It’s officially been one month since my business partner Jeremy and I arrived in Santiago, Chile for the Startup Chile program. It’s been a great few weeks.
As I mentioned in my last post, we recently conducted an extensive worldwide search for a CTO. Due to the frothy startup environment and developers being in such hot demand, we were worried that we might not get many responses. Boy were we surprised when we had over 70 people email us to say they were interested. However, we did put quite a lot of effort into raising awareness of the position – if you Google ‘Founding CTO’ we should come up 5th. We also think that the fact that the first 6 months of the position are in Santiago was a big differentiator – many people that we spoke to were keen for an adventure (like us!). We interviewed about 40 of the people that emailed us, had the code reviewed for about 12 of them, and have now narrowed it down and should be announcing our new CTO very shortly. We have been in touch with most of the others to find out if they would be open to other opportunities and most have said yes, so we are going to attempt to help match them up with startups and companies we know that are hiring. Let us know if your company is seeking a developer.
While I was in Silicon Valley last year, I was fortunate enough to meet Bill Tai (partner at a VC firm called Charles River Ventures) and be invited by him to join MaiTai, a group that brings tech entrepreneurs and investors together with pro kiteboarders. Last week, I attended one of their annual events – a snowkiting trip in Utah. Now obviously Utah is pretty far from Chile, so it was fairly difficult to decide whether or not to go – but I am very happy that I did! I got to meet and snowkite with some amazing people, and get some great early feedback on my business idea. Attendees at the long weekend included the founder of Second Life, CTO of Twitter, the CEO of Voxer, the managing partner at Silicon Valley Bank, the former CFO of Amazon, and many others. On a personal note, I learned how to use my kite to do a jump (one of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2012), and got to meet the editor of one of my favourite magazines (Kiteboarding Magazine), the North America sales rep for my favourite kiteboard brand (Slingshot), and many pro kiters that I’d only previously seen in the pages of magazines. You can check out a video of last year’s event here.
From a Startup Chile perspective, there continues to be many interesting meetups and events. One of our ‘batchmates’, Ben Kaplan, who is a scholarship expert and has been featured on Oprah, gave a great talk on how to be a media superstar. As well, Jeremy and I have begun organizing weekly sessions where someone comes in to talk about some aspect of coding, in an attempt to learn more about the subject and help others do the same. Many incubators have formal mentors that are part of the program, and although Startup Chile does not, I think our ‘class’ is doing a great job of mentoring each other on the subjects that we know most about through giving talks, informal discussions, etc. I personally feel that this sort of ‘incubator’ model is the way that universities should operate moving forward. They could retain the selection criteria, but shift the focus the lecture format to allowing students to form groups and work on inventions and business ideas of their choosing for a few years. Industry and subject experts could be available for questions, guidance, and the occasional lecture by request, but the focus would be self-directed learning in a safe environment with like-minded peers (kind of like entrepreneurship with a seatbelt on). Experiential learning has been shown to be the most effective type of learning, so by learning while doing entrepreneurial activities, students would be preparing themselves to change the world.
Startup Chile is planning on doing its first demo day here in Santiago, Chile, most likely on May 22 or 23, and inviting investors from all over the world. Past visitors to Startup Chile events have included Dave McClure, Dan Martell, Vivek Wadhwa, and the founder of Groupon. The startups that are part of our batch have already started having some significant successes – Yupi Studios has formed a partnership with Tapjoy in the US, The Social Radio was selected to pitch at the Mobile Premier Awards in Barcelona, and two startups (Boilingice and Escapes With You) have been invited to the upcoming Geeks on a Plane South America trip. Also within the past few weeks, startups from previous batches have reached some great milestones – Gym-pact was invited to join Techstars Boston and Cruisewise just launched their new site. It is great to be part of such an awesome network. If you are interested in attending the demo day, email [email protected].
From our standpoint, I finished creating a prototype iPhone app that we can use to test with potential customers. We just submitted our first reimbursement and are anxious to see if all goes well. And we’ve been voraciously devouring books like the Lean Startup and 4 Steps to the Epiphany to help us plan out the rest of our time here. Our Spanish has definitely improved versus when we got here – now I can actually do things like make a transaction at a grocery store or strike up a basic conversation with a new acquaintance, without having to whip out some form of translator.
Nos vemos, Jenn