Two bright young Chilean minds set off from one innovation hub to another this month as part of a scheme to promote business smarts at the earliest age possible. The pair from the southern island of Chiloé, departed Chile — renowned for its Start-up Chile program and other entrepreneurial schemes — to the international home of innovative, high technology business, Silicon Valley in the United States.
The story began in 2013 when high-schoolers Francisca Barría and Camilo Navarro became the first ever winners of “Aprendo Emprendo, (Learn, innovate)” — an entrepreneurship competition jointly run by the government, Universidad Adolfo Ibañez and education NGO Puntaje Nacional which aims to promote business innovation in the nation’s youth.
Beating out stiff competition, Barría and Navarro won the top prize for their project “Aprendo Enseñando, (Learn Teaching).” Born out of the need they witnessed during their own education in the idyllic port town of Castro, the business-minded youngsters established a network of teachers with the goal of sharing knowledge and learning methods with underperforming students.
As part of their prize, Barría and Navarro then embarked on a tour of the U.S. visiting some of the country’s famous landmarks of business innovation.
First up was a trip to the offices of Google in California’s famous Silicon Valley. Here they were shown around the internet giant’s unique working environment by Alberto Rojas, a Chilean engineer at the Google headquarters.
“We saw the way they work, the comfort, the dining areas, the technology,” said Navarro. “We were really impressed with the huge diversity of cultures and seeing adults from across the world working in a child-like environment where they can ride bikes and sleds and play all kinds of games.”
The pair also visited Stanford University and the offices of other leading technology firms, including the social media hegemon Facebook, in their quest to improve their skills and return to Chile better prepared for their mission to improve education through innovation.
“We are really impressed and grateful to the people we’ve met here, they have shown themselves to be be ‘superheros’ of education, trying their utmost to open dialogue with students,” said Barría. “Being a part of this has motivated us greatly.”
Branded the “Year of Innovation” by the government, 2013 saw a huge push towards entrepreneurship in Chile. The company played host to international forums and expanded on previous start up incubator success stories. Now the “Aprendo Emprendo” is hoping to recreate the success story of Barría and Navarro as the competition enters its second year.