Colombia’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: Interview with Andres Waldraff

This week’s interview is with Andres Waldraff. He is the Founder and Business Developer of NeXT Capital, the Founder and Editor of TECHcetera, a mentor for entrepreneurs at HubBOG, and a serial entrepreneur who has lived, studied, and/or worked in Latin America, the U.S., and Europe. I met him while I was at HubBOG to interview Rene Rojas as he was there giving feedback to entrepreneurs on their pitch presentations and I was excited to hear his thoughts on Colombia’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and startup scene. He had some pretty unique perspectives so it was a very interesting conversation.

With all of his international experience, Andres told me that, “the entrepreneurial environment here [in Bogotá] is built on the same idea that Israel built.”

“There’s a lot going on,” he said. “I think most of it is working. What I think is not working is that they’re making it a little bit too easy for the entrepreneurs…

…There is a lot of money floating around. So-called entrepreneur experts which don’t add any value helping you apply for the’s a little too easy to get the money so what happens is entrepreneurs just go for the money and then they abandon their idea.”

Additionally, Andres argues that there are a few issues (ones that I have heard in my interviews throughout Latin America) that continue to hold Colombia back.

“Part of it is talent,” he said. “Part of it is access to certain resources. More and more people are speaking English but not everyone speaks English so if you are in the Bay area in the United States you go on the internet and you find a lot of resources. If you speak Spanish, you don’t get to have the same conversation.”

At the same time, “Colombians, for the most part, are not early adopters,” he told me. “We are followers here. So it makes it hard for the guys that come up with great new ideas to sell their innovations. People are not willing to test ideas here. We have a lot of mistrust. This country’s built on mistrust.”

The interest is definitely present in the city,however. “There are a lot of people coming back from other countries with great ideas, not willing to go into the corporate world, willing to work with entrepreneurial concepts,” he told me. However, just like throughout Latin America,

“we don’t have exits. We need someone to get big… Part of the problem is that most of the startups that got a head start don’t solve any particular big problems that the corporate world sees…not something that the corporate world is going to buy.”

Andres does see major potential for that to change, however and believes that the education industry will be first. “There is a lot going on in the education world,” he said. “I think education will give the first push, then healthcare is going to follow, then probably government.”

He also sees Colombia as having great potential as a starting point and/or base for companies to test and prove their concept before going after the larger Latin American market. However, he cautions that entrepreneurs must remember that Latin America is not a homogeneous region as they begin to expand.

“The markets are different; the particularities of every country are similar but not the same,” he told me. “Latin America is not the same; a Mexican is not like a Chilean. [However], if you do it in Colombia, which is a medium-sized country in Latin America, if you can make it work you can probably translate it to Brazil or to smaller countries later on to make it a pan-Latin-American company.”

Interestingly, Andres was the first person I spoke with that believed most of the new startups were NOT copy-cat companies imitating ideas already proven in the United States or Europe.

“Most of what I’ve seen is new ideas,” he said. “When you look at stuff, they end up being similar to other stuff that you’ve already seen, but they are not exactly the same. I think people here actually make an effort to ‘tropicalize’ the concept.”

Over the next few years, Andres hopes to see more entrepreneurs focusing on solving problems that have a major impact on Colombia and Colombians. Right now, he notes that most entrepreneurs are focused on a small subset of Colombian society. “Who has access to technology? The highest income segments,” he explained. “That is why everyone comes back with ideas for those segments, but that’s less than 5% of the population…There are some things that you can do that can have a huge impact in this country. I mean, we’ve had the same health system for almost a decade and a half and it still doesn’t work. The opportunities are there. How do you get people access to healthcare? How do you get people access to banks and banking?” 

Those are the questions that Andres hopes entrepreneurs in Colombia will begin to answer.


Colombia’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: Interview with Carlos Castañeda

My next stop in Bogotá was to speak with Carlos Castañeda at Wayra. By now, you should all have a pretty good idea of what Wayra does as I’ve chatted with the Wayra teams in Chile, Argentina, and Peru before making it to Colombia. (If you’re just starting to follow Startup Nomad you can go back and take a look at the interviews with the other Wayra leaders here, here, and here. Instead of rehashing the Wayra discussion, Carlos and I jumped right into talking about what sets Colombia’s ecosystem apart from the others in the region and the world.

