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Archive for February, 2012

Education Tribe

February 28th, 2012 No comments

Here at Startup Chile there is a concept called a Tribe. These tribes are groups formed around general concepts, like Education, Software Technology, Enterprise Software, Finance etc. The idea of the tribe is to provide support, connections and events to assist people whose companies are based around those general concepts. Every Tribe has a leader and every 3 months the group votes for a new leader. You get 1000 RVA points for being a tribe leader. I belong to the Education Tribe.

A few weeks ago the voting happened, and I put my name forward to become Education Tribe leader. Low and behold, I was voted in and am now in a position of power.  Little do they know what they’ve let themselves in for. Mwahahahah.

So now, I have responsibility. I have to organise meetings once a month with the tribe and have set myself a number of tasks that I must complete before the end of the 3 months is up. There are also an extra 500 RVA points up for grabs for the most successful tribe leader. Not sure if I have the time to compete for that one, but the intention is there.

So, the three things that I promised to do for the tribe are as follows:

  1. Create a stronger sense of community with better connections between members for free sharing of ideas and support
  2. To run events to make it easier for the local education community to hear about the startups in the education tribe
  3. To create a directory of educational institutions that wish to work with Startup Chile members.

To put all of this in motion, today I wrote to UNESCO here in Chile asking if they would be interested in meeting and talking to some of the Startup Chile education companies. I am also writing to a number of the Spanish language schools to see if they would like to form partnerships with the language learning Startups. I am hoping to run an event that will showcase the companies to the local education community and potential investors in education technology. I’m hoping I’ve not bitten off more than I can chew!

Mobile Phones

February 21st, 2012 3 comments

At last we have Chilean SIM cards. This took a longer than expected. Here is everything we know about acquiring a Chilean SIM card.

  • You can buy, from the moment you get here, prepaid SIM cards without having to have a RUT number (Chilean ID). These SIM’s DO have data, contrary to what many people may tell you. We were told a number of things, such as you needed your genuine RUT, not temporary RUT to get a SIM, that you can get prepaid calls only but no data without a RUT and that you can just walk into any store and pick up a prepaid SIM anytime you want. As far as we can tell, it’s the latter that’s true.
  • To get a SIM on contract you need to have a Chilean bank account. This is so that you can pay the monthly fee online. They cannot set up a direct debit. This is apparently unsafe. You have to remember to log in to the website, get your bill and pay it every month.
  • Movistar are the only mobile provider that gives short term contract lengths. Ours is for 6 months. They also have ‘special’ packages for Startup Chile members. However Movistar are not always the cheapest or most reliable network so many people have gone for other networks despite the longer contract lengths.
  • Once you get your Chilean bank account, and you want to go with Movistar, you have to arrange a time to meet with the Movistar representative. The first name we got given was for a guy who was on holiday, and even when he returned he told us he was the wrong person. We then talked to the right person who gave us incorrect information as to when she would be at CMI to open the contracts. Eventually we coordinated the right person on the right day in the right place, and we got our SIM’s within half an hour. It’s easy when you know how.
  • To get your SIM card contract you need the following items, a photocopy of your passport, a photocopy of your Chilean ID, a photocopy of a blank cheque from the chequebook for the account you are paying the subscription from and CLP$3990.00 cash.
  • If you have an iPhone, after inserting your new SIM, you must reset all your settings before you can make & receive calls outside of the Movistar network.
  • 1 week after receiving our SIM’s Ian still cannot receive texts of phonecalls from outside Chile, although he can make international calls/texts. No resolution in sight at this time.
  • For both my mini-SIM and Ian’s SIM, we cannot get more than an edge connection on our Androids. At this time we are not sure why, but we think it has something to do with the frequency of the Movistar mobile signal being incompatible with our UK Android devices, i.e. 850Mhz. Again, no solution in sight at this time, but I shall update this post when/if we have an answer.

La Escuela de Español

February 21st, 2012 No comments

Last week I took the plunge and signed up for an intensive Spanish language course at Escuela Bellavista. Since I arrived I have been listening to the Michel Thomas Spanish Audiobooks, hoping that this would be enough to get me by. In recent weeks it has become apparent that it is not enough. This is for two reasons. The first is time. Oddly, finding 1 hour a day to take out to listen to an audiobook is very hard. It’s always pushed to the bottom of the list of important things that need to be done and then, when you finally have time, it’s the end of the day and you’re too tired to learn. Secondly, although the audiobooks are really fantastic at teaching grammar, they do not give you the two most important things for learning a new language, practice and decent vocabulary. Oh, and more practice.

So, off I trotted. The intensive classes are 4 hours a day, every week day, from 10am to 1:30pm. No English is spoken during the lessons, and there are a number of after school activities that you can sign up for if you have the time. The course is, as it says on the tin, intensive. On day one I was convinced that I was in the wrong class and asked to be brought down a class. The teachers refused saying I was good enough for the level I was in (basic 1b) and, as the week went on, I started to agree with them. On day 2 I was less confused, day 3 I started to understand a lot, day 4 I understood everything and by day 5 I felt we were going too slowly! My Spanish improved so much during the week that I signed up for a second week. In fact, on Friday when Ian and I went wine tasting, not only was I confident enough to conduct whole conversations in Spanish, I understood an awful lot that the Spanish speaking somellier was telling us (although not enough to translate confidently for Ian!). This week I was promoted to basic 2a, for which I was proud.

