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Start-up alliance supports local tech entrepreneurs

An alliance between the regional government and BHP’s Escondida operation is looking to transform the Chilean region of Antofagasta into a hub of technological entrepreneurship on a national scale.

Although Antofagasta is not a recognised start-up ecosystem, it does have a large, world-class mining sector and other developing industries such as renewable energies. These sectors demand solutions to emerging and complex challenges, but with no specialised start-up support infrastructure available in Antofagasta, companies have been seeking technological alternatives elsewhere. 

This start-up alliance strengthens the dynamic entrepreneurship ecosystem in Antofagasta and gives the local community an opportunity to develop the sophisticated technological services required to meet the needs of the industry.   

It also aligns with a key BHP social investment priority, encouraging more people from the community to participate in productive business activities to improve their livelihoods.  

Escondida has supported entrepreneurship in the local community for several years through programs such as ‘AntofaEmprende’ and the ‘USQAI’ university innovation laboratory.  

In 2020, following an announcement by the Regional Government of Antofagasta of their plans to establish a start-up accelerator (providing training only), BHP came on board with funding for seed investment.  

The alliance was formalised in December 2020, creating a business accelerator and seed investment fund. It’s designed to position Antofagasta as a diverse and inclusive innovation ecosystem, facilitating connection between entrepreneurs, large companies, local suppliers, investors, government and civil society organisations.  

The project is financed through a public-private model. It’s a new initiative for Chile at the national level and has two components:  

  • Accelerator program: offers a selective scouting model and provides entrepreneurs with personalised services, access to a network of experts and benefits.  
  • BHP seed investment fund: seed capital provided to all start-ups selected in the acceleration program through a Donor-Advised Fund to be executed by Fundación Chile.  

    To date, two calls have gone out, with nine start-ups selected in the first round. More than USD$150,000 was invested in the first-generation start-ups. 

    In the second round, 78 start-ups applied from the Antofagasta region, throughout Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia and Peru. The project expects to invest over USD$300,000 with the winners of the second round.