Start-Up Chile and the birth of ‘Chilecon Valley’ – changing a country’s future through attraction of talent and startups


The Economist, Business Week, Financial Times, Forbes, Wired, Huffington Post and New York Times. They have all highlighted the uniqueness and remarkable achievements of Start-Up Chile – an initiative that probably can be described as one of the most effective and innovative nation branding efforts of all time.

By Marcus Andersson


Mission: Make Chile a global innovation hub

Born four years ago, Start-Up Chile’s mission was to literally transform the Chilean entrepreneurial ecosystem and position Chile as a global innovation hub.

The only problem was that Chile wasn’t that entrepreneurial at all. Any effort to position the country as such would need to credibly address that discrepancy and make sure that the country would embark on a journey to become what it desired to appear.

Enter Start-Up Chile, a programme focusing on attracting the best and brightest entrepreneurs from all around the globe and inserting them into the local ecosystem, thereby helping to convert Chile into the innovation and entrepreneurial hub of Latin America.


Results that speak for themselves

In four years, more than 13 000 applicants from more than 100 countries have applied to become part of the six-month programme. A local innovation ecosystem has emerged and more than 3700 activities that aim at involving Chileans in entrepreneurial activities have been organised.

Chile – now dubbed ‘Chilecon Valley’ by some – is routinely ranked as one of the top five entrepreneurial ecosystems in the world, alongside places such as Silicon Valley and Berlin.

The first year, 19 international media outlets featured news pieces about it. Two years later, this figure had grown to 928, which is a quite remarkable given that the programme had no marketing budget whatsoever.

What’s the secret behind these quite remarkable figures?


A disruptive innovation and community-based marketing

The main idea of the programme is to incentivize global entrepreneurs to come to Chile and launch their start-ups, using Chile as a platform to go global.

In order to succeed with this, the ability to raise international awareness has been key. However, the programme did not have a budget for international marketing, so grass-root level, community-based marketing was needed.

In addition, very persuasive reasons would be needed to attract successful stat-ups to leave their home country and go to Chile.

There are many reasons explaining the remarkable achievements of the programme, but two elements stand out as key components behind the success of it: The first one is the ‘SUP Alumni Programme’, where former programme participants are mobilized to organise Start-Up Chile events in their new home countries to spread the word about the programme and about Chile. Voila – free, and very convincing, community-based marketing.

The second one is the fact that those who are accepted to the programme, besides becoming part of a comprehensive acceleration programme, are given a one-year work visa and approximately 40 000 USD equity free in seed capital. A very disruptive feature, especially when many countries’ policy-makers today are taking steps to make it more difficult for foreigners to enter their countries.

And as Start-Up Chile’s director once pointed out: “To convince our politicians that we should give foreigners money when other countries are kicking out them was the hardest part”.


Start-Up Chile will be one of the cases at the Nordic Place Branding Conference 2015 on 7 May in Oslo.

Then you can hear Sebastian Vidal, Executive Director of Start-Up Chile, tell the amazing story of how this government-led experiment has transformed the country, its image – and its future.

Read more about and sign up for the conference here.