Liis Peetermann

Liis Peetermann is a designer.

Start-Up Chile is OK. Nothing more.

Start-Up Chile is a program of the Chilean Government to attract world-class early stage entrepreneurs to start their businesses in Chile

Chilean Government gives you up to $40,000 equity-free money (depending on the number of founders) and welcomes you to spend half a year in their country, providing your company a place in a co-working space, a one-year working visa and a local volunteer madrina/padrino to help you survive in the city for the first couple of weeks.

Almost 6 months ago me and my business partner took everything we had and moved to Santiago, the capital of Chile. Now looking back at the time I have spent in Chile, I have to admit – the experience turned out to be quite different from what I expected.

Around 300 companies per year participate in Start-Up Chile. The companies they accept are in very different stages – some have only an idea and they’ve never worked on a start-up before, others have been working on their current products for years. The same is with entrepreneurs – very young and “green” guys versus those who have been working in the industry for years. Plus some who join the program only to travel and hang out for the money.

All entrepreneurs in Start-Up Chile need to do two main things – work hard on their companies and educate local Chileans. Your stake to the society is measured by RVA points. This means every team-member needs to create and manage different events constantly to gather the amount of RVA points needed to get your money. We organized two events – “How to get into top U.S. accelerators” and a meet-up with a Skype co-founder Ahti Heinla.

A lot of Start-Up Chile participants assume that as soon as they land in Santiago, suitcases full of money are waiting for them in the airport. In reality, for a start you will spend every single peso from your own wallet – although you will most likely get it back later. The first reimbursement you are able to get from Start-Up Chile, is 2-3 months after you arrived. To start submitting invoices, paying salaries, contracting freelancers etc. you need to:

1)      Get your Chilean ID (takes about 2-3 weeks)

2)      Get a local bank account

3)      Get your company registered in an existing office space in Chile

4)      Go to SII and register yourself as an entrepreneur (this needs to be done to get your salary from Start-Up   Chile)

All this bureaucracy takes time – a lot. Not to mention that you need to find yourself an apartment, which itself is a real hassle – all 300 startups arriving in the center of Santiago and wanting to live near the office means that very few good apartments are left.

I think Start-Up Chile fills it’s main goal. Which is getting as many entrepreneurs to the country as possible.

I think it fails hard on using all this talent. There are least 600 young people moving to the country every year, many of them have great connections, big visions and super talented teams to build stuff that sells.

I don’t consider Start-Up Chile as a startup accelerator because next to money it provides a very little additional boost, if all. There aren’t any mentors, advisors and useful events organized by Start-Up Chile. Every interesting or useful event I have attended and advice I have got, has been managed by the participants. Which is cool – people do great stuff and network. But all this time and effort comes from building our own “next billion dollar” companies.

Our team members have experiences of three awesome accelerator programs – AngelPad, TechStars and Haxlr8r. This is why I think Start-Up Chile is not a startup accelerator, it’s rather an educational program for Chilean people. Or let’s say – a summer camp for entrepreneurs.

I believe companies with the following would get the most out of Start-Up Chile:

– Your market is in Latin America
– You want to co-operate or get in touch with large Latin American companies
– You want to put most of the effort on marketing and sales
– You don’t expect to meet top notch experienced advisors and investors
– You don’t plan to raise money after finishing the program
– You want to network with other entrepreneurs

What knocked me out:

– The program has very few connections with U.S. accelerators and investors

– Getting all the paperwork done to get the money at all, is a huge hassle. We spent over 100 working hours only on that part.

– The expectations for your company (from Start-Up Chile) are quite low

– Start-Up Chile entrepreneurs themselves do the main selection of companies getting into the next round

– Entrepreneurs don’t have relevant advisors and mentors provided by Start-Up Chile

– The office spaces don’t have decent lighting and it’s not safe – you can’t leave your stuff on the table even for 5 minutes, or otherwise it might get stolen

– Demo Day was in Spanish. Not to mention, most of the entrepreneurs didn’t speak Spanish.

I met some awesome entrepreneurs in Start-Up Chile. That’s mostly it.

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Hey Liis, how’s Santiago?

Last winter designer and start-up entrepreneur Liis Peetermann spent 6 months in Chilean capital Santiago, taking part of Start-Up Chile program, which is an initiative of the Chilean Government to attract foreign entrepreneurial talent into their country. This was Liis’s first impression of Santiago at the time:

It’s warm. +30C during the day, only because it’s summer. At the same time it’s a winter in Estonia and the pipes are freezing over there – I miss everything else, but I am glad to skip this fun…

It’s noisy. There are around 6 million people living in this city. So it’s kinda like New York. It means noise.

It’s smoky. Everybody is smoking. I just can’t believe how many people can smoke in here. From a teenager to a grandma.

It’s trashy. Well ok, I haven’t been to other Latin American countries, but if in some countries trash is in some ways a part of the natural habitat, then in here it’s a part of a pure laziness. How lazy can you possibly be that you spend the whole afternoon lying in the park and are too tired to throw all the garbage to the trash bin after? Makes no sense, right – because someone will come and pick it up in the morning anyway…

It’s full of abandoned dogs. They’re everywhere – sleeping on the street, hanging in the parks, barking all night long. And of course jumping on top of me every time I do my exercises in the park. They’re mostly friendly, but for me it says a lot about the community if these things are considered normal. Or maybe they’ve always been here and it IS normal? How come the city isn’t yet drown in dogs then?

It’s surrounded by mountains. Extremely nice. Especially in the sunset.

It’s like a real summer. For example, I have a pool on my rooftop – how much more summer can it get?

It’s unhealthy. People eat a lot of crap – fast food, street food, white bread etc. They also don’t exercise much and are in a quite bad shape in general.
Pisco sour tastes good. Pisco is a grape brandy, the most popular drink in here. Strong but good.

It’s green. Soooo many parks and trees everywhere.

It’s full of taxis. And the taxi is cheap.

It’s soooo slow. People walk slowly. The food is served slowly. Everything goes slowly. Like slowly, just slowly. Extremely annoying.

And the people are friendly. Especially the locals when you say you don’t understand much in Spanish.

So don’t get me wrong. I really like Santiago and I enjoy my time in here. But guess I’m just a bit “spoiled” with the crazily busy New York, plus well-structured and hard-working tiny Estonia…

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