Silicon Valley was and is a great thing, we admit–which is why Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera has announced that Santiago will soon have a Silicon Valley of its own. A successful entrepreneur himself, President Sebastian Pinera wants to bring foreign entrepreneurs into Chile to work with top-notch local talent in order to infuse the local economy with a startup culture and offer several advantages to the outsiders, namely startup capital. But such an initiative makes me wonder: If a country is trying to innovate, why would they import both the practices, people, and outright branding –“Silicon Valley”– to their shores, rather than envision a thriving startup ecosystem of their own?
The idea of the startup incubator has taken off around the world, from Kenya to all over Asia. The idea is good and works especially well, according to infoDev, when the incubator is closely tied-in to the local community and local support networks like a University. So it’s interesting to note that Chile’s approach is actually the opposite–to import foreign people and expertise and mix them in with the locals. President Sebastian Pinera may have a very difficult time, especially if the foreigners are seen by locals as the real experts and if they end up staying in the country running their businesses themselves. Then there’s no real transfer of skills, entrepreneurial inclination, or startup knowledge, is there?