Herval Freire, founder of BlooBoxTV and Novelo, is a Brazilian entrepreneur participating in Start-Up Chile having arrived to the country in June of 2011. Fresh from his blog, he shares the following post with Start-Up Chile readers about his experience both in the program and in Chile:
Almost one month has passed since I arrived in Chile, and as Start-Up Chile Round 2 approaches, more and more people send me emails asking the same thing: so, how do you like Chile?
The Country & Santiago
Being a Brazilian, it’s quite ironic that all I know about Chile is that it does good wine. In fact, after talking with a few fellow Brazilians, that does seem to be the “de facto brazilian knowledge” about Chile. I didn’t even know Easter Island belonged to Chile! In a nutshell, Chile is divided in 15 territories/regions, each one with different weathers, economies and beauties. They comprise everything, from warm, tropical climates down to arctic (yes, they have penguins!).
The capital of Chile, Santiago, is the cultural, economical and administrative center of the country. It’s a big city, with diverse neighborhoods and a combination of climate and charm that makes you wonder if you’re actually still in South America. Although, differently from european countries, things DO work after past 6pm (you can have dinner at midnight). Keep reading…
Santiago Centro looks much like the center of any big, rich city, with a LOT of restaurants, bars, cafés and office buildings and A HUGE LOT of people walking around. And when I say HUGE, I do mean it.
So far, Chileans have been generally very receptive (both to me and to some fellow startuppers). Asking for informations is easy and people will even go out of their way to help you some times – as long as you speak (at least a bit of) spanish. Forget english – it won’t help you communicating with ANYONE down here (not even people in professional services, such as banks, seem to dig english very much). That said, their spanish is a lot more understandable (at least to my ears) than, say, a Catalan or Madrileño speaking. Keep reading…
I first came in contact with Start-Up Chile (“SUP” for short) a few months ago, during the selection process for another incubation program, this one in San Francisco. Back then, the team from CORFO (the Chilean Economic Development Agency) was conducting its first experiment, with a handful of selected companies. They decided to open an official “first call” back in February, and amidst all the turmoil that is the day-to-day of a startup, I decided to give it a shot. Why not?
So what is SUP after all? In short, it’s simple: it’s a big open room with tables, desks and free wifi, a lot of people working their asses of to build their own thing and, once a month, a guy that collects spreadsheets to reimburse you from expenses you had in the period (of course they won’t reimburse ice cream or pizza, which is a shame, but they do cover all business-related costs, which include the most expensive aspect in a tech startup – hiring people!). Not to mention the easy access to legal support, public relations and a camera dude always trying to catch your English slips on video.
The most important aspect of the entire program is not the USD$40k they offer you to cover expenses (although that’s NICE and really helps a lot – if anyone from CORFO is reading this, please ignore that last phrase! We need more money, more money!) – the contacts with other entrepreneurs from all over the world, with different cultures, and of course, potential investors, customers and partners. That is most definitely invaluable. Keep reading…
So is it only roses, then?
Chile is not a perfect country. Hell, after living in Switzerland and concluding it’s no paradise either, I came to Chile with very low expectations. The things that will most definitely bother any Brazilian in Chile are prosaic: the food is weird (they put avocado and mayonnaise on EVERYTHING – yes, even McDonalds). Housing is a bit expensive and apartments are usually a bit too small. All in all, small thorns for such a great adventure.
And up we go, for month two in this story – in which our hero has a nervous breakdown due to so much work, work, work, work…