CHILE REPRESENTS JUST A FRACTION OF THE Latin America Internet market with 200,000 users out of a population of 15 million.
Conservative top-heavy companies and government red tape have hindered the Internet revolution here.
Yet Chile boasts a reliable telecommunications infrastructure--it was the first South American country to privatize its phone company. The country offers fiber optic access in 15 days and a call to the United States costs just US$0.12 a minute. Moreover, thanks to the University of Chile, there are hordes of highly qualified engineers.
"If you need to try out a business model you can do it in Chile, then export it for a fraction of the price," claims Cedric Naintre of Information Technology Consultants (www.itcventures.com), a Santiago-based venture capital firm that specializes in financing Internet start-ups. Naintre, the ex-Chile manager for StarMedia Network, says, "For every dollar you spend in Chile, you would need $16 in Brazil to run the same test."
And it may be about to get cheaper. Daniela Weinstein, general manager of CyberCenter, a Santiago-based company specializing in web page services, predicts Internet access in Chile will soon be free.
The Entertaining Carpet King. Jorge Arancibia went from cleaning carpets to cleaning upon the Internet in 1997 when the 30-year-old used personal savings and family loans to start an online Santiago entertainment guide.
Some questioned his business judgment--and the need for a site to highlight the Santiago nightlife. "Everyone said there was nothing going on here," he says.
It initially appeared that he had made a mistake, giving up a thriving business for a cyber dream. "As a start-up company, you never know how far you can go," he says. "And when you invest your paycheck month after month, it's difficult."
He looked to U.S. Internet success stories for inspiration. "We kept seeing signs in the U.S. that we were on the right track. That's the only reason we never gave up."
Instead, he forged ahead with two more sites--open chile and openchat.cl--and...