The entrepreneurship competition Common Pitch Chile launched into full swing Thursday with an address by Former U.S. Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Al Gore, who championed environmentally and socially sound business.
“All that we need is the will to succeed and the will to succeed is a renewable resource,” he said.
Gore told a crowd of several hundred mostly 20- to 30-year-old entrepreneurs about broadening the definition of success to include sustainability during his 14-hour stint in Chile. He encouraged responsible entrepreneurship, one of the core tenets of international branding company Common. The organization partnered up with the government program Start-Up Chile for “three incredible days of innovation, entrepreneurship and fun that will blow your mind,” as described on their website. Common whittled 404 applications from around the world down to eight finalists based on excellence in two categories: sustainability and innovation.
“We have to realign markets, business and capitalism with the real world, with what people are doing in their lives. Social entrepreneurship is part of the solution for that challenge,” said Gore.
The current definition of success, according to Gore, hops over a low bar. Despite income inequality and environmental collateral damage, a growing bottom line “still qualifies as a wonderful outcome,” he said.
“That’s crazy,” Gore said. “It has to be changed. We have to include the values that are important to us. That’s part of what social entrepreneurs do.”
“Don’t steal from the future. When you pursue values in the present don’t do it in a way that diminishes the prospects that others will be able to do,” he said. “We also have problems with ‘short termism.’ When businesses look at the next 90 days, instead of the next few years, they make decisions to get a quick profit often at the expense at building up value for the employees, the shareholders, and the communities where they operate.”
His speech dove into his environmental main squeeze, global warming. He also touched on the wealth gap and the scarcity of natural resources.
Before Gore, legendary Latin American rocker from Soda Stereo, Charly Alberti, took the stage to ask Latin America to do what they do best and “start a revolution, but this time make it green.”
- The competition -
Santiago is the first city in Latin America to play host to Common Pitch. Part of Santiago’s draw was generated by Start-Up Chile, a government program that entices internationally minded entrepreneurs to bootstrap their businesses in Chile using a US$40,000 credit. Two of the eight finalists in the Common Pitch Competition come from Start-Up Chile.
On Saturday, the finalists will battle for 17 million Chilean pesos (US$35,500), armed with five-minute pitches in front of a panel of seven judges.
One of the Start-Up Chile finalists, Benjamin Cohen, co-founded a company that lays down removable water pipelines with a helicopter called Tohl. He originally came to Chile with improving his Spanish as a goal; now he’ll be giving a high-pressure bilingual presentation.
“I am opening up in Spanish, then switching to English part way through to make sure that I communicate our business model clearly,” he told the Santiago Times. The pitch on Saturday “will be pretty relaxed. I am keeping it simple.”
Cohen said Gore’s speech was “inspirational, due to the fact that our business precisely aligns with the ideals that he spoke of.”
The former vice president mentioned Tohl in his speech.
“One of the entrepreneurs that I learned about here is working on water distribution in communities and regions that have a great challenge in getting sufficient supplies of fresh water,” said Gore. “The entrepreneurship side of social entrepreneurship means that you want to pursue a for-profit model, most of you, in order to make sure that the organizations that you’re building are sustainable.
- Start-Up Chile demo day -
Thursday’s earlier events included Start-Up Chile’s demo day where 20 startups pitched for three minutes about their businesses. Throughout the day, entrepreneurial titans like David Nicolas, founder and CEO of a well-known startup accelerator called Tech Starter, discussed how to turn an idea into a successful business.
"There should be many leaders, not one,” he said. “Startup communities need to be networks, not hierarchies.”
After months of preparing, Agustina Sartori, a 25-year-old from Uruguay, pitched “AdviceMe Cosmetics” as one of the 20 startups featured in the demo on Thursday.
“The most important thing I get from Start-Up Chile and these events is networking,” Sartori told The Santiago Times. “There’s a lot of people from a lot of countries. For every country you can imagine, there’s an entrepreneur here. I think you generate contacts for the rest of your life.”
Other entrepreneurs didn’t find their footing so easily.
“It can be quite cliquey,” said James Fulbrook, a 27-year old from England. “I think you need to have a step into that social circle.”
Fulbrook won a spot in same round as Satori with “Only Bloody Human,” an interactive video process that allows users to steer how a video story plays out.
He trekked over to Parque Bicentenario to hear Gore’s advice.
“I want to say to all of you that are part of this process, good luck. I wish you the best success possible. If you don’t emerge as one of the designated winners in the competition, remember that one of the secrets to success in entrepreneurship is to see any kind of setback or failure as an unparalleled opportunity to learn,” said Gore.
via The Santiago Times