The ‘New America’ is catching up to the ‘Old America’

May 10, 2011
Santiago, Chile

I call Chile the new America, and if you’re looking for a place where you can be expected to take care of yourself, where you are responsible for your own successes and failures, and where the government stays out of your business, this is your place.

One of the things that I enjoy so much about Chile is its growing business culture, and how hungry the government is to compete for productive people… regardless of where they come from.

But yesterday in the Huffington Post, there was an article that captured something that I haven’t read yet anywhere else in the mainstream press, and I was surprised to see it: Chile is actually beginning to challenge the United States as a favored entrepreneurial destination.

Many Americans are shunning their homeland and hopping a plane for Santiago where the comparisons to California not only apply to the fantastic weather, gorgeous landscape, and mellow people, but also to Silicon Valley’s savvy tech startup culture. Many are starting to call it “Chilecon Valley.”

This isn’t some haphazard, glad-handing photo op for the government to show that they’re doing something about entrepreneurship. President Sebastian Pinera is a self-made billionaire. He understands that the best way to maintain Chile’s economic growth is to create homegrown companies capable of producing the next big thing.

The government recently launched a program called Startup-Chile, which provides $40,000 in working capital to entrepreneurs and a host of other incentives like residency and work permits for foreign labor. There are many success stories from this program already, and this is no small feat.

You see, a culture that embraces entrepreneurialism is a culture that accepts failure. The two go hand in hand. No successful businessman has a perfect track record… in fact, most have a record of terrible failures. I certainly do, and I’ve learned more from my failures (both investment and business) than any success.

Yet in many of the machismo cultures across Latin America, commercial failure is regarded as a matter of dishonor. If one fails at business, he has embarrassed himself, his family, and his teachers. For this reason, most people just avoid the prospect of starting their own business, it’s not worth the risk of humiliation.

This risk averse mentality has slowly begun to change in Chile, and they’ve done it in part by infusing society with foreigners who have the experience and personal anecdotes to say, ‘Hey, it’s OK to fail…’

University programs now abound with business and entrepreneurial programs talking about the benefits and lessons learned in failure. You even see advertisements on buses now encouraging people to turn their ideas into reality.

Meanwhile, the government has been rolling out the red carpet for foreign entrepreneurs with the idea that local Chileans will be able to learn from their technical expertise and business experience.

Foreigners are all too eager to come. It’s becoming more and more of a burden to be a productive citizen in the United States with so much government regulation being passed and pending that is absolutely crippling to startups.

The next Google, whether it’s in the green energy, biotech, or agriculture space, needs the opportunity to flourish in an environment that’s rich on talent, incentives, and cost effective infrastructure, and low on burdensome regulatory and administrative hurdles.

More and more, Chile is fulfilling this role better than the United States.

About the author

James Hickman (aka Simon Black) is an international investor, entrepreneur, and founder of Sovereign Man. His free daily e-letter Notes from the Field is about using the experiences from his life and travels to help you achieve more freedom, make more money, keep more of it, and protect it all from bankrupt governments.

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