**Please note, my interview with Carlos was conducted in Spanish and I’ve paraphrased some of what he said.**

According to Carlos, a lot has changed in Colombia over the last 2.5 years. Previously, neither the government nor the private sector invested in startups so an entrepreneur who really wanted to build a new company had to go to a different country. In the last 2.5 years that has changed a lot, however, not only because of Wayra or because of the support of the government, but also because new investors have arrived in the country.

“We still don’t have an ecosystem that is fully developed,” he told me, “but we have one where we’re growing much faster than other countries on some metrics…

The number of people who are thinking about startups is greater and the talent is developing their technical capacity more…the coders are more skilled, the business people understand better how to get venture capital…

We’re raising the level…I’m confident that we will be the new hub in the region.”

Despite the rapid development, however, Carlos mentioned the same couple of issues that have continued to pop up with the majority of the people I spoke with throughout the region.

“The difficulty here is that we don’t have success stories and we don’t have access to capital,” he told me.“The investors here are more interested in traditional investments. They want to buy another building or something like that, not invest in a risky startup…[and] in Colombia there are very few people with a track record. Cases of major success don’t exist. We don’t have a rock star.”

Colombia is also still at the stage that many of the budding startups are still copy-cats of successful companies in other parts of the world. Carlos noted that it’s logical that there would be a lot of copy-cats because the development of things like e-commerce in the country are very low, even the adoption of the internet is very low. As Colombians gain access to and confidence in using these technologies, the opportunities are there for the copy-cats.

“It’s very different to build a startup here than to do it in San Francisco or in Tel Aviv. You have to understand the Latin American culture,” Carlos told me.

We also talked about the rivalry and differences between Bogotá and Medellín, Colombia’s two startup bastions. “I’m from here, I live here, I love it here, but I’m fascinated by what’s going on in Medellín,” Carlos said. From his perspective, Bogotá has a much larger population and the people know a little more about startups and the startup process but Medellín now has a program from the city government [Ruta N – you can read that interview here] to support the development of entrepreneurship. Additionally, in Bogotá, the majority of entrepreneurs are still Colombian. Unlike in Medellín where there is a huge population of foreign-born entrepreneurs, foreign entrepreneurs are just starting to arrive in Bogotá. Plus, Medellín is very small and all of the entrepreneurs congregate in one area so if you visit, you will see tons of them. In Bogotá everything is more spread out and there are many more people, so you won’t see the density of foreign entrepreneurs even though they are coming.

And Carlos’ advice for aspiring entrepreneurs? “The first thing is to think like your customer. Think like your customer and how your product will solve their problems. Why would they spend their money or spend their time for your product or on your platform?”


Do you have experience with the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Bogotá? Let me know what you think of Carlos’ thoughts in the comments section below. 

Colombia’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: Interview with Carolina Franco

After an amazing time in Medellin I moved on to Colombia’s capital, Bogota, to continue learning about the country’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and what’s going on in the world of startups in Colombia. My first visit was to iNNpulsa, the Colombian government’s program to promote entrepreneurial innovation, where I met with Carolina Franco, a Special Projects Professional and the Customer Relationship and Service Specialist for the Colombian High Impact Entrepreneurship and Innovation Ecosystem.  Carolina came to iNNpulsa with an international background in the private sector.

Carolina had an interesting take on Colombia’s ecosystem because she sees first hand all of the efforts being made to improve it. According to Carolina, the Colombian government’s national development plan from 2011 identified innovation as one of the key foci, with entrepreneurial development as a core system for supporting and fostering that innovation. From there iNNpulsa was born.

Carolina saw many of the same issues with the ecosystem that my interviewees in Medellin mentioned: a lack of capital and an overall lack of development and sophistication in the ecosystem.

“We need to concentrate at first on our main gaps and our main gaps are strengthening institutions and closing financial gaps,” she told me.

