MaGIC seeks to replicate Chilean wizardry

  • Open model accelerates mindset change
  • MaGIC to leverage on Chile model to position Malaysia
MaGIC seeks to replicate Chilean wizardry

ONE of the more innovative and politically gutsy entrepreneur programmes in the world started in Chile in 2010 when its Government launched Startup Chile.
The programme offered the incentive of a US$40,000 seed investment to entrepreneurs from anywhere in the world, to come to Santiago, Chile’s capital, to build their startup over six months.
The target was to bring in ‘1,000 bootstrappers’ by the end of 2014, with US$40 million allocated. The goal was to build Chile as the innovation and entrepreneurship hub of Latin America. With 2014 just past, Chile can give itself a pat in the back, having achieved this goal.
Four years and 12 batches after its launch (there are three intakes a year), the Chilean Government can share impressive data points and progress with visitors seeking to learn from its experience.
But Cheryl Yeoh, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC), already knew about Startup Chile and its impact from her days as an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley in 2011, having seen some of her friends apply for and get accepted into the programme.
In fact, she tells Digital News Asia (DNA) that she had made it known during her application for the MaGIC job, “that I wanted to make this one of my core programmes if I was chosen as CEO.”
Still, three things really stood out to Yeoh during her visit to Startup Chile in November 2014, which came right after the e@Stanford programme.
The first was the statement that “the programme sparked a cultural revolution that changed the face of entrepreneurship in Chile.”
In fact, officials there estimate that Startup Chile helped accelerate the acceptance of entrepreneurship into Chilean culture by seven years. In other words, what would have taken 10 years, took only three.
Keenly aware that mindset change is the hardest to trigger and takes a long time, the success of Startup Chile and its open model has really excited Yeoh.
According to a Chilean technocrat DNA spoke to in October 2013, before Startup Chile, entrepreneurs in the country were quite insular and inward-looking, but this started to change when they were put together and exposed to, in the same work space, entrepreneurs from the United States and Europe.
“In our briefings, the Chilean executives really emphasised the open nature of the programme as underpinning its success,” says MaGIC’s Yeoh.
Apparently Brazil started a similar startup programme but kept it closed and only for Brazilians, and it did not work as overseas entrepreneurs did not flock to the country, despite the large market size, she adds.
When it comes to Startup Chile, around 300 applicants came from all over the world, with 10% coming from Chile in the first intake in which 22 startups were chosen.
That number has today jumped to 2,448 applicants in total, with 5% getting accepted in the latest cohort in December 2014.
But what is even more important, from the Chilean Government’s view, is that 33% of the applicants are now coming from Chile itself – reinforcing the point of an entrepreneurship culture taking shape in the country.
Based on 300 companies that have gone through the programme, US$100 million in exits has been generated, with a combined valuation of US$100 million for those that have raised funding subsequent to their six-month stint in Chile.
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