Monthly Archives: January 2012

Tiny Ears Update

Well, the first week of Tiny Ears here in Chile has gone pretty well. We’ve had a meeting with Professor Nestor Becerra-Yoma and his team at the Speech Processing and Transmission Laboratory at Universidad de Chile and their software seems to meet our needs well and we are now trying to come up with a deal whereby we can use their software whilst trying to find funding to allow them to enhance it with all of the extra bits that Tiny Ears requires.

There will, no doubt, be a post to come whereby I detail all the fun and games to be had trying to find funding here in Chile, but I think what is there presently will be enough to provide a good enough prototype with which to secure funding. Yet again I am wishing that  I was able to find a co-founder to help me with these business matters as I would far rather just concentrate on building the product and leave these other consideration to someone else, but I guess that’s what a startup entrepreneur is, someone willing to dirty their hands with all the jobs that need doing.

On that basis, and with that weight lifted from my mind, I am ready to start working on the storybook itself. I will be getting in touch with the various loosely organised Tiny Ears members who have agreed to work on the project and try and get everyone together on a Skype call to discuss what needs to be done. Now that the Speech Recognition part is at least partially resolved then all the different members of the team who I had been putting off getting overly involved due to the uncertainty of the outcome of the meeting with the Universidad de Chile. I really feel that Tiny Ears can start to move forward with purpose now.

Startup Chile: Week 1

The first week of Startup Chile is now complete. Here is a (not so) quick breakdown of what this induction week entails.

Day 1

We met at the CORFO offices on the 2nd floor of Avda Moneda 921. For the first 20 minutes or so the new batch of entrepreneurs hung about outside the auditorium getting to know each other. Then the doors opened and we all trooped in to help ourselves to tea, coffee, water and biscuits and find some seats before the morning session began. I tried to live blog this over Twitter but the connectivity in this office was so bad that I was forced to give up early on.

First up, Jean Boudegar, Executive Director of the Starup Chile program gave us a 30 minute talk about why Startup Chile has been created and what is expected of us while we are here in Chile. He explains that Chile has one of the strongest economies in South America but it is isolated from most of the rest of the world by both geography and history. The purpose of Startup Chile is to create an international network of ideas and talent to bridge the isolation between Chilean talent and the rest of the world. This will in turn help Chile towards it’s goal of becoming the Latin American hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. Ultimately the goal of the program is for one of us alumni to become a $1bn company and change the Chilean entrepreneurial environment.

Next up, Felipe Costobal (or Yeti as he is known) got up to introduce us to the Startup Chile team and their roles. After a short coffee break, we had a introduction to Startup Chile from the entrepreneurs point of view from Ahn Murray of EV Social and George Cadena of Aeterna Sol. They told us about the awesome meetups that they have been involved with (including the Girls in Tech group that Ahn set up which I am trying to get involved with), where to visit and the different places to live around Chile, and how to get the best out of the program.

We then got introduced to the concept of Tribes in Startup Chile. Tribes are groups arranged around particular business interests of the companies within Startup Chile. The idea is to provide a network and links between companies with particular interests and to help assist making connections with businesses in Chile with similar goals. Each tribe leader got up to give a speil about their tribe and after we got the opprtunity to talk to tribe leaders to help decide which tribe we can belong to. At this point I felt that companies with multiple members had it better here. Only one tribe can be joined by each team member, but if your company’s interests spanned tribes and you had only one member, you had to pick just one, and could not belong to more than one. Especially as the Finance tribe was designed to help you get funding for your business! After much consideration I decided to join the education tribe as that is primarily the focus of Tiny Ears.

That signalled the end of the first morning, and the end of the talks. After the talks there was time to network with companies, and a whole bunch of us (I think it was about 20 in the end) all trooped off to lunch together to get to know each other more. After lunch, those of us who had signed up to get our Chilean IDs on the first day headed to the second Moneda office to start that process. You can find out more about the Chilean ID process here.

After obtaining our temporary ID’s, we met Jon & Anna for dinner and then headed off to a party held by one of our batch.

