In recent weeks we have learned about several cases of Chilean startups that have become true success stories or “quick wins”, managing to obtain international financing to take their operations to another level and, in the process, consolidate the national ecosystem a little more.
The most emblematic of all: Cornershop, a company that managed to become a unicorn when it was acquired by Uber at a valuation of close to three billion dollars, following in the footsteps of the other two Chilean unicorns: Crystal Lagoon, owned by biochemist Fernando Fischmann, and Olex Autos, owned by Ricardo Donoso.
Another case is Notco, a company that will probably become the next national unicorn, or Betterfly, an insurance technology company that managed to raise 60 million dollars from Softbank, one of the largest venture capital funds in the world.
It is possible that there are different factors to attribute to the success of these Chilean startups, where the main one has to do with the passion and desire to solve a need of their creators; but there are also other aspects that are important to recognize, such as the different public policy instruments (Corfo and recently the Ministry of Science and Technology) that have been promoted for more than 10 years and that today are a worldwide reference.
But this success must also be attributed to the training and education of our talent through innovation and entrepreneurship tools, subjects that today are highly demanded by the students themselves and that as a university we have incorporated in the different careers and curricula. Along the same lines, by bringing together the experiences of entrepreneurs in the region and in more mature ecosystems, such as the United States, Israel or South Korea, we have managed to develop a mentality and culture that has managed to permeate in the younger ones, who are not afraid to try more than once, learn from their failures and internationalize their innovations. In our case, we have seen how these innovations, in addition to generating a social impact, have an impact on the quality of life of our compatriots.
Nor should we forget the incipient capacity of venture capital, where investors, together with leverage policies, have dared to bet on national startups. And mentors, those people who have transferred their generosity and experience so that young talents fail faster and cheaper.
In view of what we have seen these weeks, those of us who work for national innovation are confident that this is just the beginning of more success stories and startups, and that companies like Kura Biotech, Justo, Cells for cells, Cumplo, Phage Lab, Colegium, Houm, Poliglota, ODD Industries, Instacrops or Lemontech will be the next generation to “graduate” so that, together with the greater knowledge of investors, we continue to strengthen our innovative ecosystem; This will be key to increase the productivity and competitiveness of our economy, especially in the post Covid stage.
In the last 20 years Chile has had two great waves of startup creation, mainly with a technological focus and with their heads set on regional or global sales. One of them occurred at the end of the last century and at the beginning of this one, due to the dotcom boom. There are few left from that time. Perhaps one of the best known in Chile is Mapcity and at regional level.
The second wave began more timidly, a decade later, with the creation of Start-Up Chile in 2010, a kind of spin-off of Corfo to accelerate companies, which at the beginning summoned ventures from more than 20 countries. This put our country on the map of entrepreneurs around the world and in the eye of international venture capital. The massification and lower prices of technology (apps, cloud computing, telephone networks, etc.) was the best incentive for the launch of hundreds of Chilean startups that began to think beyond borders. In addition, Latin America is beginning to be considered as a fertile and little explored ground for venture capital (VC). Rappi emerges in the region and Mercado Libre grows. In 2019 Softbank sets foot in Latin America with US$5 billion in its pocket.
It is precisely in this decade where some Chilean icons begin to emerge, such as Cornershop or NotCo. Not only are they global, but they are in the sights of giants such as Walmart, Uber or Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon). In recent years, it has become a daily occurrence for Chilean startups operating in several countries to raise Series A, B or other types of investment rounds. In Chile, several funds are emerging and family offices are starting to get excited. More entrepreneurs are taking the plunge, as if the pandemic, the social outbreak or the political and economic issues were just another hurdle to jump. In this breeding ground, last week another local icon appeared: Betterfly. With an announcement on a giant screen in Time Square (New York), the company founded by brothers Eduardo and Cristóbal Della Maggiora received US$60 million in a Series B investment round (the largest amount for a Chilean startup at that stage), valuing it at US$300 million.
In addition to this scenario, this Monday Uber bought the 47% of Cornershop that it did not already own, thus taking 100% of the company. Cornershop, the delivery platform created by two Chileans, Juan Pablo Cuevas and Daniel Undurraga, and the Swede Oskar Hjertonsson, entered the big leagues of Chilean companies this week. The sale of that 47%, for US$1.4 billion, ended up valuing the platform at US$3 billion, which not only makes it the first Chilean unicorn but also one of the local companies with the highest stock market valuation.