By Liz Warren-Pederson
Reko Global Water — part of the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship’s venture class of 2010 — is among 154 startup companies funded by the Chilean government’s Start-Up Chile program, which is designed to help entrepreneurs launch their ventures from Chile.
During the six months the participants must be in Chile — for which they are awarded $40,000 of equity-free seed capital, a one-year work visa, and access to local financial and social networks.
The program is a perfect fit for Reko Global Water (RGW), which identified Chile as a key location from which to launch its mission of identifying water assets and developing eco-friendly technologies that will allow for increased potable water availability in the global market. According to the World Health Organization, 1.1 billion people around the world have no access to clean water.
John Kyndt, research assistant professor with the UA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, is project development manager of Reko. “RGW identified Chile as the first country to develop the business, primarily due to its strategic location on the Pacific Rim and the availability of abundant water,” he said.
By developing ecological filtration technology and securing water assets and export rights, RGW aims to create ready-to-build water operations to be acquired by domestic/multinational corporations.
“This program was ideal for us since we envision RGW as a global entity that is able to establish international connections from a strong entrepreneurial Chilean-centered base,” Kyndt said. “The program is really a stepping stone for us to get our team on the ground in Chile to network with local agencies, build strategic alliances, and identify potential investors for additional start-up funding. The unique design of the program allows us to promote our business through workshops and publications and also educate and mentor local Chilean entrepreneurs.”
Akash Jain (Eller MBA ‘10) and Mauricio Torres-Benavides (Eller MBA ‘10) will represent RGW with Kyndt. Jain will live in Chile for the entire six months of the program, starting in January 2012. While there, he will lead the efforts to incorporate RGW, as well as address the responsibilities associated with the Start-Up Chile program. Torres-Benavides will work on establishing governmental contacts and legal representation in Chile. Kyndt will focus on partnering with premier Chilean universities to further optimize the filtration technology and establish stronger U.S.-Chile academic ties. The RGW team plans an on-site visit to some of the remote areas in Southern Chile where RGW will establish its water harvesting and distribution systems.
The Start-Up Chile program — the catalyst of similar initiatives such as Startup America Partnership, StartUp Britain, and Startup Greece — presents the ideal opportunity for bootstrappers to receive funding without ceding equity, while using one of the strongest Latin American economies as their launching platform. The program received 650 applications during its one-month submission period. RGW joins projects from institutions including Harvard, MIT, Stanford, and the London School of Economics. Start-Up Chile plans to bring 1,000 startups to Chile by 2014.
“We hope to gain from this the required intellectual and human capital to execute this project,” Kyndt said. “In the end it’s really a win-win situation for both RGW and Chile.”