Tips on applying to Start-Up Chile

Got this question from a reader (sup Andrew!) about advice for getting into Start-Up Chile:[blockquote]So basically I was just wondering if you have any tips for us to improve our chances of getting in. My co-founder and I just decided we were going to do this about a month ago, so we're scrambling now to build an MVP and get some form of validation.My question is - do most companies that get in already have some form of users/customers? With the next 6 weeks or so that we have, should my co-founder and I focus more on building the MVP or getting some type of validation? We're both software engineers and we're building a software product.[/blockquote]First, some background.Start-Up Chile is a startup incubator run by the government of Chile. It’s a six-month program that comes with $40,000 in equity free funding, and each batch takes around 100 startups.Mike and I went through Start-Up Chile with our first app SimpleCrew in 2013, and had an absolute blast doing it.I've written another extensive post with general advice on getting into Start-Up Chile in a guest post on Hack The System a couple years ago, but here’s my answers to these particular questions:

Do most companies that get in already have some form of users/customers?

Disclaimer: times have changed. It’s been years, there’s new leadership now, the program has been around longer, and I’m sure more people apply. I’m sure the standards have changed.That said: no. Most companies in our genration didn’t have a live product, let alone users or customers.When we applied in the Fall of 2012, we didn’t have any customers yet, nor really even a product to show.So it’s not entirely necessary, but, obviously, don’t let that stop you from working as hard as you can to get as much traction as possible. Can’t go wrong with hustling as hard as you can.

Should my co-founder and I focus more on building the MVP or getting some type of validation?

Both.I love the adage that all startups need to focus on only two things: building and selling. Everything else is secondary.Your question evoked both: building the MVP is building, and “some type of validation” is the lead-up to selling. Both are important and are weighed equally in the application, according to Start-Up Chile’s FAQ.Since you’re both technical, I’d recommendd building the MVP as quickly as possible, but assign one person to just take some time from their day each day to talk with customers and validate as much as possible as quickly as possible.In our case, since Mike was the only technical team member, he was clearly assigned to product, and my job was to get validation before we had a product, and sell the product once we had one.Validation can be simple enough: just build mock ups of the product, show it to customers, and ask them questions to gauge their impressions. If their impressions are good enough, take presales.This is exactly what we did with CrewFire. We designed the first UI in 5 hours and sold $10,000 worth of presales months before launching.This kind of validation is easy if you are truly buildling something people want. And if you are, Start-Up Chile will pay attention.

General Tips

Have something to show.This alone will separate you from the legions of hopefuls applying to the program.Going back to the adage of buildling and selling: for buildling, show an MVP. Show something. Prove that you’re actually capable of building software, and you’ll put yourself ahead of a lot of the other applicants.For selling, show validation. Presales. Customer interviews. Anything. To do this, before we a had a product, I shared a link to a blog where I had posted about a dozen customer interviews validating the pain SimpleCrew would address.Not only did that show that there’d be a market for our product - it also showed that we were actually taking the initiative to go out and talk to customers. A good sign. You can show the same.Sell them on your strenghts, according to what they want to seeHere’s the Start-Up Chile FAQ, where they break down what they’re looking for: to the FAQ, SUP judges applicants based on these criteria:

  • Team = 50%
  • Product = 25%
  • Market = 25%

So speak to those strengths. Really sell yourselves as founders, and then have something to show for both product (building) and market (selling). Show an MVP and show validation.Do those things, and you’ll not only be in a good place to apply to Start-Up Chile, you’ll be laying a strong foundation for your startup to succeed independent of any accelerator program.

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