a Chilean that I buy food from street food stands.  He looked at me like I was crazy.  Another time I was talking to a young professional guy my age and someone in the higher social said “be careful of him” to mean “be careful, he’s lower class.”  It’s been a fairly common theme.

Credit Cards

There’s a monopoly on credit card processing and bank transfers called Redbank.  All banks have to be a part of it.  It makes accepting credit cards easy and I can transfer money to anyone in the country free of charge.  There’s no need for paypal here.  The downside is that the rates for everything else is super high.  Interest on credit cards can be as high as 45% and there’s financing available for just about everything.  I can even pay my grocery bill in payments if I use my credit card.  Credit card processing rates can be as high as 5%, compared with 1-2% in the US.

I wonder if Chile will suffer a crash once all of this credit with high interest comes due?

Another interesting fact: when I got my bank account, I got fingerprinted.  I bet this stops identity theft.

RUT is Public Info

The RUT is Chile’s national id number, sort of like our social security numbers.  The biggest difference is that you give it out everywhere.  Nobody hides it.  Instead of scanning a card at the grocery store to get discounts, you give them your RUT, out loud, in line.  Your RUT is on your ID card and you give it to your friends/business associates if they want to send you a bank transfer.  I’m guessing the fingerprinting prevents ID theft.

Prepaid Mobile Phones

The vast majority of phones are prepaid.  You can recharge everywhere; from girls in the metro or in the street, at kiosks, the ATM, online, everywhere.  Text messages are really expensive at about $.20 per message.  It’s cheaper to have a 2 minute conversation than send a text.

Air Travel is a Huge Deal

At the airport, entire families come to see the traveler through security.  Flash bulbs are popping from the time they are getting in line to get their ticket to the last time they leave view as they walk through customs.  It’s a reminder that air travel is still an incredible luxury for most of the people in the world, even in a well developed country like Chile.

There you have it, some random observations from living in Chile so far.  I really enjoy it and am glad I am here.  If I had to choose again, I would 100% make the same decision.

Looking for more high quality information about Chile from my experiences sine 2010? Check out my book Chile: The Expat’s Guide:

chile expat guide cover

Punishing Failure, Stifling Innovation: How Culture Affects Who Goes into Entrepreneurship

I wrote a post last week about some of challenges facing Chilean would-be entrepreneurs because of the culture.  Overall, Chilean culture punishes failure, which stifles innovation.

It got me thinking and I realized that it seems to me that a fixed percentage of people in the world are entrepreneurial.  I’m not sure what the exact number is but if I had to guess, it’s probably around 10% and I’d be willing to bet that percentage is fairly static across the world.  I believe that these 10% have the skills, desire and entrepreneurial spirit to start a business and succeed.  10% of Americans, Saudis, Chileans, Spaniards and South Africans all have the desire to start businesses, so why do some places have lots of entrepreneurship and others don’t?

Why does the US have a higher percentage of entrepreneurs than Chile, Saudi Arabia or other places around the world.  And in the US why do Silicon Valley, NYC, Austin, Boulder and Boston have a higher percentage of entrepreneurs compared to Des Moines, Tallahassee and Phoenix?

I believe that certain cultural values free up the entrepreneurial 10% to actually start businesses and succeed.  For example, in the United States, we reward risk taking, business ownership and making money.  On average, we also love innovation, learning and trying new things.  We love rags to riches stories, even if they are only partly true.  If someone’s business fails, it’s seen as experience, not a black mark.  In the US, these values are stronger in San Francisco and Austin than in Cleveland and Memphis.

In other parts of the world, there are many different cultural pressures that stifle innovation: punishing failure, punishing innovation, closed culture.  Some places even look down on successful people.

In Silicon Valley, I bet 20% of the people are entrepreneurs in some way shape or form.  In Austin, maybe 8%.  In Chile it’s .01%.  I believe that all cultures start out with the same 10% who can start businesses, but some cultures push people who may not have started businesses to do it, while others push people who would have otherwise started a business to shy away.  The most important thing entrepreneurs, government and academics can do is to try to free the people who would start a business, but don’t because of cultural pressures.

I’ve seen it first hand in Madison.  When I was 19 and just starting with ExchangeHut, there were not many young entrepreneurs.  I only knew 4-5 students and recent grads who were starting businesses.  After JellyFish sold to Microsoft, Networked Insights started to have some success and young entrepreneurs like those in the Burrill Business Plan Competition started to get press in national publications and have some success, other people started to see that they too could start a business.  Capital Entrepreneurs has accelerated the process, along with all sorts of cool initiatives from the startup community like barcamp, forward tech festival, high tech happy hour and more.  I think Madison went from a 1% to a 3% city in the last five years.  We still have a long way to go, but by unlocking the pent up entrepreneurial talent, we’ve seen an explosion in entrepreneurship.  Just wait until we see what Madison looks like at 5%!

In Chile, I’d estimate that we’re at .1%: for every 1000 people who are entrepreneurs at heart, only 1 starts a business.  That’s 1/1000!  In Silicon Valley, it’s probably 200/1000, Austin 80/1000 and so on.

Part of Start-Up Chile‘s mission is to introduce entrepreneurs from all over the world into Chile’s culture to try to break the cultural pressures that punish failure and stifle innovation.  I believe that we should be focusing on the other 9.9% of Chileans who might start a business if they were not afraid of being punished for their failure.  If we can double the amount of entrepreneurs who start businesses, it will be a huge win for Chile.  I see similar parallels to Madison and the entrepreneurial community is starting to take shape.  People just need the entrepreneurial push!

What do you think?  Are entrepreneurs distributed equally across the world or are more entrepreneurs born in one country compared to another?  What can you do to help free up the rest of the entrepreneurs who are scared to make the leap?