Creating the Next Silicon Valley—The Chilean Experiment
I spent two weeks of December in Chile as a guest of Professor Cristóbal García, Director of EmprendeUC at the Catholic University of Chile, which just signed up a 3-year collaboration partnership with Stanford’s Technology Ventures Program. I did a keynote on innovation hubs at the newly created DoFuture program, spoke at Santiago’s Startup Weekend on Customer and Agile Development, and at a Conference in Patagonia supported by the Ministry of Economy’s Innovation Division.
I got smarter about the world outside of Silicon Valley, met some wonderful people who made me feel part of their family and shared some thoughts about entrepreneurship.
This post is a personal view of what I saw in what I call “Chilecon Valley” — in no way does it represent the views of the fine institutions I teach at. Read this with all the usual caveats: visiting a place for a few weeks doesn’t make you an expert (heck I’ve lived in Silicon Valley for over 30 years and I’m still surprised), I’m not an economist, and the odds are I misunderstood or misinterpreted what I saw or just didn’t see enough.
Creating the Next Silicon Valley – The Chilean Experiment
Chile has decided that it wants to be an innovation hub in South America.
In my short time in Chile, I spent time meeting with:
- Chilean entrepreneurs; as part of Santiago’s Startup Weekend as well as EmprendeUC–DUOC New Ventures Contest Awards ceremony.
- The government; the Innovation Division of the Ministry of Economy, the Chilean Economic Development Agency, (CORFO) which sponsored Start-Up Chile and Do Future in Patagonia as well as Fundacion Chile, the main R&D agency and the National Innovation Council.
- Universities; including the business, design and engineering schools in the Catholic University of Chile who are hard at work teaching and encouraging their students to think big and to start companies.
- Independent non profits such as the Innovation Forum, encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation in education.
The good news:
Entrepreneurship and innovation is being talked about continually in Chile. This isn’t some small-time effort. The country is dead serious in all levels of government and universities about making this happen. They’ve been thinking hard and smart about the lessons to be learned not only from Silicon Valley, but with only 16 million people, they are also looking for lessons from other small innovation clusters such as Israel, Singapore and Finland. These countries are great models of countries too small to sustain startups of scale on just domestic consumption yet have managed to create innovation with a global reach.
What needs work:
As an outsider I was incredibly impressed with how far Chile has progressed in making the country an innovation hub. However I had questions about the challenges that still needed to be addressed.
Perhaps it was just who I was meeting, but for a country so focused on innovation and startups the lack of venture capitalists was noticeable. Given the interesting things going on in the engineering labs I visited and the startups I met, one would have thought the place would have been crawling with VC’s fighting over deals. Instead it felt like the government – through CORFO – was doing most of the risk capital investing. Given that great VC’s are much, much more than just a bag of money, this means that startups lack experienced board members with practical experience. There seemed to be very few who knew how to … Next Page »