With applications for the program coming due on April 3, a number of people have been emailing me to ask my advice on how to get into Startup Chile.
For those of you that don't know about it, Startup Chile is a program run by the Chilean government that gives you $40,000 in equity-free funding to go work on your startup in Chile for 6 months. I was lucky enough to be selected for it, and after two months into the program I truly consider it to be one of the best opportunities I’ve had in my life so far.
I would say that if you are considering ever applying to Startup Chile, you should apply for this round. The program has been said to be a three-year experiment and it’s already about a year and a half in, so time is running out. And with each round, it gets more and more competitive to get in. Plus, if you apply for this round (start dates: June 27 or July 25), we’ll get to be in the program at the same time! Don’t worry about not having a cofounder or a web startup—I know many people that got in who applied as sole founders (including myself) with ideas ranging from non-profits to physical goods. Even if you don’t think you will get in, you should apply anyway—as Wayne Gretzky said, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. And I would recommend starting to prepare your application right now, especially with regards to the letter of recommendation.
Pay attention to the judging criteria and show how you demonstrate excellence in each area. Applicants are being judged on the following 3 criteria:
1) Human Capital (weight: 33%): quality of the talent and commitment of the founding team members.
2) Project (weight: 34%, composite): Strategy, differentiation, and innovation factors of the product/service purported.
- Product/Service (weight: 17%)
- Market (weight: 17%)
3) Environment (weight: 33%): Value of the founding team’s networks for the Chilean entrepreneurship ecosystem.
Here is my advice in line with each of these:
1) Human capital:
- Think of what makes you unique and convey it
- Get your name out there to the organizers (a few emails, tweets, twitcasts to them never hurt – but don’t be annoying)
- It doesn’t matter if you’re not a consumer web facing startup – BUT they are looking for the next billion dollar company
- Ensure that your business has an international focus or will at some point (e.g. not just wine in Paris)
- Ideally show some history of past successful execution on your idea (or some iteration of it) – when I applied with Founder2Founder, I’d already run my first launchpad program with top Canadian CEOs and a fair amount of press, quit my job, and was looking to take it to the next level
- Demonstrate how you are going to connect them to Chile and use them to help bolster Chile’s economy
- Talk about what you will do while in Chile to help improve the entrepreneurial ecosystem (the mission of the program), ideally with regards to connecting your networks to Chile
You should focus on blowing them away on every aspect of the application. For the video and executive summary, demonstrate your excitement and consider using Guy Kawasaki’s pitch format. For your letter of recommendation, they mention that it is critical to get the "best one possible" from a significant player in your industry that knows your educational background—I asked my university professors that were CEOs of major companies. Help your references by sending them all the relevant information regarding the program, requirements for the letter of recommendation, judging criteria, and how you meet the criteria (e.g. your bio, executive summary, and descriptions of your networks).
Most of all, have confidence: as I say in my career coaching, if you think with all your heart that you will get something, you will.
Good luck with your application and I hope to meet you here in Chile! For those that are interested in having a sure bet at being in the program or getting here earlier rather than later, my startup is hiring a UX designer – let us know if you or anyone you know might be interested by April 1st.