She continued: “there is a big gap in financing early stage entrepreneurs in Colombia, so we have done a lot in that area and we have shown the country’s leaders that there is a lot to do there.”

She continued: “there is a financial gap that is a financial opportunity. This is a big test for the government but it’s also really attractive.”

iNNpulsa’s goal is to address these systemic shortcomings with the long-term impact in mind. At least in part because of iNNpulsa’s efforts, Carolina sees Colombia as poised to become a key player in the entrepreneurship world, but she also thinks that the culture needs to change first.

“We have been an entrepreneurial country,” she said, “but the point is that we didn’t believe that… We [iNNpulsa] want to build a conversation about the value of entrepreneurship.”

And iNNpulsa is certainly putting in the effort to make those changes happen through a number of programs. “[The] agency is focusing on a particular type of entrepreneur,” Carolina explained, “those that will create sustainable and accelerated growth.” On the financing side, they want to create a network of active investors. “We have built a national network of investors but they’re not active because of the risk and other factors so we need to educate them about the potential and about financing early stage companies,” she said.

“There’s a big, a big, big opportunity with the startups that they’re missing.”

So far, their efforts seem to be working.

“People that come here are very impressed with what we’re building,” she told me. “It’s not known in the whole regional ecosystem, all the things that Colombia is doing, but for those that saw all of the opportunities, they’re coming and coming and coming…We want them to see Colombia as a launchpad. Colombia is very strategic.”

Given Carolina’s international work experience, I was especially interested in her thoughts on how the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Colombia compares with those in other countries.

“Each particular country and each particular ecosystem has some particular similarities and some particular differences,” she told me.

Some of them, for example, have a very good business environment that makes it easy and attractive to do business there. “Setting up a startup company there is very, very easy and the government has worked so hard to make that easier. It’s an institutional strength that they have to make the doing business environment more attractive. Colombia is not far from that. The main difference is that probably they have incentives such as tax incentives and other regulations that increase the amount of startups…We need to work more on that. We need to increase those incentives.”

“Another difference that I think is a plus for Colombia,” she said, “is our bets on financial strategies to close the gaps. There are not a lot of countries helping to build more funds. In terms of attracting investors I think we’re working very hard and I think that will differentiate us…We [also] have a plan to create joint venture strategies between two countries and to have joint financing between the two governments.”

So what’s Carolina’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?:

“Work hard for whatever you believe,” she said. And, “build your relationships, your networks. Relationship can be a big part [of success], and not just on the national scope. Always thinking big is something that I can say that good entrepreneurs do. Don’t just think of your networks and relationships on the national scope.”

Colombia’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: Interview with Esteban Mancuso

I hope everyone’s off to great start for 2014. We’re back in action here at Startup Nomad, so let’s dive right back into the interviews:

My next stop in Medellín was at Velum Ventures, one of the few venture capital firms in the country, to speak with one of its founders, Esteban Mancuso. Esteban is actually an Argentinian who has relocated to Colombia and brought his vast experience with startups to Colombia’s ecosystem. He’s been a founder, CEO, partner, mentor, or advisor at a host of companies and is a major player in the development of the startup ecosystem in Colombia.

He sees the environment for business as much healthier and more stable in Colombia than in his native Argentina.

“In Colombia, the government is fostering innovation and startups,” he said.

He also sees Colombia’s position within the market as advantageous for entrepreneurs saying,

“As a market there are a lot of opportunities. We have a lot of stability. The middle class is growing. There is a lack of many business models that already exist in Spain or wherever and are successful, so why not come to Colombia and then expand to Peru, Ecuador? Maybe go into Mexico. Maybe go into Chile.”

And he’s not the only one who sees this opportunity. A theme throughout all of my interviews in Medellín was that foreign entrepreneurs have been falling in love with and moving to the Colombian city in droves. According to Esteban, there are a lot of foreigners that came to start businesses in Medellín because “they like the city, they like the climate, and they can buy a house for cheap.”

He sees this as a great opportunity for Colombia to take its place as a leader in the growth of Latin American entrepreneurship and, more selfishly, recognizes the benefits for his own fund.

