Leslie Forman, a graduate of UC Berkeley, was living in China when the opportunity to participate in Start-Up Chile arose and, now, she is in Chile as part of CHEBEL– a vertically integrated energy provider founded by Charlotte Thornton, a visiting scholar at Stanford University’s Civil & Environmental Engineering Collaboratory for Research on Global Projects.
From her personal blog, she expounds about her experience in the program:
I came to Chile as part of Start-Up Chile, a program of the Chilean government to attract world-class early-stage entrepreneurs to start their businesses in Chile. The program is awesome.
Here are the top 10 reasons why:
1. Start-Up Chile, Movistar, and Urban Station have worked together to create a gorgeous office for us!
Here is a whole series of fabulous photos, taken by Alar from Estonia.
2. So many smart people in the same room! This physical proximity leads to new ideas and opportunities.
For example, Team Babelverse is building a platform to allow for real-time voice interpretation, on a per-minute basis, for many languages, all over the world. Yesterday, I chatted with Josef and Mayel as we waited in line to take our ID photos for the new office. I shared my experience from this past weekend, when I translated for a Chinese businessman who is visiting Chile. I explained that it would have been very difficult to translate those conversations using a remote service, since so much of our conversation depended on context, pointing, and getting to know each other.
I also shared a story from when my parents visited me in small-town China back in 2007. I had to go teach an English class, and sent my parents and brother to one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants for lunch. My brother had the ingenious idea to have me say the names of the dishes into the recorder on his cell phone, so they could play the recording for the waitress. However, the waitress was a bit confused and kept trying to ask questions, and my tones were probably less than precise. Eventually, after much giggling, they called me, and my students ordered lunch for my family. More giggling ensued.
Josef assured me that site visits and recorded restaurant orders are not Babelverse’s target markets. He sees more potential in EU conferences, TED Talks, and recorded Q&A by journalists.
If I have a question about finances, how to say something specific in Spanish (or Portuguese, Chinese, Italian, Greek, or even Estonian) there is a Start-Up Chile entrepreneur who can help me.
3. So many smart people connected to those in the same room! A story: Ken Seville, a military official from Canada, is here at Start-Up Chile to build CiviSide, a platform to help military veterans find jobs. A few weeks ago, Ken and I and several other Start-Up Chile teams had an informal chat with Vivek Wadwha. Vivek listened to Ken’s introduction of his project, then said that Ken should meet with investors who are military veterans or have sons in the military, and also frame his project project in a way that perks the ears of Silicon Valley types. The way to do this, Vivek said, is to spend more time chatting with Silicon Valley types.
I immediately thought of my dad, who has spent the past 30 years working for 10 startups in Silicon Valley, and has lots of marketing experience. So I introduced Ken to my dad over email. (This story might have a next chapter… if, say, my dad responds to that email. Well, he reads this blog so maybe he will now. Love you Daddy!)
4. Start-Up Chile is a “super-pituto.” In colloquial chileno, pituto means social connections used to get things done. It is sometimes somewhat pejorative, as in “He must have gotten that job through a pituto,” but that is not how I mean it at all. Start-Up Chile has connected with consulates worldwide to help us get visas. Start-Up Chile has opened government offices after hours to help us do our trámites (bureaucratic steps) more efficiently. In our orientation, I could not believe the number of times I heard the phrase, “So we called the Minister of ____, and basically changed the law.”
Though I, as a foreigner, have personally benefited from this pituto, I also think these connections can have a broader impact: to accelerate the reform of these state institutions to enable more innovation, agility, and social mobility in the future. This pituto also gives us opportunities to learn and connect, at events like TEDxPatagonia.
5. Start-Up Chile hosts Meetups to facilitate great conversations with local entrepreneurs. Every week, the California Cantina is packed with a diverse crowd of innovative souls. The main language is English (which really surprised me the first day I arrived here, directly from California) but this does not seem to deter locals from attending.
7. They give us cute, useful and personalized gifts!
8. The Chilean government gives each team a US$40,000 grant, equity-free, to help us land in Chile and build the business. It’s not nearly enough for a large-scale solar installation, and we will receive the money in the form of reimbursements for approved expenses, but the team has worked hard to make it as easy and smooth as possible.
9. Did I mention that I’ve met a lot of cool people?
10. Start-Up Chile has the most wonderful staff: smart, well-connected, hard-working, and willing to do whatever it takes to transform Chile into the innovation capital of Latin America! Gracias por todo Start-Up Chile!!