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The Ultimate Guide to Growing a Tech Startup in Chile

With Chile’s new Tech Visa, a would-be entrepreneur can immigrate and legally work in Chile within just 15 days — few other countries in Latin America are so receptive to their talented immigrants.

Since 2010, Chile has explicitly encouraged and incentivized international tech entrepreneurs to bring their startups to Santiago — through Start-Up Chile — to position the country as a technology hub in Latin America. As a result, Chile is considered one of the most favorable countries in Latin America in which to grow a tech startup.

However, building a tech startup in Chile, as anywhere, is not without its challenges. Besides having a relatively high cost of living compared to the rest of Latin America, Chile also makes it challenging for individuals to open a business, and to receive credit.

Still, Chile ranks 7th in the world for total entrepreneurial activity and accounts for 50% of the entrepreneurial activity in Latin America. As one of Latin America’s most active tech hubs, Chile could be the perfect place to grow your tech startup. Here is how to get started in the Chilean market.

Which industries work in Chile?

Industries such as e-commerce, m-commerce, clean energy, agtech, logistics, and fintech have become popular fonts of innovation in Chile. While Chile still depends heavily on traditional industries such as mining, logging, fishing, and agriculture, the Chilean government has shown interest in improving efficiency in these sectors.

Notably, Chile is one of Latin America’s fastest growing e-commerce markets. In 2010, Chile saw the birth of ClanDescuento, a precursor to Groupon Latin America, which created the impulse to grow Chile’s e-commerce market. Groupon Latin America went on to have an effect that mimicked PayPal in the United States; that is, many ex-employees of Groupon LatAm went on to create successful e-commerce sites themselves, such as BabyTuto and Cornershop. Further, Chile has an extremely high level of smartphone penetration, reaching over 45% of the population, making m-commerce an attractive market for investment.

Getting funding in Chile

The Chilean government is highly supportive of entrepreneurship and provides seed funding to early-stage businesses through the development agency, CORFO, and the well-known Start-Up Chile accelerator program. Start-Up Chile has brought over 1,500 startups to Chile to receive funding, mentorship, and training to grow their businesses.

Beyond Start-Up Chile, Chile hosts several private and semi-private funds, such as Dadneo, Magma Partners, Mountain Nazca, and Manutara Ventures. It is also possible to find angel investment through Chile’s many angel and crowdfunding networks, such as Chile GlobalAngels, Founderlist, and Broota.

In fact, El Mercurio, Chile’s most influential newspaper, reported that there were over 80 active programs supporting entrepreneurship in Chile in 2017.

Where to work in Chile

Santiago, Chile’s highly-centralized capital, is by far the largest hub of entrepreneurship in the 17 million-person country. Nonetheless, Chile’s third largest city, Concepcion, is also developing a nascent tech startup scene.

Much of this development can also be attributed to Chilean universities, which have rapidly caught on to the innovation trend. The prestigious Universidad de Concepción has an innovation department, as does the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.

Both cities provide numerous co-working spaces to fit the need of any growing tech startup. In Concepcion, Workrs Cowork is a favorite, while Edge Cowork and GreenTi Cowork are top picks for Santiago. Most co-working spaces in Chile also provide educational and networking events which can help support the growth of your tech startup in Chile.

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Quality of Life in Chile

It costs about 25% less to live in Chile than in the United States. While rent can be up to 50-70% lower in Santiago than in major US cities, food, transportation, and utilities bring up the cost of living considerably.

Still, Santiago is at least 30-50% more expensive than other Latin American tech hubs, such as Medellin and Mexico City. Overall, between the funding opportunities and the cost of living, Chile is well-placed as a launchpad for your tech startup.

Chile’s tech ecosystem is one of the most mature in Latin America. It has been almost ten years since the Chilean government launched Start-Up Chile and propelled Chile onto the global stage as a tech hub. While founding a tech startup is a challenge anywhere in the world, there are few places more supportive of entrepreneurs than Chile. If you’re looking to launch your business in Latin America, Chile might be the place to start.

Sophia Wood

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