Start-Up Chile, founded under the government Ministry of the Economy, has recently closed its first round of applications after reaching its limit of 25 new projects to begin operations in Chile in the coming year. Each of the 25 projects chosen receives US$40,000 in grant money from the Chilean government, one-year residency visas and networking assistance from Start-Up Chile’s team on the ground.
In its first year the program set its sights on the young, creative population of northern California’s Silicon Valley, receiving applications from more than 150 people before reaching its 25 grant capacity. The success resulted in an early close for the 2010 application process and a 500 percent increase in funding for the program next year, rising from US$1 million in 2010 to US$5 million in 2011.
The first of the projects to take off in Chile is Cruise Match, designed to help American tourists find deals on cruise vacations online. The team behind Cruise Match, Ahmit Aharoni and Nicolas Meunier, a pair of recent Stanford Masters Degree recipients from Israel and France respectively, arrived in Santiago Late August to begin work on their project.
Aharoni and Meunier were followed by Argentinian Javier Pájaro, who developed the idea for his data services website Junar.com four years ago. After initial research, Pájaro expanded his team to include André Hess and Diego May, both of whom will join him in Santiago. The team has moved its operations to Chile in order to expand through the Start-Up program and reach a wider audience. Since arriving in Chile, the team has begun testing its product with student volunteers from universities in the Santiago area.
Paige Brown, whose project Tripeezy hosts customized online guidebooks designed for travelers looking to experience places off the tourist track, was the third entrepreneur to arrive in Chile, and the first woman to receive a grant from Start-Up Chile. Arriving shortly after Pájaro on September 30, Ms. Brown has worked with local staff to assemble the website’s first guidebook, on Santiago.
The most recently arrived Start-Up grant recipient is Andreas von Hessling whose project, AI Merchant, uses software to reduce inefficiencies in online marketplaces. Hessling has lived for the last five years in San Francisco where he worked for a time as a software engineer at eBay. Currently available in beta format, AI Merchant is also in the process of setting up its operations in Chile and has begun offering job and internship opportunities.
As more grant recipients arrive in the coming months, Start-Up Chile is building a young, vibrant and creative community in Santiago. By encouraging the growth of a new entrepreneurial generation in Santiago, Start-Up Chile stands to offer as much to its host nation as it does to the promising businesses it sponsors. With further success in the future, Start-Up Chile will contribute considerably to Chile’s continuing emergence as a global creative and economic center.
This post is also available in Spanish