Schools lead Chile into a bright future


I’m impressed. As a statistician, I realize that schools who agree to pilot new educational software are exceptional, but based on these exceptional  schools I’ve visited, Chile has a bright future. 

I’m not one of those Americans who go to another country and immediately start bashing it because it’s different.  I like Chile and there are many good things about it, I’ve written about in The Start-up Diaries, like how ‘chill’ Chileans are. However, “Chilecon Valley” is a new concept. It’s being helped by Startup Chile, of course, but still, when students are thinking of what they want to do for a career, they’re much more likely to think of going to work for a big company than starting a company that grows to be big.

If you want students to lead a new economy, you need to expose them to entrepreneurs

For the last few months we have been working with teachers and students from Juan Pablo II in Santiago and from nine micro-schools (think one-room schoolhouse) in Tomé. They’ve given us their feedback on existing games, like Making Camp Bilingual, as well as new, Spanish language games under development, like Siglo de Cambio. For the next few months, while Chilean schools are on summer break (yes, it’s almost summer here), we’ll be implementing their suggestions.

It’s important to see how products develop

One reason this is super important is that when most people start a new product or company, they are comparing their first draft with other people’s finished product. Your first draft is going to look something like the picture on the left, or even worse. The first draft of Fish Lake was made by me with my grandchildren’s colored markers. If you don’t grow up in an environment that encourages start-ups, it’s easy to believe that since your first draft isn’t very good and no one wants to invest in you, that you probably shouldn’t be in business

That’s why I’m really excited to work with pilot schools. Their students get to see a product while it’s being developed. They see how something progresses from a beta version to a bigger, better product. Our CEO, Maria Burns Ortiz, likes to quote (I think it was Michelle Obama)

Meeting with staff at Juan Pablo II
With the staff at Juan Pablo II

“If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.”

We’ve worked with schools in the U.S. that have magnet programs for entrepreneurship and seeing these starts of initiatives in Chile is pretty impressive. Our friends at Silabuz are running hackathons with dozens of students, and we’ve been able to have our games tested there as well.

When we think of start-ups, there’s a tendency to think of Silicon Valley, maybe Europe or Asia. Not a lot of people connect the idea of start-ups and Latin America. That’s changing and it’s starting in the schools.

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