Start-Up Chile project promotes the best of Latin American travel

The story of how a Chilean government program helped two old friends from Maryland achieve a shared dream to launch their own company.  

In July 2011, Scott Bird and Scott Thompson left their comfortable jobs in the United States and relocated to Chile with a plan to build their own business.
Six months on, the former high school buddies from Maryland have established Bungolow.com, a fully-functioning, online travel club that’s growing by the week.
A membership-only initiative, the site offers exclusive discounts of up to 50 percent off luxury hotels and resorts in popular destinations throughout Latin America
The company’s co-founders were drawn to Santiago by Start-Up Chile, a business incubator program developed by the Chilean government, which provides promising entrepreneurs with a one-year visa, US$40,000 in equity-free seed capital and access to some of the country’s most influential business networks.
“We had known each other for about 12 years and for some time we had been sending emails back and forth with ideas for starting a company. But nothing really came of it – we were happy where we were and we had good jobs which we didn’t want to leave,” Bird told This is Chile. Prior to moving to Chile, Bird worked as a financial accounting specialist in Maryland.
“When we saw this though, we thought it was a great opportunity that we had to take advantage of. We figured, why not? There’s nothing to lose.”
Part of the first round of Start-Up Chile participants, Bird and Thompson’s project is aimed at promoting popular tourism destinations throughout the region, such as Playa del Carmen (Mexico), Mendoza (Argentina) and Pucón (Chile).
Each of the hotels featured on the site has been hand-picked and reviewed by the Bungolow team, while the candid reviews feature detailed, high-resolution photos.
New members are referred to the club by friends or join after receiving invitation codes from selected travel websites.
The Bungolow site was designed with help from local developers, whom the co-founders met through the Start-Up community.
“[It’s] incredibly friendly here,” Bird said. “We are constantly able to bounce ideas off each other and get different perspectives from the other participants. It’s not competitive at all – its really very collaborative.”
The Bungolow team is currently working with members to identify new travel locations.
And although Bird and Thomson are not sure where the business will take them next, they are confident that their company will continue to build on its successful launch in Santiago.
“We definitely want to keep a presence in Latin America,” said Bird. “It’s an incredible market with a lot of great opportunities and not just for us and what we’re doing – there are a lot of opportunities in general.”