Innovation in the capital

Start-Up Chile attracts the best and brightest from around the world

Four youthful entrepreneurs share their experiences working and living in Santiago, while taking on projects to innovate fashion, art, education, and health.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011  
Photo courtesy of VOZ Photo courtesy of VOZ

Start-Up Chile hopes to bring 1,000 entrepreneurs to Chile by 2014, transforming Santiago into the Silicon Valley of Latin America.

They come from countries as diverse as Zimbabwe, India, Norway, Austria and Portugal, attracted by the promises of Start-Up Chile. The celebrated entrepreneur program offers US$40,000 to foreign start-ups that bring their projects to Chile.

In a meeting with the Minister of Economy and the Chilean Economic Development Agency (Corfo), a handful of young entrepreneurs explained their projects to Chilean daily El Mercurio.

Mixing Silicon Valley design with Mapuche art

After graduating from prestigious Stanford University in Silicon Valley, Jasmine Aarons decided that the best place to apply her knowledge of design and marketing would be with Chile’s largest indigenous community, the Mapuche.

Aarons knew from her experience with artisans in Cusco, Perú and the Fundación Chol Chol in Chile that there are challenges getting traditional handicrafts to markets where the articles can fetch a premium price.

After a market evaluation of boutiques in the San Francisco Bay Area and Santiago, she started working with artisans in 22 Mapuche communities, who incorporated renewable materials and contemporary designs into their traditional patterns. She founded VOZ in 2011 with the seed money provided by Start-Up Chile. 

Simplifying online digital publications

Clara Vieira, from Portugal, and Andreas Eberharter, from Austria, met at the University of Rotterdam, Netherlands. Both designers found that distributing their art projects was prohibitively expensive on paper, and discouragingly complicated online. The two decided that what they needed was a design application that was user-friendly - even for non-techies - and created an interactive online publication: and so Leafer was born.

Leafer software lets the user create multimedia publications in three simple steps (edit, preview, and publish) without installing any special programs and at minimal cost. Today, Leafer is in its Beta version, and Vieira and Eberharter have moved their headquarters from Portugal to Chile after receiving seed money from Start-Up Chile. The pair’s company, Claan, hopes to release software versions for smart phones and tablets, so that the product can be accessed at any time and from anywhere in the world.

Making the school a social network

Ademar Aguiar, also from Portugal, wanted to harness the power of the internet and social networks to help teachers teach better and students learn better. He and his team created schooools.com so that every school could create its own, mini social network.

“As a young father, teacher, software engineer, and fan of social collaborative systems, I developed a web application that will significantly help make schools more open and more attractive for parents, teachers, children, and the whole school community,” Aguiar explained.

With a “wiki”- style design that allows all members to collaborate, the social network aims to improve both teaching and learning. Schoooools.com is designed for students between 6 and 12 years old - the “digital generation” - who will be able to read, draw, write, paint, play, share and work on group projects in an age-appropriate environment.

Preventing illnesses with your smart phone

Stephen Delmonte has been working in the health sector for more than a decade, and his new company reflects his years of experience. Together with Daniel Burnett, he developed a technology for smart phones to prevent illnesses or supervise treatment.

“Our market is aimed at health professionals, consumers and insurance companies,” he explained. For example, a psychiatrist might prescribe a depressed patient to follow a new treatment, which includes exercise a few times a week. With GPS technology, the doctor can follow the patient’s movements in certain areas and check in on progress, as well as receive alerts if the patient misses one of the prescribed exercise points during the week.

The Ethonova project is being launched in Chile with aims to work with health providers here. Delmonte says he has enjoyed working in Santiago, and has been pleasantly surprised at his “marvelous” treatment by his host country.

And a plethora of other projects

For more information about the other Start-Up Chile projects, check out the list of start-ups online.