This post was borrowed from Jesse’s personal blog, Entreprecurious. Jesse was an integral part of the Start-Up Chile environment and is now back in the United States, taking Entrustet to a whole new level.
“As I sit on the flight back to Madison, it has officially hit me that my time in Chile is over. Perhaps the quickest 5 months in my life, it was also perhaps the best, both personally and professionally.
When I first heard about the Start-Up Chile program, I am ashamed to admit that the first thing I did was a Google Maps search for Chile. I muttered to myself, “ooo yeah, it’s the long, skinny strip of land on the west coast of S. America…and I think they have really good wine.” I figured it sounded like a cool opportunity to meet some interesting people, travel around S. America, practice my Spanish, and avoid the brutal Wisconsin winter. Plus, $40,000 in free government money to help Entrustet couldn’t possibly hurt one bit. I had no idea that the next 5 months would change my life so profoundly. Here’s a summary of my time in Chile (pronounced tcheee-lay (and yes, that’s a ‘t’ before the ‘c’)).
Start-Up Chile and its profound impact
Start-Up Chile is doing something amazing that only went under the radar for a few months before becoming a commonly known program amongst entrepreneurs from around the world, including notorious startup scenes like Silicon Valley, Boston, and NYC. The program, which invites young companies from all over the world to move to Santiago for 6 months in exchange for a $40,000 government grant, is the smartest program I’ve ever heard of.
The program is the brainchild of Nico Shea, who is now supported by a wonderfully talented and motivated staff of 10 or so. Why is the program brilliant? Well, for a government investment of roughly $20 million over 4 years (a drop in the bucket by government program standards), Chile has a good shot at becoming the innovation and entrepreneurship hub of S. America.
Between November 2010 and November 2014, Start-Up Chile will bring 1,000 teams and roughly 3,000 entrepreneurs from all over the world. We’re desensitized to such large numbers, so instead of thinking about it as 3,000 people, imagine counting 1+1+1…until you get to 3,000. And aside from the sheer size of the group, you’re talking about 3,000 genuinely passionate, smart, driven risk-takers. Thousands of programmers, business devs, artists, and the likes from literally every corner of the globe? This is cross-pollination at its best.
And the thing is, the groups of participants are going to get close to one another, just like our first group did. Why? Because whenever you take a group of people out of their daily routine and drop them into a totally new situation in a new place for an extended period of time, they’re bound to become a close-knit group. It’s just like your first year in college. People get so close to one another in the dorms because there’s that commonality of being put into an unfamiliar position together that creates lifelong bonds. This is something that Nate always talks about, and it’s true.
I could go on and on with praise for this program and why every country in the world could learn something from Nico Shea and the Start-Up Chile program, but I’ll save that for a later post.
Friends for life
As I said above, the group in Start-Up Chile got incredibly close to one another. I met so many incredible people doing such incredible things. Entrepreneurs share so many similar personality traits. From the obvious ones, such as risk-taking and the desire to manifest something from nothing, to the non-obvious ones such as appreciation of good food and unique travel, there is never a shortage of things to do and talk about together.
There were 40 people in the program or so, and I was in a core group of 20 or so friends. I think that friendships are made deeper based on the number of different types of situations you see each other in. Like you can get to know one part of someone quite well if you see them everyday in the office, but you really get to know the whole person by spending time with them in all sorts of situations. So over the past 5 months or so, I’ve spent countless hours with these friends in the office working, networking at cocktail hours, dancing out at clubs, and traveling to remote places in S. America. I’m going to stay close to all of them, and I have no doubt that we’ll end up meeting up in the most unlikely places in the world for the rest of our lives. In fact, we even have a gentleman’s agreement that the first one to exit for at least $10miilion will take the rest of the group on a trip to Vegas. So here’s to Vegas 2013!
Santiago is not Chile
The New York Times said Santiago is the #1 must-go destination in 2011. In my opinion, they got it partly right; Chile is the #1 destination in 2011, but not Santiago. Don’t get me wrong, Santiago is a cool city, but it’s not Chile.
Chile is 3,300 miles long and 150 miles wide. Go to the south of Chile and you’re in Patagonia, a short boat ride from Antarctica, and home of perhaps the most beautiful landscape in the world. Head a little north of Patagonia to the Lakes Region and you’re surrounded by perfectly conical, snow-capped volcanoes and crystal clear snow water lakes. Head west of Santiago and you’ll find sleepy beach towns with buena onda (good vibrations) such as Pichilemu, or the best seafood of your life in Valparaiso and Viña del Mar (that’s saying a lot coming from a seafood city like Boston). Head a bit north of Santiago and you’re in Valle de Elqui, home of perhaps the most spiritually enlightened energy I’ve ever felt, filled with lush green fields of silent grapes sweetening in the sun during the day and bathing under the star-saturated sky at night. Head all the way north to the Atacama desert and you’re immersed in breathtaking landscapes that change color and hue throughout the day, natural wonders like geysers, and exotic animals such as flamingos.
Santiago is a safe, clean, metropolitan S. American city worth visiting…at least for a couple days. Check out some of the museums and just walk around enjoying the sunny, predictable summer weather. Climb to the top of Cerrra San Cristobal and have a drink on the top of the W hotel to really see the city from above and get a grip on how big it truly is. Go out to Bella Vista at night and have a few Escudos and Pisco Sours and dance the night away at Bar Constitucion. But really, splurge on a few flights within Chile, and rent a car and devote 3 weeks to the trip so you can see the rest of the country. It’s breathtaking.
I just got back to the States, but I miss Chile already. I miss the people, I miss the office, I miss the weather, and I in a strange way, I even miss struggling to understand and speak Spanish. It was a trip I’ll not soon forget, and I’ll be back to visit before long. Of this, I am sure.”