A look into Chile’s startup ecosystem

July 12, 2018

In retrospective, my Chile trip was amazing. Despite it was tough to fly over 30 hours from Hong Kong and suffering from jet lag, the journey is totally worth it and I learnt a lot beyond the classroom. The tour was full of insightful and informative talks, the start-up ecosystem, B-corp and the entrepreneurial spirit here have enlightened me.

My visit to Start-up Chile My visit to Start-up Chile

The most attractive thing to me in Chile is the start-up ecosystem. During my trip, I learnt from the speakers that Santiago is the sixth-largest Venture Capital (VC) centre based on funds raised. It is a good starting point to do business in Latin America with proximity to Brazil, where is a large market. 82% of values come from Brazil and Argentina, make up more than 80% of the regional ecosystem. There are many successful startups stories, such as Mercado Libre, Despegar.com and Arch Daily, which either replicate successful business model from other countries or has an original innovation in the world. Despite the geographic isolation, Chilean startups, such as Lunna, Bluesmart, Poliglota, recorrido.cl and destacama.cl have a good global presence. I am convinced by the rise of Chilecon Valley thanks to government supports.

Chilecon Valley Chilecon Valley

One thing I am surprised is the talk about B-corp. I do agree with the concept of social impact and the idea about sustainability. Meanwhile, when I have a chance to ask a question to the General Manager of a Venture Capital, he is a practitioner who has an emphasis on making money as soon as possible and commercial quickly. He has an interesting opinion about B-corp by thinking that it is putting the cart before the horse and it is very difficult to balance both the “B” side of B-corp and the “corp” side of B-corp. I do agree with his answer since it aligns with my experience that it is not easy to have a sustainable business model.

Amazing city view Amazing city view

As a reflection, I noticed that the main cultural difference between Chile and Hong Kong is the entrepreneurial spirit among the citizens. In Hong Kong, the dream for most graduates is to look for a stable job with a good salary and regular pay-check. In contrasts, 12% were entrepreneurs in Chile in 2008. In Hong Kong, the government has little support to boost the start-up scene, while Chile’s government do a lot in the start-up Chile programme with a success rate of 2 out of 10 companies. In Hong Kong, most of our GDP focus on financial service and real estate without diversification. In comparison, although the economy of Chile relies heavily on cooper, the government put a lot of effort to import start-ups in order to improve the quality of life of the people in the long term with diversification. The culture in Hong Kong is more risk-averse versus the culture of Chile is more about failure, by accepting failure is an option and fail fast is the way to learn.

My photo from Sky Costanera My photo from Sky Costanera

I would like to do business here in Chile by applying the start-up Chile program with a one year visa. After my project with Fundacion Mi Parque, I have an idea to start a company which specialise in technical consulting for a non-profit organisation (NGO). Nowadays we get into a digital world with large demand to transform and disrupt traditional business by technology. However, due to lack of resources, a lot of the NGO may not have the privilege to have an IT department to build their website, mobile app or customer relationship management (CRM) tools. If I could get funding and support from the government and donations, then I would be able to help those NGO to have an online presence, thus empowering them with technology to lower cost per donation and make a greater impact to make the world a better place for us. I think it would be a sustainable business model.

My photo at Santuario de la Inmaculada Concepcion My photo at Santuario de la Inmaculada Concepcion

For me, one of the main reasons to study MBA is to seek an answer on how to balance technology and business. I always believe technology itself is just a tool, but not enough to solve problems. It requires a combination of project management and cross-section with business execution ability in order to scale. Given the talk by one of the speakers, I learnt that Chile ranks 37 in export service with IT contribute to 28 of service export sector. Chile rank 7th of digitisation with the best programmers in the world. I do see a great opportunity for me to start an IT consulting service in Chile and connecting to the Hong Kong startup ecosystem. I have gained the benefit from a different perspective from international experiences in Chile and continue to pursue my answer at the half-way of MBA study.

Amazing view from Ski Portillo Chile Amazing view from Ski Portillo Chile

Written by Victor Leung who is a keen traveller to see every country in the world, passionate about cutting edge technologies. Follow me on Twitter