“What we are realizing is that there are many entrepreneurs from Argentina or Chile or Mexico where there is also a lack of early stage financing who are willing to come and live in Medellín for many reasons,” he said.

The city, the climate, and the universities all rank high. Additionally,

“there is a lot of talent here and the human resources are still cheap compared to other countries for coders and designers,” he said.

There are some hurdles that Colombia still needs to overcome if it wants to create a truly thriving and sustainable ecosystem, however. Many of those hurdles ring true throughout Latin America, and Esteban recognizes that the region, as a whole, shares these hurdles, a major one being a lack of investors.”I think all the rest of Latin America [excluding Brasil and Argentina] is in the same situation,” Esteban told me. “Lack of funds, lack of professional investors.” He continued:

“One of the problems we have in the region, at least in Colombia, is the lack of investors, the lack of angels. Because traditional business people in Colombia are related to traditional industries…and they are not interested in investing in innovation. They’re interested in investing in traditional assets.”

Additionally, it can be tough to attract outside investors that do have experience because the risk is greater in the region due to lower deal flow and lower valuations.

“Valuations in Colombia and in the Andean region are not high,” Esteban said. “You are not going to find acquisitions for more than $30 million in the region [with the possible exceptions of Brazil and Argentina]…because of the size of the markets…When you see the valuations in exits you realize that it’s impossible to get a relationship of 1 hit in 10 companies that you invest in, you need to invest in 10 companies and have a success in 5 to return something interesting…Because the exits aren’t high you need many more exits,”

Therefore, entering the early stage market here can be very risky business and “there is not enough deal flow right now in Colombia to invest a $50 million fund or a $60 million fund in a few years.”

That’s probably at least partially why, according to Esteban, “nowadays there are only 3 or 4 VCs: one focused on impact investment, another one more focused on BPO, and another one really active in VC and they’re the only fund in Colombia that has exits.”

That also means there aren’t examples of successful entrepreneurs for new entrepreneurs to look up to and to learn from.

Despite the hurdles, however, Colombia seems to be poised for growth in the startup ecosystem and Medellín in particular is becoming an international hotbed of entrepreneurial talent.

So what’s Esteban’s advice for new entrepreneurs?

“Entrepreneurs have to be much more prepared, to understand what it means to take a company from zero  and make it grow in 3 or 4 years, in 4 countries…being really excellent in execution.” They need to “prove much more and be much more in the market. You don’t build a company from behind your Mac coding.”

Finally, if you have the newest hottest app, don’t go knocking on Esteban’s door just yet. “We don’t invest in applications,” he told me. “We won’t invest in applications. We invest in companies.”


Interview with Alejandro Mayta

This week we’re talking with Alejandro Mayta, the organizer of Startup Peru. Startup Peru is a bit different than Startup Chile or Startup America because it’s completely private and Alejandro is building it without the support of the government (the Peruvian government is working on their own initiative with a different name). Alejandro has been involved in entrepreneurial projects of his own and is learning more and more about the ecosystem as he builds up Startup Peru, so it was interesting to hear his take on what the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Lima is lacking.

One of the key problems that Alejandro sees in the Peruvian entrepreneurial ecosystem is a lack of talent skilled in the business side of building startups. Unlike in the U.S. where technical talent – programmers, designers, etc. – are a hot commodity, Alejandro says that it’s actually fairly easy to find top technical talent in Lima but that filling out the business side of the team is difficult.

Along those same lines, he says that it’s difficult to find qualified mentors and role models for new startup teams. Even in the organized programs, if you ask a mentor what his business is/was he’ll respond saying, “No, I’m not an entrepreneur, I’m just a mentor,” because he’s likely coming from a corporate background. While he can still be very valuable to the new entrepreneurs, there are going to be things that would be better addressed by someone who has gone through the process of building a business from nothing.

This lack of mentors due in large part to the fact that Peru doesn’t have any startups (with the exception of Papaya) that have successfully been able to expand to other countries and it doesn’t have examples of big exits. Peruvian startups stay entirely Peruvian and Peru is a very small market, so finding huge success stories like Mercado Libre and pulling from their founding teams for mentors is basically impossible.

