I visited Chile in June to talk to their government officials, industry, and academia about what they are getting right in the information and communications technology (ICT) policies and how we can work together to promote the development of the digital economy in Latin America and the rest of the world. It was a great learning experience and the beginning of what we hope will be a more intensified partnership between our two countries and our stakeholders in this space.
Chile is quietly leading the region in ICT and has a great story to tell of efforts at multiple levels and using various tools to increase access and use of ICTs for economic and social development. Among their many initiatives is a project called Start-Up Chile that my team found particularly exciting. The Economist coined Santiago “Chilecon Valley” because of this program and it has gained international recognition for spurring entrepreneurial activity.
Start-Up Chile was launched by the Chilean government with the goal of encouraging early stage, high-potential entrepreneurs to establish their startups in Chile, as a platform for expanding into other markets and for catalyzing the development of a startup culture in Chile. It attracts domestic and international entrepreneurs by offering a living subsidy of $40,000, a Chilean resident visa (for foreigners), shared office space, and access to networking and mentoring programs, among other perks. To date, the program has graduated more than 1,000 startups from more than 100 countries, with 40 percent of participants coming from the United States. Those participants are evangelists for entrepreneurship and innovation and help mentor and teach Chileans in how to pursue the process of building a business. The program’s success has inspired similar programs in Brazil, Peru, Malaysia, and other countries.
Having the opportunity to sit down and speak with some of the participating winning entrepreneurs in the program, I was proud to hear that American firms, including Google, Amazon, Hubspot, American Airlines, PayPal, Evernote and oDesk, were at the forefront in supporting Start-Up Chile companies with free services. This has been a critical component for their success, and furthermore, has encouraged Chile’s local populace to take manageable risks, build relationships, and create global connections.
This program may or may not be right for other developing nations, but it is a true effort at answering the question of how to build a start-up culture and it is worth watching closely and encouraging. As we prepare for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit later this month, Start-Up Chile should be viewed as a positive example for emerging business leaders. The Summit, in Nairobi, Kenya, will bring together over a thousand entrepreneurs and investors from around the globe. It presents an exciting opportunity to develop more partnerships between U.S. businesses and bourgeoning industries in other parts of the world.
About the Author: Daniel Sepulveda is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy in the State Department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs.