Chilean state development agency Corfo will seek to add 300 new entrepreneurs to its Start-Up Chile program in 2012, Corfo's executive VP, Hernán Cheyre, told BNamericas.
The program started in 2010, providing foreign entrepreneurs a one-year work visa and a US$40,000 grant to come and launch a business in the country. To date more than 200 have participated in the program, and the goal is to have 1,000 by 2014.
Cheyre was speaking on the sidelines of the launch of Corfo' new image for 2012, a year which the development agency says will be "the year of entrepreneurship."
The executive said technology is playing a fundamental role in the new startup projects, which is showing that Chile's economy has the potential to rely not only on natural resources, but also to be a provider of services.
Corfo's goal for 2012 in general - not only through Start-Up Chile - is to help 10,000 business ideas flourish, with a particular focus on SMEs in the early stages of development. The plan also focuses on regions outside capital Santiago - where new companies can provide a valuable source of employment.
"We want to improve the competitiveness of existing SMEs in their respective markets. It's going to be a difficult year due to the international economic crisis, which will impact our country in some way. That's why it is essential to help people to innovate," Cheyre said.
Corfo provides guarantees to banks, which in turn provide loans to companies that work under the agency's program. In 2011, the goal was to provide 18,000 guarantees and a total of 50,000 were granted for loans totaling US$2bn. For 2012 the goal is to grant 60,000 guarantees.