Day 2

Back at Moneda 921, a another morning of talks. The first talk explained the Return Value Agenda (RVA) that is the way of measuring what we give back to Startup Chile. As a Startup Chile participant we are awarded US$40,000 for no equity and a chance to live and work in Chile for up to a year. In return we are asked to spend some of our time organising meetups, holding conferences, giving talks, forming communities and groups and generally sharing our knowledge & networks with the Chilean community. Each of these activities are awarded points (if we get them pre-approved first!) and to complete our contract with Startup Chile, we must have earned 4,000 RVA points before we go home. The RVA system seems to be a very good way of ensuring that entrepreneurs don’t just come out here and take what they can without giving Chilean society any value for their money.

The rest of the morning was spent hearing from each of the different departments of Startup Chile, the PR and Communications division and the finance/reimbursement division, to give us an idea of who we should go to for which things. Lastly, a couple of Chilean entrepreneurs came to tell us about Chile, it’s people, culture and geography to give us a better idea of what Chile has to offer. One thing I did not know was that Easter Island was Chilean and that is was so close. I am definitely going. I bet the diving around there is awesome.

The afternoon of the first day was spent filling out forms for Banco Edwards Citibank, the bank that we decided to open an account with. Reimbursements can only be paid to accounts in one of 2 banks., Banco Edwards and Scotiabank. We had been recommended Banco Edwards by a number of the other startups on the previous round so we decided to open an account with them. The process was slightly disconcering, involving 2 different colour pens (blue & black) and certain parts of the forms that must be filled in in specfic colours. Also, we were asked only to sign the various parts of the forms, with the details to be filled in later by the Banco Edwards staff. I think this was so that mistakes were not made in filling in the forms but it was slightly worrying none the less. We also had to provide photocopies of our passports and our temprary Chilean ID, plus at least 5 different places where we had to put our finger prints. I’ve been fingerprinted in Chile more times that I have in my entire life before!

That was the end of day 2, and we headed home to prepare our pitches for the first of the pitch days the next day.


Day 3

Pitch day 1. 5 minutes to pitch your company to the rest of the group at CMI, the third of the Startup chile offices, in Providencia. I live blogged this on Twitter so won’t bore you with it again. I shall transcribe my twitter stream in another post. Pitches went on until 11:30 and the rest of the afternoon was free.

Day 4

Another morning of pitches. There were far more pitches on this day. Again I live blogged it. This time pitches went on until 1:30pm. The room got very, very hot and I was glad I brought some water. As it was I ended up feeling quite ill for the rest of the day. After lunch I headed home and spent the rest of the day preparing for my business meeting with Universidad de Chile on Friday morning.

Day 5

 At last, an induction free day. Startup Chile (SUP from here on in, I’m sick of writing it), runs pitch training every Friday at the CMI office and many of our batch signed up for this for the next day. We signed up for a pitch training day in February as we are not really at the pitch to investors stage yet.

Day 6

 SUP Picnic. We’re off to that when I finish writing this post. A nice picnic in Parque Bicentenario with the other SUPers. Then a party afterwards. I love sunny days, warm nights and friendly people. So far SUP and Santiago has been utterly awesome!

Obtaining your Chilean ID

Yesterday we were taken by the Startup Chile staff to get our temporary Chilean ID’s. Your Chilean ID is very important to your stay here because without this you cannot get a bank account (& therefore cannot be refunded your money), a mobile phone contract (for which you also need a bank account) or get a PAYG Data SIM (you can get data free SIM’s though). It is therefore important that you get this done as soon as you possibly can before you arrive. Little did we know that if we had gone to the SUP offices as soon as we arrived we could have done this earlier, but you live and learn.

Before we arrived in Chile we were asked to sign up to a list for whether we wanted to get our ID’s on the Monday or the Tuesday. Our batch has over 200 people in it, so this was a good idea to get the numbers down. I recommend you try and get in to the Monday group. For us, Banco Edwards came to sign up people for bank accounts on Tuesday afternoon while the remaining entrepreneurs went to get their ID cards. By being in the Monday group it was quicker and easier to set up a bank account as there were less people trying to do the same thing at the same time.

