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.

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