I’ve been frequently asked about my experiences in Start-Up Chile program. For the past half year that I’ve been participating in the program I could say that it was interesting and fulfilling experience.
On top of provided seed capital you get a supporting framework of mentors and fellow startupists. You can literally “feel” the surrounding entrepreneurial spirit. And despite me being unlucky to find peer support with my infrastructure BigData@Cloud idea (most folks were doing consumer web kind of startups) I did found the framework highly encouraging.
Provided capital is equity-free which is especially nice and makes negotiating next financing round easier. Getting the money is paperwork-intensive process but the staff are friendly and helping.
I found Chileans hospitable and friendly to foreigner. Yet minimal Spanish seems to be mandatory. I found myself speaking Spanish after a few month in Santiago and that was unplanned initially.
Santiago is a nice mountain-surrounded modern city and pretty safe I would say. I cannot count how many times locals warned me on how unsafe Santiago really is, but except permanently going strike/riot in the central part of the city I never experienced and never witnessed or heard about any incident. And I’m usually working deep into the night and walk extensively before retiring to bed. I lived in Centro but especially enjoyed walking in west-northern part of the town. Underground transprtation is quite efficient to get around, a little hot during mid-day in February I remember. I was mostly fully consumed by my startup so haven’t enough time to tour the rest of the country, and even Santiago only from walking experience guided by GPS in my Nokia. I really should rent a car one weekend and get out for a couple of days… In fact I did one weekend in Vinna del Mar / Valparaiso and found it quite a nice and relaxing place.
The local entrepreneourship and geekish community is also thriving and this is not including very visible Start-Up Chile folks. Go to meetup.com and choose your favorite topic or technology and I bet you will find a packed santiago interest group there.