Foreign students in search of an apartment or room for rent can now take advantage of a new, online service. Already a success in Portugal, UniPlaces is an initiative supported by Corfo and Start-Up Chile which allows students to search for accommodations in all sizes and prices ranges near their university.
Motivated by UniPlaces success in Lisbon, the team applied for and received the increasingly competitive Start-Up Chile grant, which offers entrepreneurs US$40,000 in free equity to create their business in Chile over six months. The program has helped put the country on the international entrepreneurial map as Chile was recently ranked by the Global Innovation Index as the most innovative country in Latin America.
Though the company aims to expand around Chile’s major cities, one of UniPlaces four founders, Argentinean Mariano Kostelec, told La Nacion that it is initially “focusing more than anything on Santiago and Valparaíso.”
The other creators include Leo Lara, Miguel Amaro and Ben Grech. Kostelec explained that they were very interested in Latin America because they saw the advertising market for university housing had not yet been explored and that many universities in Latin America did not offer assistance with providing accommodations for incoming foreign students, in need of a place to live.
The Uniplaces founders are taking advantage of not only the no-strings-attached seed capital provided by Start-Up Chile, but also the working visas, free office space, mentoring and connections with Chilean and foreign venture capital funds.
In addition to support from the Start-Up Chile grant, Uniplaces has secured additional funding which includes 200 thousand euros from three important European investors: British investors Alex Chesterman and William Reeve, as well as Portuguese funding from “Shilling Capital Partners.”
The UniPlaces team intends to use the Start-Up Chile program and other funding resources as a platform to launch the business internationally. For now, the team has indicated plans to expand into Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Spain.