“More than just innovation we need knowledge and understanding of what it is to build a business,” Alejandro said. 

He feels that Peru is behind in understanding and learning about widely known startups concepts in other countries, for example, the principles of lean startup, minimum viable product, and pivoting rapidly. And Peru is also behind in certain infrastructure – internet bandwidth and the adoption of ecommerce, for example – that would encourage and support the creation of rapid-growth businesses. This is partly because there isn’t a community that works together to push Peru forward.

“The worst thing [about being an entrepreneur in Lima] is the lack of cooperation between us. There isn’t trust. We don’t share,” Alejandro said.

It’s difficult to see rapid growth in an entrepreneurial community when its members won’t help and support each other.

Finally, Alejandro said,

“Investment doesn’t exist…It could, but it’s an enormous problem and it depends in large part on the politicians.” 

Despite all of those hurdles, Alejandro does see Lima as a city ripe with possibility and is committed to building a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem there.

“The best thing about being an entrepreneur in Lima is that there is still a lot of undiscovered opportunity,” he said. 

The question, then, is how do people like Alejandro go about taking advantage of that undiscovered opportunity and building a startup community that supports and shares with each other?


Peru Startup Overview

Welcome to Peru, Startup Nomads!

Upon my arrival in Lima (the second time because the first time I was in full tourist mode for my 1 day in the capital before heading off to Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca) I was greatly impressed with the amount of energy swirling around about entrepreneurship. While the startup ecosystem didn’t seem to be quite as mature as many of those in some of the other capital cities I visited, the energy was palpable.

Overall, Lima gives the impression of being a bit less advanced than many of the major cities in Latin America, but it’s still holding its own as it develops and the entrepreneurs in the area are committed to making it a tech hub. Additionally, it was the only city that I visited in my entire journey where a lack of access to capital wasn’t continually mentioned as a major barrier to entrepreneurial growth.

When I looked into data on entrepreneurship in Peru using the GEM data visualization tool I was surprised to see that Peru actually trounces the U.S. in entrepreneurial activity but that there has been a decline in the past few years. This data runs counter to what I experienced in the city, but I only met a small sampling of those involved in the entrepreneurship world.

Total Early-Stage Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA)
Percentage of 18-64 population who are either a nascent entrepreneur or owner-manager of a new business.


New Business Ownership Rate
Percentage of 18-64 population who are currently a owner-manager of a new business, i.e., owning and managing a running business that has paid salaries, wages, or any other payments to the owners for more than three months, but not more than 42 months.

Clearly, there is a lot going on in the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Lima, Peru so stay tuned to see what the key players on the ground there had to say about the ecosystem and its growth.

Argentina’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: Interview with Lorena Suarez of Wayra

My first stop when I arrived in Buenos Aires was at Wayra to speak with Lorena Suarez. Having visited the Wayra offices in Santiago when I was in Chile I knew that the people at Wayra in Argentina would be super well plugged in to what was happening in the ecosystem and might be able to point me in the direction of some great events and/or people to talk to so I was psyched that Lorena agreed to sit down with me and chat.

Lorena came to Wayra after working in telecommunications for a number of years and she transferred from another group within Telefonica (the telecommunications company that owns Wayra) to Wayra. She has a background in economics and business and has been with Wayra for 2 years.

According to Lorena,

“Argentina has a very strong entrepreneurial culture.”

There are a lot of large internet companies created in the lates 1990s and very early 2000s that are still up and running in Argentina. After 2001 the activity stopped but nowadays the activity is growing again. “The quality and amount of startups in Buenos Aires today is significant and interesting,” Lorena said. “We’re seeing more and more major projects with major teams and balanced teams…We evaluated almost 3,000 projects [this year].”

Lorena noted that while “the political and economic context is not very simple for entrepreneurs [in Argentina],” this instability has actually aided the entrepreneurial ecosystem in some ways.

“Fortunately or not, we are trained to handle uncertainty and perhaps that’s why Argentinian entrepreneurs can be so creative: because uncertainty is something that’s been present in our history and our economy,”she said.

