31st July, 2013 – That is the date I’m supposed to report at Moneda 921, Santiago, Chile, to start my seven months program at Start-Up Chile, a world renowned Start-Up Accelerator. 1577 companies from 68 countries applied and only 100 were selected. The program comes with 40,000 USD (24 Lakhs INR) equity free funding, a capital that we very much needed.
Today, 30th July, 2013 – I’m sitting in my room. In Mumbai. India.
No, I’m not taking a super fast direct flight to Santiago from Mumbai tonight. All trips require at least three layovers, with around 25-38 hours flight duration.
Yes, you must be aware of all the things I did the past two months running from pillar to post, getting all my papers, identifications, passports, police clearances, medical checkups, Visa, travel insurance etc in order. I even went for dental checkups, had a molar extracted, had another molar root canalling, in case I get a toothache in Chile as it’s expensive over there. Bought new clothes, new sets of disposable contact lenses, new glasses etc etc.
I even posted this photo from Delhi right after I got my Chilean Visa approved, dressed in my traditional Mizo clothes, all set and ready to spread some Mizo love in Chile.
But once I got back to Mumbai, a few developments came up and after a long talk with our Co-Founder Sumeet and the director of our company Sidharth, we finally decided that it would be in our company’s best interest if I don’t go!
So… yeah, with a heavy heart, I sent them a mail announcing my withdrawal from the prestigious Start-Up Accelerator program.
Before you judge me or lecture me or anything, here are a few reasons on why we decided to withdraw. I’m making them as short and concise as possible:
1. We have decided to allocate some of our funds on R&D as this is of utmost importance in an ever-developing industry and platform as ours. Apart from that my Co-Founder and I need to focus our time and energy here in India looking for more investors, which is a common issue faced by most Start-Ups.
2. We are not a 2-3 people Start Up. We have already employed 15 people across two cities, and as Co-Founders, we need to keep their welfare above ours. Of course I would LOVE to be in Chile and network with other awesome entrepreneurs and gain from their experience (and also visit the beautiful Andes and drink Pisco among other things), but I cannot just leave my responsibilities and employees back home hanging and probably facing a setback in the next few months while I’m rocking the scene down there.
3. Start-Up Chile does not sponsor our employees working back here in India, as it gives provision for local Chilean employees (contractors) only, or if our people are based in Chile (but there's a limit). And even if Start-Up Chile does reimburse the operational running cost of my team in India, the reimbursement model does not work in our favor because the money comes only after 3-4 months. We do not have the luxury of time.
4. The initial amount of capital I’ll have to take with me to Chile (around 4,00,000 INR since it takes time for reimbursement to come) including flight tickets which now cost a whopping 2.5-3 Lakhs one-way, was also a bit of a problem. Already having spent so much the past two months getting my papers, passport and visa in order (not to mention flying across 11 sectors!), I now have no other option but to take a loan, and personal loans are not approved if the company we’re working at is less than a year old. We are just 6 months old. This is not a very big problem as there are always ways to get that amount, but the point is, even if I do get that amount, we'd rather spend that 7 Lakhs right now on R&D and other verticals we're currently exploring rather than have it reimbursed 4 months from now.
5. Another nagging thought was the time difference. Like I said, we're a 10+ team, so it is obvious some will have to be in Chile while others remain in India. We looked at the amount of time we can actually work together at the same time, and that window is too small. Suppose both groups work from 9:30 AM to 10:30 PM everyday, then we can all be online together for just 3 and a half hours in a day. This
Hence, having discussed all this with our Co-Founder and the director of our company, and considering the current scenario, we finally decided that it would be in our best interest if we withdraw from participating in the 7th batch of Startup Chile.
Of course I sincerely regret all the opportunities I will be missing, and I am very much aware that this will haunt me for the rest of my life, but the timing is just not right for now. If only we were able to maintain a steady cash flow for the next few months, then I would have taken the first flight to Santiago. As Romeo laments, “I am fortune’s fool”.
Lesson learnt. And maybe this is a good thing. After all, what is a Start Up that doesn't make any mistake? :) Start-Up Chile works best if you’re a one man, two men, three men Start-Up venture. Or if you employ a large number of people and their financial situation back home is stable for the entire duration of your stay in Chile. We've come to learn that the hard way, having wasted so much time and money chasing paperwork.
But hey, let’s be positive here. I now have a valid passport, a valid driver’s license, a valid Electoral ID card and a valid Residential Certificate because of what I was doing the past two months, and if another opportunity like this arises, I don’t have to go through any more bureaucratic red-tape nightmare.
And let’s not forget the fact that we were selected for a world renowned accelerator program! That in itself says a lot about us. Maybe we’ll apply for other Start-Up accelerators that is more economically feasible to us. The future still looks bright for us.
And hey, I can still go to Chile anytime for the next 365 days as the duration of my visa is one year. A vacation would definitely do me good, maybe sometime in December? :P Who's with me? :)
Cheers. Here’s to the Pisco (Chilean brandy cocktail) that I will now not get to drink :(