The customs officer pointed to the Spanish textbooks in my open suitcase, shrugged his shoulders and gave me a disappointed smile. I stared helplessly on as all the Indian food items in my bag were removed, but after 40 hours of continuous travel with stops in 4 different continents, I was exhausted, and I had forgotten the pocito Spanish I knew.
Running a food focused startup, I should have known better. For those not in the know, we’ve just launched a food focused mobile app, for Android to begin with. What does it do? You can use it to find the best dishes around you – whether its in your area, in the city as a whole, or in the restaurant you’re sitting at. And, when we get down to it, you’ll find that the recommendations the app makes are completely personalised based on your own preferences which we’ve been monitoring. Sounds interesting? Sign up here at www.zestbuds.com
With the end of my shameless plug for the startup, I can now tell you why we’re in Santiago, and what we’ve learnt in the 1 month that’s gone by. We’re here for Start-up Chile, which, since you’re on this blog, you know a bit about already. If you’re not sure, it’s a one of a kind Government initiative that gives you 40,000 USD equity free to build your product and scale your business. You get access to Latin America as a market, and you get to take advantage of the many talks by prominent speakers that happen at the beautiful co-working space.The best part though, is the 200 odd other companies that co-work with you at the same time in the same space. The peer learning is immense, and as you’ll find, they’re all fun, interesting people, from the 6 inhabited continents.
Launching a mobile app has been a very interesting experience as well. Most people think mobile apps are hacked together in a weekend, but the truth is, designing the best user experience takes a lot of effort, many iterations, and a lot of patience. In a field as hot as ours at the moment – SoLoMo (Social, Location, Mobile), we constantly have to deal with figuring out what to build next, and what’s important and what’s not to a product like ours. How do we differentiate ourselves? Will this work? The Lean Startup model talks about constantly validating your product, and this is what we’ve been trying to do post launch. Regarding the launch itself, you need to deal with inertia on several fronts from your users during an alpha launch through Google+. A total of 6 steps per user! However, we recently discovered that using Google Groups is a far more effective way to do this than the Google+ community, because we don’t need the user to actually accept the invite.
Lunching in Santiago has been an interesting experience as well. It is difficult to find flavourful vegetarian food for a decent price, but, after a month here, it is possible. My favourite meals outside so far have been at New Horizon (Bellas Artes), Piola (Las Condes), Cafe Escondido (Lastarria), and a pizzeria near Hospital del Trabajador whose name I can’t quite remember. For a cheap late night snack, it’s hard to beat the Pikachu sandwich stall near Bellavista.
What about Santiago itself? The city is absolutely beautiful. If you’re not convinced, I suggest you hike up to Cerro San Cristobal on a clear day, and take in the views. If physical exercise is not your thing, then I suggest you take the lift up to the roof of a friend’s condominium and hope for the best.
Beyond the stunning natural backdrop, 5 S’s dominate life and conversation here in the little bubble between Providencia 229 and Moneda 975:
1) Startups – what do you do?
2) Spanish – what level are you at right now?
3) Social Work – did you find an RVA session?
4) (A)Sado – when’s the next one?
5) Salsa – tonight?
Before this gets too long, here’s me signing out. Good luck with your startups, and don’t forget to sign up at www.zestbuds.com
*Pic by Jozjozjoz on Flickr (cc)