So, Monday was induction day 1. At the end of the morning induction talks, and after lunch, we all met at SUP’s Moneda office to get our Chilean ID’s. After our passports & residency visas had been photocopied, we were taken back out of the offices in 2 groups. Obtaining your ID is a very long process so I highly recommend that you get yourself into the first group to leave. We were then shepherded down to the Chilean Police offices where we showed our visas and passports, paid 800 pesos and were awarded a Chilean International Police Check certificate.

With our police check certificates in hand we traipsed en-masse to a photocopy shop where we paid 50 pesos for a photocopy of the police check certificate. We were then led to the Civil Registry office to get our temporary ID’s. At this point, get yourself to the front of the group. We hung around at the back, and by the time we realised we had to put our names a sheet of paper to denote the order in which we were seen it was too late and we ended up 21st, 22nd & 23rd on the list – of about 30 names! You then get to hang about watching the other people head in and out of the office getting their ID’s ahead of you.

At this point it became pointedly clear that if things continued in this manner then the end of the list would not be reached for about 1.5 hours and there was still the second group yet to turn up. The strategy changed and we were then asked to provide our parents names on our passport photocopy and give it to Catalina, who filled in a form on your behalf. When our turn came (it was going much faster now) we took our forms in and got fingerprinted, both hands, on the back side of the form.

We were then asked to leave the room and wait. DO NOT JUST SIT DOWN AND WAIT TO BE CALLED AGAIN. This is what we did and after a while asked how much longer it was going to be. It turns out that what they really meant was wait in a queue to be called back in to have your form processed and photograph taken. Luckily we found this out after only a further 10 minute wait. For some people the word did not get through for some time and they ended up waiting to be called for up to an hour.

After your form has been processed and your photo taken & everything stamped, you have to pay 4,050 pesos and get given your temporary Chilean ID. We were asked to return to the Civil Registry office about a week later to pick up the real thing. One thing about all of the payments throughout this process – they really do not like giving change. Try as much as possible to give the exact money. At the police station especially they refused to take anything other than exact change which caused a few problems for some people.

We started the ID process at 2pm. We finished at 5:30pm. This will eat up your whole afternoon, so don’t book anything else that day. However, the ID process really seemed to bond many of the Startups and we ended up with a party to go to that evening and there was plenty of time to get to know our fellow participants.

More about the Startup Chile induction process to come, but for now I shall leave you as a legal entity in Chilean society.

Hemos llegado en Chile (We have arrived in Chile)

So, we have arrived in Chile. First impressions? Santiago is lovely. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I think it was a cramped, crowded city with everyone living in skyscrapers and choking on car fumes. What we found was a leafy, spacious city populated by friendly, open, smiling people.

Most of our problems so far seem to stem from language issues. The continental Spanish we learned before we came here has not helped us with the local dialect, Chileno, or with the speed issues. However, yesterday I partook in my first ‘language exchange’ with my madrina Johanna and her friend Jenny and I discovered that when the pace is slowed down I can understand and speak far more than I thought.

We arrived on Wednesday after an 18 hour flight from Heathrow to Santiago via Sao Paulo. We payed over the odds for the taxi bus that took us from the airport to our apartments, but while Ian was busy negotiating, Kyran and I were so tired that we were willing to pay anything just to get to where we were going. We were told the taxi should be about £20-£30. I think we payed £45 in the end.

Our apartment is lovely. Situated on the leafy street of El Vergel in the quiet, trendy suburb of Providencia we’ve basically moved to the Hove of Santiago. We are about a 15 minute walk from Kyran’s flat in Ricardo Lyon and 20-25 minutes from Los Leones, our closest metro station on the main line. There are cafe’s, shops & supermarkets within a few minutes walk of the flat and yesterday we discovered a fantastic running track that goes for kilometres down the main streets of Tobablaba and Pocuro. From asking around we appear to be paying quite a bit for our place, but everyone agrees that the location & the fact that it is fully furnished makes it well worth the price.

