I have accepted to be a judge in the selection process of the next batch of early stage companies that will be locating to Chile to bootstrap and build their company. Here is brief introduction to Startup Chile, I think it is a fantastic initiative to drive entrepreneurship and innovation through collaboration. Start-Up Chile is a program created by the Chilean Government, executed by Corfo via InnovaChile, that seeks to attract early stage, high-potential entrepreneurs to bootstrap their startups in Chile, using it as a platform to go global. The end goal of the accelerator program is to convert Chile into the definitive innovation and entrepreneurial hub of Latin America; this is a mission shared by the Government of Chile and is a primary focus of the Ministry of Economy… Read More about the program here
As much as I like the initiative, I am not sure if I like the structure. Governments are feeders, they cannot be leaders in efforts like this. I think the leadership for such initiatives need to come from Entrepreneurs. I like grass root movement that brings together different stakeholders who have their own sustainability mechanisms that contribute and enable the ecosystem. I don’t believe forced innovation and entrepreneurship works. It has to be self motivated just like people. Because when one thinks about Ecosystem, it comprises of a group of people coming together from different background but focused on a single goal. I remember, my Economic PhD qualification examination at LSU. The exam had one question (the exact wordings are not accurate): “You have been asked to testify in front of congress on social benefits of individuals pursuing their own happiness, prove why this leads to better good”. I proved this through an non-linear optimization problem using Utility maximization of individual agents in a society that leads to more optimal maximum for the whole society than if the optimization was done through a single agent i.e Government, Central planner etc. It was beautiful mathematics, loved working on that… but what I find fascinating is how that has influenced how I think. Don’t get me wrong, I think central planning, Government and initiatives like the one above are important and necessary drivers but not sufficient to enable a sustainable startup ecosystem. I believe every stakeholder needs to have the right incentives and Goals, remember goals have to be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. The goals of the program seem a little skewed for my taste, does having a greater number of companies bootstrap from Chile improve innovation in Chile? Not sure that is obvious. I have more questions than answers about programs like this. I like simple Accelerators like TechStars or Y-Combinator, there is an economic engine… but it needs a push out of the door, which is what I have been proposing we do in Iceland.