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Stories from the international community at Start-Up Chile

January 29, 2013

We are almost at the halfway mark in the Start-Up Chile program. I thought I’d take this opportunity to share with you the stories of other entrepreneurs from around the world who have come to Chile for six months to build their startups. Stay tuned next month to hear from a few more startups.

Razient

Gary Bahadur from the United States is the founder of Razient. Photo by Peter Newhook.

Please introduce yourself and tell me where you are from.

My name is Gary Bahadur and I am most recently from San Francisco, but I’ve bounced around spending some time in both Miami and New York City.

Tell me a bit about your company.

Our company, Razient, is all about disaster tracking. We are tracking global disasters and applying information to supply chains, initially. We track global bombings, floods, fires and power outages, and if you are a large organization and you’ve got thousands of factories and offices around the world, we can automatically geo-locate them and the problem to help you manage your risk better.

From my experience in helping particular companies, we thought this would be a great way to launch a new service and a new product in an industry that does not have very good tools for disaster tracking and mitigation.

What can you tell me about the startup community where you are from? How does it compare to the community here in Chile?

In Miami, where I was for a of couple of years, there’s a growing startup community and some new programs along the lines of Start-Up Chile. The government is helping out where they can, but the community itself is doing most of the legwork in building themselves up, sort of like Silicon Valley in the ’80s and ’90s.

When I was in San Jose, it was obvious to me that it’s the heart of startups, and the community there is really great and mature. What I like about San Jose is that there are so many events every single day. You can learn and connect, just like at Start-Up Chile. There are a lot of great events here, you get to meet new entrepreneurs, learn more about the environment and hopefully make connections.

What is the most important or surprising thing you’ve learned here at Start-Up Chile?

It’s not really surprising, but the entrepreneurs I’ve met here are very helpful. Say you’ve got a problem or a question, you throw it out to the community and you are likely to get a pretty good answer—and that is a good thing. That is the flavour that you get out of the West Coast as well. People are very helpful. They’re not thinking about competition. They’re not thinking: “Are we going to go after the same thing?” They just want to help you out, which is great. 

Knowrom

Anushka Fernando-Goonetilleke and Chaminda Goonetilleke are from Sri Lanka and are co-founders are Knowrom. Photo by Peter Newhook.

Introduce yourselves and tell me where you are from. 

My name is Anushka Fernando-Goonetilleke and I’m an entrepreneur from Colombo, Sri Lanka. My background is in education and social sciences.

My name is Chaminda Goonetilleke and my background is in medicine. After my studies in India I went back to Sri Lanka and worked at a public hospital. Then, I married Anushka and we started Knowrom.

Tell me a bit about your company.

It is an online platform for students to share information on universities—reviews, photos or videos, or even events and educational materials. The first three features are meant to provide potential students with an inside view of the university and also to help students familiarize themselves with the university they’ve decided on.

Events and educational materials are important for students to exchange, so we thought that if someone finds a link, an article, a blog post, or any material that is useful for their studies, we would create a database for students to access it.

What can you tell me about the startup community in Sri Lanka? 

It exists, but isn’t very advanced or developed. However, it’s beginning to gain momentum and expand. From what we understand it is mostly for people with technical skills.

I would say the education system has something to contribute as well. In our education system we are just trained to be doctors, lawyers or engineers. We are not taught to think as entrepreneurs and come up with new ideas.

What is the most important or surprising thing you have learned here at Start-Up Chile?

When we came here, we had an idea that both of us were very convinced about because we had studied abroad and felt the need for this type of information. But after we came here and started telling other people about our idea, everyone had an opinion.

We did not realize that we were actually moving away from our initial idea and trying to shape it based on what other people were saying until it came to a point where we felt like we didn’t even know how to proceed because it almost wasn’t our own idea any more. In the end, we decided to run with our original concept. 

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