Do you want $40,000 of equity free money for your startup? If you are like me, you probably just said "of course I do, but what's the catch?" You'll have to move quickly, because the application deadline quickly approaching!
Start-Up Chile is an innovative program started by the Chilean government to attract world class startups to move to Chile for six months. If you're selected, you get $40,000 of equity free dollars, a 1 year work visa, a bank account and access to an office in central Santaigo. Start-Up Chile's "beta" started in September 2010, when 24 companies from around the world were selected and arrived in Santiago. My company, Entrustet, a provider of digital real estate software, was the 7th company to arrive and we had an amazing experience. We received our money, made great connections with Chilean entrepreneurs, got plugged into the business and governmental networks and made friends with all of the entrepreneurs in the program. We even partnered with another company in the program.
There are a few terms and conditions. You have to stay in Chile for a minimum of 24 weeks, attend a certain amount of meetups and events and generally work on your business. You also don't get a check for $40,000 when you step off the plane. It's all reimbursements, which means you have to submit expense reports showing what you've spent the money on. You don't have to spend all of your money in Chile and we spent plenty of money on contractors in the US.
How to Apply
The online application is very straight forward and took us about three hours to fill out. You'll need to talk about your company's founding team, how long you've been together, how many people are working at the company full-time and any your team's special accomplishments. You also need to write a 450-word executive summary and then about 300-words on your business model, along with how you will contribute to the Chilean entrepreneurship scene. You're also required to make a 3-minute video describing your business and why you want to come to Chile.
In my opinion, the most important parts of the application are the strength of your team, your business model and how you will contribute to Chile's entrepreneurship culture. What kind of experiences can you add to the entrepreneurial ecosystem? How can you connect your networks at home with your new Chilean networks?
Don't be afraid to be creative in your application. Most companies that applied created standard powerpoint videos about their business, whereas we did a Chilean cooking show and made their national sandwich, a lomito, while talking about our business. They told us that our creativity helped us stand out. And be sure to emphasize how you'll help support the Chilean entrepreneurial ecosystem.
There are two more application windows set for this year and one is coming up quickly. One round closes on August 11th and another round opens up in early October.
If you're an early stage startup or a startup trying to figure out your business model, Start-Up Chile should be on your radar. I can't recommend the program enough. It was an amazing experience personally and for our business. It let us bootstrap for another six months without giving up any equity. I made lifelong friends and some great business connections that have helped us, even since we've been back to the US. Another added benefit: If you apply now and you're in the Northern Hemisphere, you'll end up skipping winter and having a full year straight of summer in sunny Santiago.
If you'd like more information, you can check out the Start-Up Chile website or my blog. I've written extensively about my experiences as part of the Startup Chile program, including a step by step guide for new teams.