Chile is the door to the Latin American market. When multinationals want to launch a product or service in Latin America, they often test the market in Chile first. If it sells in Santiago, it will sell in Sao Paulo. What’s more, Chile ranks 39th out of 183 countries on the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business” index, and it has excellent infrastructure. In fact, from a telecoms perspective, Chile is more advanced than many developed countries and had one of the first fully-digital voice networks in the world.
Chilean President Sebastian Piñera is a billionaire businessman and Harvard educated economist who is keen to transform Chile into the nerve centre of high tech innovation in Latin America. To get things started, the government launched Start-Up Chile (http://www.startupchile.org/). Under the programme, people with a bright idea for a start-up — wherever they are in the world — are invited to work in Chile to develop their idea. They are given a no-strings-attached $40,000 grant, a one-year work visa, and all the help they need to get started. You cannot get more pro-business than that.
Teams are encouraged to interact with the local business community, give lectures at schools and universities, and infuse Chilean culture with an entrepreneurial spirit. Some teams will stay, but those that don’t will hopefully have a life-long connection to the country. And with the increase in high speed networks, telepresence and unified communications, distance is becoming increasingly irrelevant.
When developing countries attempt to create innovation hubs, they usually have Silicon Valley in mind. They build a brand new technology park on a strategically chosen spot, with a university in the centre and a scattering of venture capital firms around the edges. Many of these Silicon Valley wannabes fail, which is why the Start-up Chile approach is deliberately different.
The aim of the programme is not to create Silicon Valley in Santiago, but to “connect Chile to all the major hubs of innovation and leverage these networks to create value”. It recognises that entrepreneurship is about more subtle stuff than buildings and roads; it’s about people, networks and ideas.
For some more great ‘on-the-ground’insight into emerging markets, read our whitepaper Megacities which gives a snapshot of life in 4 bustling cities – Sao Paulo, Guangzhou, Jakarta and Mumbai.