Sunday, March 20, 2011

Chilean Entrepreneurs

When I was first reading about Startup Chile on the Internet, one topic that came up was Chilean culture’s perception of entrepreneurship. My own insight, gained from talking to lots of Chileans, confirms something I read in some user’s comments to a new article about Startup Chile: Chilean culture is almost anti-entrepreneurial. Failure is fatal. There are no second chances. Etc. These factors are obviously a huge barrier to entry for any budding Chilean entrepreneur. One person’s barrier is another person’s opportunity, however. If you have the drive and energy to get through the mountains, few people will be crazy enough to follow you and you will have the bounty on the other side all to yourself.

I have been asking young Chilean entrepreneurs about this topic. Many of them studied economics or business administration at good universities. They told me that most of their university classmates are working at large multinational corporations and moving out of their parents’ houses to live with their significant others. One of them used a metaphor that really struck me: He said its almost as if they have missed the boat that was going to take them to the next phase of their life after college. Their parents continue to support them (for example, with a roof over their head) but the thought in the background is that they are just screwing around. And this about a group of 20-something year olds that have successfully launched a product that is giving them a revenue stream, allowing them to focus on a more ambitious project! I mentioned earlier that it takes a certain amount of drive to make it over the “mountains:” It is certainly unfortunate for Chilean entrepreneurship that the culture is so intolerant of risk, but perhaps that explains why all of the Chilean entrepreneurs that I have met are really passionate and interesting people.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

On Passion

My current journey is no accident. I am seeking out individual entrepreneurs because I find passion contagious and entrepreneurs are passionate people. They have to be if there is any hope of them seeing their project, their baby, through to the very end. I came back to my apartment late on Friday, late enough that I was looking forward to going straight to bed. There was a three-person gathering in the lobby and they invited me to join. It turns out that one of my neighbors, a guy that must be in his mid sixties, is a biotech entrepreneur. Sure I was exhausted, but the excitement in his voice energized me so much that I stayed up another two hours talking to him.

He shared some details about his project with me: It turns out that he has been developing and refining technology for recycling wastewater for 20 years!!! This is a man that sees a real problem in the world around him (pollution) and has devoted a great amount of time and energy towards doing something about it. I wish him the best, but with the understanding that he already has something exceedingly valuable. That spark in his eye...It's both rare and wonderful. I know because I have spent the last few years chasing after it. I picked the topic for my thesis based on a class taught by Professor Barbezat, but it wasn't the syllabus that inspired me. Instead, I was captivated by the positive energy he gave off when talking about something that he clearly thought was just super cool.

Passion: To me, it is the meaning of life, the joie de vivre, the big picture.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

First Contact

I was just at my first Startup Chile event and all of the attendees were asked to give a 30 second introduction of who they are and why they came. I said that I studied abroad in Chile and am passionate about entrepreneurship; when I saw that Startup Chile was creating a community that combined these two things I bought a plane ticket, and here I am. It is the community aspect that most attracted me. I have found that interesting things happen when you are around interesting people, a view that was echoed in a conversation I had with one of the panelists.

As with any networking event, people asked me what it is that I do. Do I have a project or startup that I am working on? I usually say no, that my short-term goal is to find a project, but on my walk home I realized that I am neck deep in one. My current project is to follow my passion and generate domain expertise in the world of startups by meeting and talking to as many people as I can. I will figure out how to monetize it later :-). I met some interesting people tonight, so thank you to Jean Boudeguer and everyone else connected to Startup Chile for creating the perfect ecosystem within which I can carry out this adventure. The next six weeks are clearly going to be awesome.