Now that they are graduating, and as Gen #7 gets here, its a great time to hear what cottonTracks has to say about their Start-Up Chile experience. This is a guest blog post by cottonTracks, suppers at Gen #6, and you can read more about them HERE.
This article is a small list of our favorite things about Start-Up Chile and how you can get the best out of this amazing program.
Start-Up Chile (SUP) lasts for 6 months and it was for us a huge opportunity to tackle product development properly. Our problem before entering the program was that our initial prototype functioned poorly and without solving any problems. On Intro Day (day 1), we decided to completely revamp our UX and architecture. In order to avoid distractions, we rented an apartment far from the center that was big enough to be used as a house and an office.
We took our inspiration from an anecdote in a book about Y Combinator called The Launchpad, describing a startup entirely removing all distractions:
The most successful start-ups, Graham says, are the ones that completely remove distractions: “They just sleep, eat, exercise, and program.” He gives the example of the Zenters. Zenter was a start-up that created presentation software, like PowerPoint, but the software was used at the Zenters’ Web site rather than downloaded and installed like Microsoft Office. The Zenters were in Y.C.’s winter 2007 batch. “They got this apartment together a couple blocks from here,” says Graham, “and just got a bunch of Lean Cuisine and put it in the freezer, and they programmed and occasionally played tennis and ate Lean Cuisine.”
Source: Vanity Fair
Pros: We got a lot done! Our basic product was completed within a month.
Cons: The anti-social aspect of the process is not really sustainable past the first 3 months. You will also be loosing a lot from not being involved in the SUP community.
Most accelerators host a Demo Day, an event around the end of the program where all startups pitch in front of investors in order to raise money. At SUP, there is a twist:
Not all startups participate in Demo Day because not all startups are raising money (i), there are way too many (105) of them initially (ii), SUP wants all its startups to have a great pitch (iii) when they face the press, officials and investors.
In order to pick the top 15 companies that will pitch on that day, SUP organizes a pitch competition in 2 rounds were companies face each other and receive grades and feedbacks from a neutral jury.
The great aspect of this concept is that it forces you to be disciplined about proving results and traction in time. The increasing level of your peers forces you to step up if you want to have a chance. It is one of the best type of emulation.
We were lucky enough to be selected among these top 15 and to present at Demo Day. We attribute our encouraging results partly to the Demo Day competition because it forced us out of our comfort zone on subjects like sales pitch, traction and business model.
Most of the “accelerator” part of SUP comes from the whole Demo Day process.
Pros: Demo Day is a great opportunity to meet investors. Plus, the selected companies get a chance to visit Silicon Valley later in the program to pitch again in front of US investors.
Cons: It is time consuming! The time spent preparing it is not used on your actual product or consumer development.
3) Return Value Agenda (RVA)
SUP does not take any equity and you are supposed to “repay” for the support provided by helping the local entrepreneurs grow by sharing your knowledge, mentoring or stimulating the community. Each task completed rewards you a certain amount of point that you have to accumulate in order to validate part of your grant.
We have had a chance to help in 3 different contexts:
– We gave a conference at Universidad De Chile to business students titled “Entrepreneur: Hack Yourself and Change the World” giving an insight into how it was possible to make your dorm room project something professional and fundable.
– We judged a pitch competition for an entrepreneurship class at Campus San Joaquin where cross disciplinary teams (design, business and engineering students) were presenting a digital project they managed to build over a semester.
– We mentored 2 projects led by students who want to become entrepreneurs after college. One of them is building a new way to visualize a conversation happening on social media channels around an event while the other wants to build a smartphone app to order at a restaurant without the need of a waiter.
These experiences were extremely rich and the people we met were really interesting to work with. You can see the raw potential of Chile and you feel you are making an impact. It is exhilarating!
Pros: Unique people, you get to be the first to discover them in some cases. Perfect opportunity to meet with chileans.
Cons: It is a little hard to get the first gig/mentoring since SUP is currently not embedded enough in some part of the ecosystem (universities in particular) where classes are taught in english (If you are a decent spanish speaker, you should not have any problem).
4) The network/community
While visiting the Valley to meet with VCs, we realized a bug was occurring on the Windows platform when cottonTracks was installed. Unfortunately, we could not get our hands on a PC that would let us install anything. Fortunately, Harsh one of our fellow SUP entrepreneur was in Santa Clara at the time and saved us by sharing his laptop for an hour.
Over a 1000 entrepreneurs have now been to SUP and they literally come from everywhere in the world. We had similar experiences in New York and Las Vegas for various reasons and every time we were blown away by how helpful SUP alumni and current participants can be.
Don’t forget to leverage that if you integrate the program one day!
Pros: No matter what your problem is, there is someone in the SUP network who has the answer you are looking for.
Cons: There is no central contact list for all SUP stakeholder.
5) The staff
Last but not least, the Start-Up Chile team is great. Our personal thanks go this time to our account executive Antonella who has been extremely dedicated to help us succeed even at time when it did not seem obvious that we were doing things correctly.
Pros: They are here to help and answer in a timely manner (almost all the time).
Cons: It always has to come from you, you have to proactively seek help to get it. Try to anticipate on the issues you will be facing so you can leverage their capabilities best.
The cottonTracks Team.
PIC: Antonella and Hadrien posing with the “Team Most Likely To IPO” awarded by our fellow entrepreneurs from Start-Up Chile Generation 6.