She also noted that Argentina has a lot of talent to offer and “talent is the most valuable asset.” Entrepreneurs that start their companies in Buenos Aires have access to people who are well-educated and can find talented and experienced engineers, designers, and others.

On the negative side, however, starting a company can require a massive amount of patience as you’ll need up to 2 months to wade through the regulations and processes necessary to open a new business there.  Additionally, as with many countries in Latin America, there is a lack of funding available for startups – especially at the early stage after seed funding but before they’ve created enough traction for a Series A round. “After finishing at an accelerator the companies already have clients, they’re already at break-even, they have a clearer idea of where they’re going but they don’t yet have enough traction to go to a VC for a series A,” Lorena says. “We are starting to see people filling this space but, for me, there is still room there for people to fill that space.”

Lorena continued:

“Investment is also something that needs to be created and developed. 50% of investments in Argentinian startups came from abroad, from foreign investors. I believe that it’s a matter of time all over Latin America but we still need to mature in this area.”

“At the beginning, we needed to explain what an accelerator is here in Buenos Aires and it’s very, very new how to pitch, how to deal with an investor, how to present yourself, what an investor looks at, what you need as a team, all of those things. Nowadays I think we’ve improved a lot but at the beginning we needed to explain.”

So what advice does Lorena have for entrepreneurs just starting out?

  1.  “Focus on traction. Don’t fall in love with your ideas, just go out and try to communicate with your customers. Customers or users are the ones who really say that what you are creating has value.”
  2. “Focus. It’s really easy to get distracted…I prefer to see a company that does, in an excellent way, 1 thing and not a lot of things in an average way.”
  3. “Give back. We are all players, not only the venture capitalists, accelerators, and other investors but also the entrepreneurs. If we want to create an ecosystem we need to understand that we are all key players, entrepreneurs too…Creating a very strong and very creative entrepreneurial ecosystem in Buenos Aires is something we all need to keep in mind.”

Argentina Startup Overview

After a lovely and eventful visit to Chile it’s time for Startup Nomad to head on to Argentina. Argentina may not receive as much press as Chile or Colombia for its startup scene, but it’s actually one of the most developed and least dependent on foreign talent and money. It’s also the home of the biggest exit I’ve heard of from South America, the golden child of Latin American VC, Mercado Libre.

Argentina’s political instability and currency fluctuation problems mean some added headaches for Argentinian entrepreneurs and investors in Argentinian startups. According to many of the people I spoke with though, that’s part of the reason that Argentina’s startup scene is more mature and more self-sufficient than some in other countries: it simply has to be and the people are used to needing to be adaptable to the constant change.

If you take a look at the graphs below (from the GEM data visualization tool) you’ll see that Argentina has a lot going on in the realm of entrepreneurship making even those in the United States look like a bunch of non-entrepreneurs in comparison.

Total early-stage Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA)
Percentage of 18-64 population who are either a nascent entrepreneur or owner-manager of a new business.
New Business Ownership Rate
Percentage of 18-64 population who are currently a owner-manager of a new business, i.e., owning and managing a running business that has paid salaries, wages, or any other payments to the owners for more than three months, but not more than 42 months.

Following with the trend I saw of a more self-sufficient entrepreneurial ecosystem built by and around Argentinians instead of foreigners, Argentina is the first stop along my Startup Nomad journey where I did not speak to any foreigners during my interviews. Over the next few weeks we’ll chat with some of the players in Buenos Aires’ startup scene and hear their take on what makes the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Argentina different from other places.

Chile’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: Interview with David Truong

David Truong is the Head of Business Development at, the Founder of Broccol-E-Games, and an organizer of Startup Weekends in both Santiago, Chile and Adelaide, Australia. As an entrepreneur involved in the startup scene across three continents, he’s definitely someone whose brain I wanted to pick about the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Chile, so I was really excited that he agreed to be interviewed. Since he’s currently splitting his time between the U.S. and Australia and I’m currently a nomad in South America, there’s no video this week, but he did answer some questions I had for him about his experiences as an entrepreneur and the similarities and differences he sees between the entrepreneurship scenes in different parts of the world.

