ChileSocial entrepreneurship

An accelerator that transforms a whole country

Forget about wine and earthquakes

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 53 seconds.

If you ask entrepreneurs about government and accelerators in one sentence 90% of them would just start laughing. These are the two words that are so far away from each other that mentioning them together sounds like a joke. That humor is not always intended. On my way through South America, I heard again and again from a mindblowing accelerator program that would make any country proud. My journey took me all the way to the bustling capital Santiago de Chile.

The first feeling after entering the co-working space in the city center is weird. It just doesn’t feel like a state-funded area. Everything is colorful and busy people fly around. The front desk gentleman approaches me in English… Where am I? what is this place? I remember governmental buildings in a different way. They are old, boring and demotivating. This place is different. I could be in the middle of a Berlin-based co-working space, really.

Social accelerator

Yessenia Carvajal, head of marketing & PR, welcomes me in one of the many meeting rooms that are all functional but beautifully designed. Wow, this place is huge. There is a lot going on. It feels like everyone is on a mission here. I wanna learn more about it. Let’s dive in. In 2010, the Chilean government learned from an exodus of talents in the USA and wanted to attract young tech talents to Chile. The answer was Startup Chile. With more than 250 startups every year Startup Chile is the role model when it comes to attracting young talents from around the world. With more than 1,600 startups with teams from more than 85 countries, it is the most diverse accelerator program in the world. However, I wanted to know how Startup Chile has a social impact in the country and all over the world.

Yessenia Carvajal and myself in the lobby of Startup Chile, the most successful public accelerator in the world.

A work visa, 40,000$ and the smartest mentors all in one

Startup Chile offers 40,000$ equity free funding for tech startups from all over the world. There is one great benefit when you think of a state-funded accelerator and it didn’t come to my mind until Yess reminded me of it: Ridiculous forms, lengthy processes, random rejections. Not everybody knows about the pain points of working abroad because most people give up without trying for one simple reason… Visa issues! Thankfully Chile found a better way. Chile processes work visas for teams from the accelerator program within 15 days. 15 DAYS! I couldn’t believe it when I heard it the first time. Europe and North America have a very long way to go. Those factors build an outstanding foundation with a fantastic co-working space and a powerful network of investors, mentors, and experts. Startup Chile really creates a unique ecosystem in the heart of Santiago.

Women in technology

Apart from the seed program that I just mentioned, Startup Chile also realized that only 7% of entrepreneurs are women. This huge imbalance is devastating for startup teams. Diverse teams simply perform better. I personally feel the feminism debate is led very emotionally. Just by looking at validated research, women bring a hell lot of value to male-dominated teams.

The S Factory encourages women to venture out with their ideas. The gain for Chile is huge. More women feel ready to try out their ideas. Hackathons and internal workshops have increasing numbers of women. 20 to 30 startup with female leaders begin twice a year building something meaningful such as Lab4U founder Komal Dadlani. Komal is one of the role models for women all over the world. With her vision to engage children with science through only resources, she impacts thousands of young students all over the world.

Why the success?

3 days ago, Jonathan Moed published an article on Forbes about Startup Chile that goes more into depth why the program is so successful. Please have a look at it! He summarises the main points well: Timing, global focus, structure, and patience. The timing couldn’t have been better starting in 2010 in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. A lot of emerging startups looked for opportunities but there were very few. Also, the international network of partners and alumni is incredibly powerful created tremendous value for new startups that are just starting to build a reliable business network.

Furthermore, the structure of Startup Chile makes it almost unaffected from any changes in the government. So the accelerator can focus on day to day work and doesn’t drown in politics. Lastly, patience is a key success factor. Valuation and global sales were not prime goals that startups were measured by at the beginning. It was all about a global strategy to change people’s mindset in Chile itself. That approach gave startups the freedom to really focus on creating value. Obviously, reports have to be submitted but the program is much less rigid compared to other leading accelerators.

With a market evaluation of 1.4 billion USD, the startups that went through the competitive program are ready to change the world. Most likely they will start in Chile.


22nd November 2018, Amsterdam, Netherlands



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