According to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), Chile is one of the countries in Latin America that provides the most comprehensive support tools for entrepreneurial startups. And in late 2013, Santiago was named one of the world’s top 5 innovation hubs.
The early days
I’ve always seen Chile as a great place to grow a company, having started several ventures here, including Betazeta and FayerWayer. But my experience goes back twenty years and wow, have things changed.
I started my first company in 1996 when I was 15 years old and had no clue I was becoming an entrepreneur. The word wasn’t even used in Chile. The dotcom boom helped me and others discover alternate paths to look for a job at a big company once you left college—as a matter of fact, I dropped out of college after just the first year.
Another big influence on my entrepreneurial efforts and technology in Chile is Endeavor, a global non-profit that helps to promote entrepreneurship that started over 15 years ago. Even though the Chilean tech boom has only made headlines these past couple of years, I would say it has been pushed strongly by Endeavor for over a decade.
Today in Chile, an unbelievable number of accelerators, incubators and funds are available to jump start your project. Universities, investment banks, NGOs and the government have all jumped in with all sorts of specialized offerings—including an amazing NGO called SOCIALAB promoting social entrepreneurship projects looking to impact over a billion people in the developing world.
Why the boom in entrepreneurship? I think it’s all about putting people back in charge of their own innovation and dreams. People are hearing about the supportive community and seeing results from creative companies. I’d say the Start-Up Chile program has been the most successful in creating headlines all over the world and promoting awareness of our own “Chilecon Valley.” Chile is one of the most stable countries in Latin America, with a booming economy and stable political system. Virtually no corruption and a first world infrastructure (both physical and digital) have given us just the right ingredients to become an entrepreneurship hub. And not only in the tech industry.
People rule Santiago
Start-Up Chile has been hugely successful in attracting entrepreneurs from all over the world to come and develop their ideas in Chile. They hail from all corners of the Earth and all walks of life, from young entrepreneurs pursuing their first dream to seasoned vets who sold their latest company for millions of dollars. This has made Santiago an even more cosmopolitan city, and it’s starting to attract investors and the rest of the start-up ecosystem needed for entrepreneurs to flourish.
I see the growth of “Chilecon” Valley as the true embodiment of the people economy—a world that works better for you, me and we. I always leave a couple of hours available each week to meet with entrepreneurs and help them out anyway I can; reach out if you come visit or find me on Twitter! Come join the Chilean innovation revolution!
Leo Prieto is the Founder of Betazeta Networks, Aardvark Labs and ImageMaker Studios.