We have met lots of lovely people since arriving. Much of that is due to how lucky we have been with our respective padrino’s who have been very welcoming. Johanna met us on Thursday morning and took us on a tour of the city. She also arranged a dinner our for us with Strong Steam‘s padrino Fernando at a lovely restaurant, Como Agua Para Chocolate. I met Johanna again on Saturday afternoon to discuss Tiny Ears, and towards the end of the meeting she had invited along Jenny, her best friend who spoke little English (although far more than I spoke Spanish), and we had a small language exchange as I tried to talk (badly) to Jenny in Spanish. Later Saturday night we had been invited to Fernando’s apartment for dinner. From talking to other SUPpers we have already had more contact with our padrino’s that many have had with theirs for 6 months!

We also were fortunate to have friends here already and seeing Jon and Anna again has been great. They met us at our apartment on Wednesday with a bag of cold beers and then took us out into Providencia to dinner that evening. They also accompanied us on the tour of Santiago and to Fernando’s on Saturday night.

I am also fortunate to have Ian who researched all the companies on phase 1 as well as phase and contacted the ones who sounded interesting before we left. Therefore on Friday night we ended up invited to 2 parties by outgoing SUPpers and met some truly lovely people including Fernando Mejia from SQMOS.

All in all, our first few days here have been fantastic. We have fallen in love with Santiago and are really looking forward to the Startup Chile program starting tomorrow.


As a side note, I’m posting all my photos from my trip here on Flickr if you’re interested at all in seeing them. Ian is also blogging about our time here

Startup Chile Ahoy

Well, Startup Chile is about to start. We leave on Tuesday 10th January to join the second intake of the second round. While we were trying to decide whether or not to apply we tried to find information about the program and what it was like to be a part of it. At the time, back in August, there was not much about apart from comments about the successful drinking that was being done by the participants. Since then, there have been a number of well publicised successes from the program and international news coverage, but little that I have found from a more on-the-ground perspective. I have therefore decided to blog as much as I can about the program, what it’s like to be a part of it, how useful it is to us and what we have to to during our time in Chile.

To start with, a few weeks ago I was contacted by my madrina, Johanna Angulo, a Chilean entrepreneur interested in my project whose role is to introduce me to the Chilean business scene, smooth the initial Startup Chile introduction process and generally look after me during my time there. Each business involved with the program is assigned a madrina or padrino (godmother or godfather) which seems to be a really nice way to help new arrivals get orientated.

Johanna has been really nice and helpful during our email conversations, including pointing out useful resources to learn the local Spanish dialect, Chilano, and offering to take us on a tour of Santiago when we arrive. Our situation is a little odd in that Ian and I are a couple, and yet we are there with two separate projects and therefore have separate godparents. Johanna and Strong Steams padrino, Fernando Mejia, seem to have teamed up though which is really useful.

Kyran, Ian’s business partner in Strong Steam has been arranging the accommodation for us in Santiago and has arranged for the agents through which we are renting our flats to pick us up from the airport and take us and our baggage to the flats. Johanna has offered to meet us at the airport also and to take us out for a late lunch after we’ve sorted ourselves out with our flats.

Once we’ve arrived, we’ll need to sort out our Chilean ID. Apparently we need this for a lot of things, not least to leave the country at the end of the program. The process seems fairly simple but I’ll keep you posted on that front. Otherwise, there will be some sort of induction occurring on the 16th January and an internal demo day where we have to pitch our projects. Not really sure what that will entail but it’s quite possible that my pitch from Startup Weekend will do the job nicely.

For now, it’s back to packing up the flat, packing for the flight and getting the last few bits and pieces together – including a rather large shopping list from Jon & Anna Markwell of all the things that they’ve missed from the UK since they’ve been away. The next update will probably be after we’ve arrived. How exciting.

Tiny Ears Team Update

I know I’ve been very quiet on the Tiny Ears front recently, but it’s been rather hectic with the move recently. However, that does not mean that I’ve been idle. I’ve been networking like crazy, meeting many interesting people and building up a team of people around me to help make Tiny Ears the most awesome project ever. As such I would like to welcome the first of my new collaborators, Persistent Peril.

Ginny and Garth are fantastic, BAFTA award winning animators whose characterisations and style I love, and I believe kids will love their creations too. Their enthusiasm is amazing and I have no doubt that they will help me to create a beautiful and fun app. I am really pleased to be working with them.