If you’re coming to Startup Chile and you want to learn Spanish I suggest that you do so within your first month. For all the progress that I have been making in my Spanish, I have been struggling to get everything that needs to be done for Tiny Ears completed within the remaining time. Intensive language courses are exhausting, and trying to do an 8 hour work day after a 4 hour Spanish class is enough to wreck anyone’s head. Within the first month, while you are still getting your feet under you, is I think the best time for this. Once you settle in to your projects it becomes a lot harder to fit the Spanish classes in, and this week I have been finding it more difficult to concentrate on the classes knowing that there is so much work left to do.

But I am also getting a lot out of being able to speak Spanish. I am making some friends with some of the Spanish students and I am far less stressed when we have to take a taxi, eat in a restaurant, go shopping or basically do anything that involves interaction with non-English speakers. And believe me, not many Chileans speak English so having some handy Spanish skills is a definite plus.

After this week I will stop the Spanish classes, but I shall be attending the engliSH spaniSH meetUP that runs here every Tuesday evening so I keep practicing my newfound Spanish skills.

Categories: Personal, Startup Chile Tags:

Next Startup Chile Applications Start March 19th 2012

February 9th, 2012 No comments

The next application round for Startup Chile starts on 19th March 2012 and closes April 3rd. Coincidentally I will be back in the UK to attend NSConference, have some meetings with Tiny Ears collaborators Persistent Peril, Mind Orchard and Edable and to attend the wedding of my good friends Dan and Rachel.

I will be free between 22nd and 29th of March. If  anyone reading is in the UK and thinking of applying to Startup Chile and would like to meet and chat during this time about their application, or just to ask some questions about what it’s like out here in Chile, please do email me. I will be based in Mortimer near Reading during NSConference from 19th-21st and could meet in the evenings, otherwise I will be in the Brighton area and would be happy to commute to London or anywhere within easy train ride of Brighton to meet.

Also, if anyone during this time would like me to do a presentation or talk on Startup Chile, and/or Tiny Ears, please also get in touch.

 

Being a Sole Founder is hard

February 6th, 2012 2 comments

Before we arrived in Chile, and in the first few days after getting here, we were told by previous round entrepreneurs not to expect to get much done in our first month here. But there is a plan, I thought. I know exactly what I need to do. Of course I’m going to get loads done in the first month.

Wrong.

There are a number of factors for this. First is the highly stressful situation you live under for the week or two before you leave home to come here. Those two weeks were total write-offs for me, although Ian and Kyran managed to get a lot done. For them it was easier I think as they had a deadline at the end of January that they had to meet, therefore no matter how crazy, busy and stressful it got, they had to work. For me, however, there were no deadlines set so soon after arrival and so I became consumed by the process of visa obtaining, flat rental, car selling, packing and moving out of our flat. That’s OK I thought. There will be lots of stress-free time after we arrive for me to get on with some work.

Wrong

The first 5 days were simply spent reacclimatising, getting over the stress of the previous 2 weeks and getting our bearings in Santiago. The next week was a whirlwind of induction activities and social & networking opportunities. The week after there were a number of activities to get involved in and I spent a lot of time trying to get over my feeling of helplessness by teaching myself Spanish. Last week, was picking up Chilean ID’s, arranging meetings and RVA activities (I co-organised my first Girls in Tech Chile last week), networking, opening bank accounts and trying to get hold of a Chilean mobile data plan.

And before I knew it, 1 month is coming up. We will have been here for 4 weeks in 2 days time and that thought frightens me. Our time here suddenly feels perilously short and there is such a lot to do. To say that I have been wasting my time here would be wrong. I have been dealing with Universidad de Chile sorting out our Speech Recognition systems. I’ve been trying to get hold of the right person in CORFO to talk to about grant applications for the university. I’ve been coordinating my disparate team of fellow Tiny Ears collaborators and coming up with a plan of action from here. I’ve been reading an enormous tome dedicated to speech processing and a number of associated research papers. I have been reading and teaching myself the iPad game development & animation skills that I will need to develop the project. But in comparison with the productivity that I would have achieved had I not been here it’s not enough.

That is not to say that being here is worse than being back home. Not a chance. It just takes time to get used to being here, to fit yourself into a new routine and a new way of life. Those that I have seen making this transition well have been those with teams larger than one. They are able to help focus one another and they seemed to have created their new routines much quicker. Us sole founders with no local team members seem to be finding it a lot harder not to be cast adrift on the change of environment and the wealth of new opportunities.

I am now starting to gather a routine together. I wake in the morning, go for a run, have breakfast and then either set up work at home or make my way into town to CMI for the day. I am starting work at around 11am daily. The morning is spent catching up on correspondence and doing admin. Lunch is around 2pm. The afternoon is spent either programming, learning, reading or designing depending on needs. Come 6pm I stop do my hours Spanish learning then I pick it back up and work through until around 8 or 9. Dinner is between 9 & 10 normally and then I try and relax for the rest of the evening.

This routine is easily disrupted however. When at CMI there are people and meetings and chats to get involved in. There are events in the evening that start between 7 & 8, and the city is so large that it can take over an hour to get somewhere. I am having to learn to be far stricter with myself during the working day than I used to be. However, the meetings chats and people are often of incredible value. Tiny Ears is being presented as an example of a disruptive education technology this Thursday at an event down in Concepción. Sadly this is a little too far to go just for an evening, but it good that we’re getting some coverage already. Tomorrow I am being interviewed by the BBC (as are a number of other high tech and AI based startups) and I have made friends with some very well connected people who are eager to help however they can.

This afternoon is the first meeting of a new group of entrepreneurs who are meeting to discuss the particular problems around being a sole founder. I am hoping that from within this group I will find support, tips and advice about how to deal with the loneliness and lack of support that you get as a sole founder. If you have any advice about being a sole founder then I will gratefully receive it. I will keep you posted on how it goes.