Chile Aims to Attract Foreign Startups

November 4, 2010 at 11:56 am

Like so many young entrepreneurs, Stanford University grads Amit Aharoni and Nicolas Meunier had an idea for a business: a website to help Americans find deals for cruise-ship vacations. Unlike many other entrepreneurs, though, they didn’t launch their company in Silicon Valley, opting instead to go nearly 6,000 miles south, to Santiago, Chile.

Aharoni, a 30-year-old MBA who spent nine years in the Israeli Defense Forces, and Meunier, 25, a programmer from France with a masters in electrical engineering, are the first participants in Start-Up Chile, a government program to woo foreign entrepreneurs. The goal is to put Chile on the map as an innovation hub. “We wouldn’t have come to Chile if it hadn’t been for the program,” says Aharoni. “It’s not something that you might consider naturally.”

Start-Up Chile is trying to tackle what President Sebastián Piñera calls an obstacle to growth: a dearth of entrepreneurs. Shortly after taking office in March, the billionaire, who made his fortune introducing credit cards to the country, pledged to add 100,000 businesses and 800,000 jobs by 2014. In a July speech, Piñera said Chile needs to look outside its borders and “work hard to regain its entrepreneurial and innovative culture.”

Nicolas Shea, a Chilean who had been running an e-learning company in Silicon Valley, moved back to Santiago to help run Start-Up Chile. The program will have a budget of $1 million this year and $5 million in 2011. More than 150 people, with ideas ranging from software to solar panels to gadgets that use radio-frequency identification technology, have applied to the program. Those who make the cut will receive a $40,000 grant, a one-year residency visa, and hand-holding from the program’s seven-person team to ensure participants settle in quickly and make connections with potential hires and investors. Read More

Source: N. Leiber, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, October 21, 2010

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Entry filed under: Chile, South America.

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