One more time: stories from the international community at Start-Up Chile

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June Avila is the talented supper behind My Elephant Brain, a startup that will help you remember people´s faces and names. This post originally appeared on the MaRS Discovery District blog and has been reposted here with permission from the author. MaRS is a large-scale innovation centre located in Toronto, Canada. 

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I have only one month left in Start-Up Chile. The best part has been learning from other entrepreneurs from around the world. Here is my final post in a series of interviews of entrepreneurs participating in the program.

AdviceMeTech

 AdviceMeTech Agustina and Carolina

 Photo caption: Agustina Sartori and Carolina Bañales are from Uruguay and are co-founders of AdviceMeTech.

 J: Introduce yourself and tell me where you are from.

I am Agustina. I’m in telematics engineering which is software and telecommunications. I’m from Uruguay. We are two women co-founders in a startup called AdviceMeTech. I met my co-founder in university and started this project two years ago.

J: Tell me about your company.

Our idea is to develop applications for women because we believe that we can innovate from another point of view. We are engineers and there are not so many women engineers for women’s products, so we feel that we have an advantage.

What we do is we help consumers choose cosmetics. We take your picture and the system recommends products and allows users to virtually try products on their face. We have two different plans. One is for point of sale as B2B to retailers and cosmetic brands and the other is an online version. Now we are developing an app that will allow use on the phone and the tablet.

J: How did you hear about the Start-Up Chile Program and why did you decide to participate?

I was in Uruguay and a rugby team from Chile always plays with the rugby team from Uruguay to commemorate the Andes plane crash. Both institutions remain very tied together, so every year the Chileans come to Uruguay or Uruguay goes to Chile. It was there that I met some Chileans that were entrepreneurs and were participating in Start-Up Chile.

I went home, I Googled, and we said, “Okay.  Let’s apply to the program. We have nothing to lose, we‘ll just see what happens.” We were thinking of our market and to be in Argentina is really complicated now because of the government situation. In Brazil, the language is a challenge and so we said “Okay, maybe Chile is a good place to start.”

J: What can you tell me about the startup community where you are from and how does it compare to the community here in Chile?

In Uruguay, we are 3 million people, so it’s a little country and about half the population is in Montevido, which is the capital where I live. There are a lot of institutions that encourage innovation and help startups. For example, ANII is the national agency of innovation that is similar to CORFO in Chile. We are a small community of entrepreneurs and there are ways of getting funds. I realized that in Uruguay you are very isolated, you are not very connected with the rest of the world. You are an entrepreneur, but you don’t know about what is happening in other countries.

J: What’s the most important or surprising thing you’ve learned here at Start-Up Chile?

If I had to say something it’s not the $40,000, it’s the people. Everybody’s willing to help and you learn a lot from people with different experiences. In Uruguay, I didn’t realize it, but I was isolated.

Coming here and meeting a lot of people from all over the world and even people that came from Silicon Valley, especially, to this program is really something. Meeting all these people and making all those contacts it’s like doors open for whatever you need. If you want to expand your business, you will know people that you can contact. If you have to travel to another country you will have a place where to stay. I think that’s really the value that Startup Chile has. I think you grow a lot as a person and as an entrepreneur and as a professional. I think that’s the most important thing.

Recensus

 Recensus

Photo caption: Hailing from the United Kingdom, Joe Mewis, Lenny Austin and Ben Waine are co-founders of Recensus.

J: Introduce yourselves and tell me where you are from.

Lenny: My name is Lenny from the UK. Originally from London, lived in the Leeds, and moved back to London.

Joe: I’m Joe, I’m from Leeds as well. That’s where I met Lenny. We went to school together. We’ve known each other for about 15 years now.

Ben: I’m Ben. I’ve lived in quite a few places up north and I met Lenny in Leeds at the start of my degree.

 J: Tell me about your company.

Lenny: I used to run a small digital agency in Leeds. One of our specialist fields was e-commerce websites. Three of our clients sold toy gadgets like helicopters. The products were identical across all of the sites and all three of them struggled to have product reviews. It just seemed a bit foolish that these companies were trying to get reviews of products, all separately when they were all selling the same thing. I just thought there’s got to be a better way than this.

Recensus is a widget that you install onto an e-commerce website that automatically pulls in reviews from our database and populates your products with independent, impartial reviews.

The process of installing the widget is simple, a one-click-install. It is a win-win situation for everyone. It’s a win for the merchants because the merchants get instant reviews of all their products which increases conversion rates and it’s a win for the users because when they see our logo they know that the reviews haven’t been fiddled with, they’re trusted and they’re impartial.

J: How did you hear about the Start-Up Chile program and why did you decide to participate?

Ben: Hacker News has meetups all around the world. We went to the London one and we saw a presentation from someone from an earlier round of Start-up Chile. It was very inspiring and she highlighted the fact that there was a startup community working in Chile. At that point, Lenny had already been working on Recensus for a couple of months so we had a product to pitch.

J: What can you tell me about the startup communities where you are from and how do they compare to the community here in Chile?

Lenny: I’ve got a reasonable amount of experience with startups in the UK but they differ quite largely depending on which city you’re in. For example, Leeds doesn’t have any technology-focused incubators or startups. It’s just generic startups so if you want to set up a web design company, or a consultancy, or a beauty salon, the support is identical for all of those, and there’s not a lot. There used to be quite a lot of funding from the previous government but that’s all been slashed. Funding is still quite hard to get without a personal guarantee. There is cheap office space, that’s one thing there’s a lot of in the UK actually. Every city will have either co-working space or incubator space, and that’s universal across everywhere.

There are other hubs, there’s Manchester, and Birmingham and London. London is obviously a big technology hub. They’ve got Google Campus there, there’s Silicon Roundabout, there’s loads of big UK companies focused around that area, so there’s quite a lot of support. There’s loads of meetups. It’s really good in actual fact. There’s a lot of investors, a lot of VCs, a lot of networking events that you can go to which are informal.

J: What’s the most important or surprising thing you’ve learned here at Start-Up Chile?

Lenny: I think for me the most important is the fact that you don’t really know who a person is or what his experience is or how they can help you before you talk to them. You won’t know their background and unless you ask the right questions then you’ve got no idea. You could be playing football or playing poker with someone and not talk about business and then realize that that person has a huge bank of networks, which is really, really useful.

Joe: For me, coming from a non-startup background, it’s just the introduction to the culture, I think. It’s a completely different way of working from your normal 9 till 5 and all that. Obviously, it’s a lot more than that but you get a lot more out it. I’ve been here for four, five months, learned more than I learned in the two years probably with my last job.

Ben: I think probably for me not having worked in startup before, getting the scope of work correct. In a big company, you can afford to do a lot of work, which might be good for the company, but be considered a bit fluffy. I think over the last four months we’ve really got a talent for honing in on exactly what the work is we need to do and delivering that, rather than delivering all the nice-to-haves.