Check out what he had to say below and then let me know what you think in the comments!


Tell us a little about yourself and about the projects you’re currently working on. 

I’ve have always been trying to create ‘successful’ businesses since a young age. From selling my drawings, to music, to tutoring, my first ‘real’ business was a vocational training company during university. After that I founded Broccol-e-games, which went through the AngelCube accelerator in Melbourne, Australia, then Startup Chile. I now work with, who have an incredible tech that allows any iOS app to be played in any browser. I’m also an organiser and facilitator for Startup Weekend. 
How did you find yourself in the world of entrepreneurship?

I just did things that I loved and that would also create value for someone else. Then I realised that I could sell it and wrap a business around it.

Why/how did you get involved with Startup Weekend in Santiago, Chile? 

I am one of the organisers and facilitators for Startup Weekend in Australia. Being in Chile, I thought it would be a good idea to also organise an event there, since there was a lot of entrepreneurial activity happening in the region. I brought together a fantastic team for the event and we organised and executed the event successfully.

What’s your take on the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Chile as compared to other parts of the world?

I can only comment about the tech entrepreneurial ecosystem: Compared to the rest of Latin America, it is in a very good position thanks mostly to the Startup Chile program. Compared to other parts of the world, it is behind in some areas. Like a lot of countries, it needs a lot more skills in building products, companies, early stage financing, and web tech entrepreneurship.

Would you recommend Santiago to entrepreneurs? Why or why not?

It would depend on the entrepreneur, what their business is, what industry, and what they plan to do there. I would definitely recommend it if the business was targeting the Spanish speaking market, or if they wanted to eventually move into the Brazilian market. 

Where do you see the entrepreneurship scene in Santiago in 5-10 years?

That is a tough question… for tech entrepreneurship, I think the ‘seeds’ from Startup Chile will have blossomed within 5-10 years. There would be a few companies with rather large exits that would validate what the Chilean government is currently doing. Unfortunately, the word on the street is that programs like Startup Chile may be discontinued in a change of government, which could be as early as the upcoming election.

Any last words of wisdom you’d like to share with new or aspiring entrepreneurs?

Focus on solving a problem that you are passionate about. Entrepreneurship is hard, but is very rewarding even if you ‘fail’. There is so much to learn and so much room to grow with building a business. 


Chile Startup Overview

Over the last couple of years few countries have received as much attention for their governments’ efforts to support and build entrepreneurial ecosystems as Chile has, with its most talked about program being Startup Chile. If you’re in Santiago and looking to get involved in the entrepreneurship world there is certainly no shortage of activities, organizations, and people willing to take you by the hand and help you get acclimated to the world of entrepreneurship in “Chilecon Valley.”

As you can see in the graphs below (from the GEM data visualization tool), entrepreneurial activity has basically shot through the roof in recent years in Chile and given its stable economy and government its poised to be a leading entrepreneurship hub. However, it’s still working on finding its own unique style within the entrepreneurship world and is reliant on experts and entrepreneurs from abroad to keep the entrepreneurial ecosystem running as actively as it currently is.

Total Early-Stage Entrepreneurial Activity, Chile vs. USA
Total Early-Stage Entrepreneurial Activity, Chile vs. USA
Percentage of 18-64 population who are either a nascent entrepreneur or owner-manager of a new business.
New Business Ownership Rate, Chile vs. USA
New Business Ownership Rate, Chile vs. USA
Percentage of 18-64 population who are currently a owner-manager of a new business, i.e., owning and managing a running business that has paid salaries, wages, or any other payments to the owners for more than three months, but not more than 42 months.

Over the next few weeks Startup Nomad will be talking to a number of entrepreneurs (both Chilean and non-Chilean) that are currently working in Santiago to build their businesses about how they see the ecosystem and its growth. Chile has been my busiest stop yet, so we’ll hear quite a range of opinions about what Chile is doing especially well and how they can improve their entrepreneurial ecosystem for the future.


If you have any thoughts about the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Santiago or in Chile as a whole OR if you’re an entrepreneur, investor, or part of a support organization in Latin America and would like to be interviewed for Startup Nomad, please let me know!