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Helping young Chilean entrepreneurs to thrive in a digital age

written by Javiera Araneda de la Sotta, Acción Emprendedora

Acción Emprendedora was formally established in Santiago, Chile in 2002. Since then, we have been supporting underserved entrepreneurs locally and nationally with entrepreneurship training, mentoring and financial advice. Our mission is to “be at the service of vulnerable entrepreneurs, to contribute to the economic development of Chile, thus overcoming poverty”. Our vision is that every entrepreneur in Chile has the same opportunities. We became a member of the YBI network in 2015 through YBI’s Youth Entrepreneurship Program (YEP) in Latin America and the Caribbean — a regional programme covering 11 countries with the aim of supporting 64,000 vulnerable youth to start or grow their own businesses. The YEP was launched in 2013 and is supported by the Multilateral Investment Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank.

Entrepreneurial training, the biggest challenge in entrepreneurship support

Making up more than 40% of the unemployed population in Latin America, youth unemployment has remained a huge problem for the region over the past few years. Moreover, with an unemployment rate of 14%, young people are more than twice as likely than adults to be unemployed. In this context, one of the biggest barriers faced by youth not only in Chile, but in all of Latin America is the lack of access to enterprise and entrepreneurship training in both formal and informal settings. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Chile 2016, 89% of Chilean experts believe that creativity, self-sufficiency and personal initiative are key to stimulating entrepreneurial activity.

With the absence of a structured entrepreneurship training curriculum in schools, it comes as no surprise that the average age of entrepreneurs in the initial stage is 39 years old. Even more worrying, the average age of established entrepreneurs rises up to 48 years old. A growing youth population, coupled with rising youth unemployment, is putting greater emphasis on job creation and entrepreneurial behaviour. Innovations in the digital age are reshaping our workplaces and changing how businesses are operated. It is therefore vital for us to equip youth with the skills and mindsets they need in order to thrive.

Adapting to change in today’s marketplace

Our long and rich history of working with and for underserved entrepreneurs forces us to rethink our support model so we can better serve our young entrepreneurs and become the ‘go-to’ place for youth entrepreneurship support in Chile. Each year, we support over 5,000 entrepreneurs to start or grow their businesses, thus changing our communities for the better. Although we are really inspired by the people we support, we believe we can do even more to reach more people and help them realise their entrepreneurial dream. With the help of YBI, we gained relevant experience and acquired tools that allowed us to embark on a digital transformation journey with the aim of providing a range of solutions that cater to the different needs of the entrepreneurs we support. This will allow us to connect entrepreneurs with the support they need whether it’s training, mentoring or access to finance — all just one click away, giving us a greater reach in Chile and Latin America.

Thanks to the YEP programme and the support of the YBI network, we are launching in 2018 a number of online platforms aimed at helping entrepreneurs to develop and help their enterprises grow. This include:

  • BanAcción - a platform that connects entrepreneurs with investors and Microfinance institutions, facilitating the access to funding
  • 2bond - an e-learning platform that brings together the best courses in entrepreneurship training allowing the users to suggest videos and courses using collaboration as a way of growing the community
  • 2ment - a mentor-mentee matching platform. It servers as a meeting point between mentors and mentees, allowing volunteer mentors to view and select their mentees and thus start an eight month mentoring relationship
  • 4funds - an online space which displays public and private funding opportunities to which universities, local governments and other non-profit organisations can apply
  • Becas y oportunidades - allows entrepreneurs to find information on scholarships and opportunities such as funding, events, training amongst others
  • Empleos Locales - allows entrepreneurs to publish their job vacancies, serving as a job platform specifically for SMEs
  • Suppliers - an online platform where consultants come together to share advice in topics relevant for entrepreneurs. Topics include: business planning, business model, pricing strategies, funding, permits and pitching strategies. Each consultant has a public profile that’s being rated based on the value of their advice by the entrepreneurs.

The world as we see it is currently going through a digital revolution, and we need to be in sync with this changing world, especially when working with young entrepreneurs. We hope that by rethinking our digital approach, entrepreneurs from all over Chile and Latin America will be able to benefit from our support, no matter how far away they are.

This way, we can work with entrepreneurs from rural and/or remote parts of Chile, and reach more and more people every day.  

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