Start-up Chile, a government initiative that recruits foreign entrepreneurs to establish early stage companies within the country, has been internationally recognized for its success in fueling Chile’s economic development. But the government’s plan may be missing a key element—education.
Start-up Chile offers winning applicants up to $90,000 USD to launch their ventures. Unlike most sources of venture funding, Start-up Chile does not take a stake of equity in portfolio companies. The program only requires funding recipients to relocate their business to Chile for a period of six months.
By attracting top tech talent and providing a favorable business climate, Chile has begun its journey to becoming a tech hub. Business Insider even crowned the country’s Metropolitan region, ‘Chilecon Valley’ in 2012.
But there is a dark side. The program is importing brains, instead of cultivating their own workforce. This is arguably the point of Start-up Chile—they want to recruit top talent to work in their country. But shouldn’t they also have a plan for growing the Chilean workforce? Although the program has been successful in recruiting foreign entrepreneurs, it has focused relatively little effort on developing local talent.
How can early education expand upon the early success of Start-up Chile?
If the Chilean government is serious about creating a sustainable technology sector in Chile, they may want to consider focusing more resources on early education.
The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), which studies the effect of innovation on 73 economies, identifies education as one of nine critical Entrepreneurial Framework Conditions (EFCs) necessary for thriving, innovation-driven economies. In the 2015-2016 National Experts Survey conducted by GEM, Chile’s lowest score (2.37 out of 9) across all EFCs was in education, specifically in primary and secondary schools.
Early education could be an easy win. In Chile, job opportunity is largely determined by the high school you attended. It is not uncommon for Chileans to inquire which high school you graduated from. But despite the important role of early education in career attainment, Start-up Chile lacks a plan for Chile’s high schools.