It’s been dubbed Chilecon Valley for its efforts to become the Latin American hub for innovation. The country’s revitalized image is partly due to the government-supported Start-Up Chile program, which targets early-phase entrepreneurs from around the world, inviting them to come to Chile to bootstrap their startups and use the country as a platform to go global.
This year the program will invite as many as 100 startups to take part. Applications are reviewed by Silicon Valley experts and a Chilean Innovation board on the hunt for globally minded entrepreneurs with a good idea, a business less than two years old or anything in between.
In exchange for staying in the country for at least six months, entrepreneurs will receive a one-year work visa and US$40,000 in funding from the government. Participants in the accelerator program also receive office space and red-tape reduction on such things as opening a business account. Because the government fully backs the program, participants can directly access influential social and capital networks in the country, including mentors, venture capitalists and industry experts.
For Chile, one of the program’s goals is to grow the country’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Foreigners in the program are thus expected to share their expertise with local entrepreneurs by coaching, mentoring and giving public talks. Between 2010 and the fall of 2012, program participants hosted nearly 400 meetings and took part in more than 1,000 conferences and workshops.
Since the program´s beginnings in 2010, more than 580 startups from upwards of 50 countries have participated. Similar programs have been launched in Peru, Brazil, Britain and Greece.