Most foreign entrepreneurs that apply for Start-Up Chile think only about the equity-free money, without realizing the other benefits that come with the program and with Chile. In my two months as part of Generation 11, I’ve found that Start-Up Chile can be great for your business if you have a clear idea of how you’re going to take advantage of program opportunities and your own time.
The Keteka co-founders, Jack Fischl and Kyle Wiggins, at the CMI co-working space
Buying Your Own Time
This wasn’t totally clear when I applied, but while you’re here, your personal life is covered. That is, some of the money can go toward paying rent, and separate from that, some can go toward paying a monthly salary. There are limits, but they are totally sufficient. A lot of early-stage entrepreneurs work day jobs or side jobs, struggling to stay afloat while they decide when it is best for them to jump off and go full time. Having your life covered lets you work full time – an opportunity that can benefit your start-up literally beyond measure.
Opportunities or Distractions?
One of the main criticisms I hear about Start-Up Chile is that there is not enough “Maker Time,” which is to say, it doesn’t facilitate an environment conducive to putting your head down and coding all day. I understand this sentiment, but I don’t fully agree. There are entrepreneur-related events almost every day, and Santiago is a fun city, so it is easy to let opportunities become distractions. Basically, know what you want to learn from events and seminars and filter accordingly. All told, Start-Up Chile has very few mandatory events over the six months, so the balance between maker time and taking advantage of opportunities is in your control.
(That said, the first of the seven months -before it officially starts- is incredibly distracting, getting your life and legal status sorted out, so just be prepared for a few weeks of chaos at the beginning).
The Benefits of Chile
Most foreign entrepreneurs join Start-Up Chile for the money, not because they have any interest in expanding into Chile. That is understandable, but to completely ignore the potential here is a mistake. Chile has some of the best market opportunities in Latin America and Santiago is on an extremely short list of cities in the region that accommodate entrepreneurs (Sao Paulo being another).
Our business is focused on authentic cultural and adventure travel in Latin America, so Chile, the next host of the Adventure Travel World Summit, is a perfect place for us to live and grow our start-up. We typically use the Peace Corps network to find our destinations, but with no Peace Corps in Chile since 1998, the Start-Up Chile network has helped us connect with local operators and develop our product here. Because of the combination of business opportunities and enjoyable lifestyle, we would love to make Santiago our regional headquarters and are currently looking into ways to make that happen.
Milestones – Thanks to Money, Time, and Planning
Since arriving, we have been selling tours at a significantly higher rate than before, which I think is a direct result of simply being able to work on the company full time. We have also expanded our product offering to include Chile, and sold our first tours in Peru, a neighboring market in which we will definitely be expanding.
The program has also given us the resources to expand the team – a much-needed step in our growth process and a major relief for us co-founders (there comes a point when there is way too much work for just two people). Part of our success (so far) is due to the resources, but it has also helped that we knew exactly what we wanted out of the program before we arrived.
Conclusion: Do It, With a Plan
Overall, I would definitely recommend applying to Start-Up Chile if you are looking to accelerate your business. There is, of course, the equity-free money. But you will get a lot more out of it than just free money if you come in with a plan for how to take advantage of the many opportunities that the program and the country of Chile offer.
See you in Santiago!
Jack Fischl is a co-founder at Keteka.com, a website that leverages the Peace Corps network to connect travelers with authentic experiences and allows them to book online. He is in his second month of Start-Up Chile at the time of this writing.