Just a little over two years ago, in February of 2010, an 8.8 magnitude earthquake struck central Chile, approximately 100 kilometers north of the city of Concepción. I remember seeing the news reports on TV, and being awed and shocked by images of the devastation, death, and destruction that the earthquake had caused.
These were the same images I carried with me when recently I took the 6-hour Tour Bus ride from capital city Santiago to one of the communes most affected by the calamity two years ago.
The global grassroots movement first landed in Chile by way of Santiago, and as it headed south, seeking to expand its regional reach across Latin America, we were excited by the thought of taking part as mentors as people who were in a position to empower local entrepreneurs and help them break into the rapidly growing Chilean entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Startup Weekend Concepción, which was organized by Acid Labs and held August 31 to September 2 at the School of Design at Duoc UC, brought together over 100 attendees (divided into 12 teams) for 54 hours of sharing ideas, forming teams, building products, making pitches, launching startups, and generally being awesome.
“It is important for the region to have this kind of event,” said Angelo Garay, director of the Industrial Design Program at Duoc UC. “The university is happy to lead the process of entrepreneurship and innovation and invite the entire community to create new products and services.”
The event also gathered the support of a network of mentors from CORFO and Innova Bio Bio, represented by executives, businessmen, and thought leaders volunteering to provide valuable feedback and help the early-stage, high-potential entrepreneur attendees turn their startup ideas into viable businesses.
I, meanwhile, was part of a team of mentors from the US, Argentina, Brazil, and the Philippines. David Burt, who sat with me on the bus and is also the co-founder of event management startup EventRay, relished the opportunity to mentor entrepreneurs at Startup Weekend Concepción.
“It was an amazing event,” he said. “It felt great to give back to the startup community, especially after having participated in Startup Weekend Jacksonville. It felt great to be on the other side and help young entrepreneurs understand what it takes to begin and launch a startup.”
Added Lucia Radeljak, another mentor and co-founder of interior design startup DecoSnap. “SW Concepción was a very enriching experience. There were many good projects, the attendees were so eager to learn, and I had such a great time.”
“I didn’t know what to expect, but once I started talking to one of the teams it was great to see their ideas evolve,” said Carlos Solorio, co-founder of menswear fashion startup Arden Reed. “I added my expertise where I could and by the end of it they had developed a strong operational backbone for their startup.”
The event itself was extremely well-organized, and had a friendly, festive, distinctly Chilean atmosphere (empanadas and mechados, anyone?). And just as it had been in previous Startup Weekends I’d attended, SW Concepción proved to be a transformative experience not just for all the attendees, but also for myself. Instead of heading back to Santiago that Sunday recalling again the tragic images from Concepción two years ago, I rode the bus carrying this new vision of the city, its community recovered from destruction and today celebrating the spirit of creation and innovation.