Start-Up Chile

Mar 12

Why We Made Backup Box

Five months ago things we very interesting. I was waist deep in the Start-Up Chile accelerator program, living in Viña del Mar, and working on our startup product, Surreal WiFi. I was also just finishing reading Lean Startup and one of my roommates at the time was an excellent sounding board for all my crazy ideas.

Now, for a long time I’d had a problem: I still use FTP. Don’t get me wrong, I understand what version control is, but I’m just too lazy to use it for small projects, which is what most of my web design clients end up being. I currently host around 80 odd domain names on a Media Temple shared hosting plan, all of which I access using FTP. None of this is backed up, ever. Big problem.

Backup Box v1

For whatever reason I decided that it was time to back things up. A bit of research determined that I either had to set up custom server-side scripts to automate an rsync job, or download some software that I run on my computer to backup my domains on a schedule. I tried the software, it was clunky and complex and I ditched it quickly.

I’m an avid user and fan of Dropbox. I knew there were lots of third-party apps out there and I was hoping there might be something to help me out. Searching through the forums I discovered that there was a lot of conversation happening around the whole FTP to Dropbox problem. Lots of conversation, yes. Solutions, no. Word on the street was that Dropbox would never support FTP connections and yet nobody was addressing the problem!

Needless to say, this was a lean startup dream! I had a problem, which many other people do too. My very first assumption was satisfied, that I’m not alone in needing this service. But I still needed more validation before I start coding.

Backup Box V2

So I threw up a landing page. I wrote a cute description of the problem, slapped down four payment options, and recorded what you clicked, and then asked for your email address to be notified when we launch.

I posted a few times in the Dropbox forums letting people know I was going to help solve their problems, and I weaseled an AdWords credit out of Google. Forums worked, AdWords were useless.

From October 16th to March 8th we had over 570 unique people sign up to use the site. I was ready to build it at 50 signups, but real-life and our other startup got in the way. Plus I was still in Chile and we were travelling around!

Backup Box Launch

The very night that I returned to Canada I went to the second hackathon put on by Startup Edmonton. Mark, my partner, and I had decided that this hackathon would be a good place to start our Backup Box development. We built the prototype in roughly 15 hours. Over the next four weeks we revamped the prototype and prepared it for users and accounts and automation, etc. That’s what we launched with.

So here we are. We launched with a few posts in the Dropbox forums and emails to the early signups. Albeit we didn’t have our screencast up at the time, but it’s up now. We’re tracking conversions on almost everything our users click. Looking forward to what the future holds with Backup Box!

Aug 11

First Meetup in Viña del Mar

I spoke at a meetup last week. To clarify, a meetup in Chile is considered more of a presentation by one person or group on a specific topic. Back in Canada and the rest of North America I think we consider meetups more of a social gathering around a shared interest in anything from Twitter to Feminism.

Start-Up Chile asked me to speak about my project and entrepreneurship. I figured I could do this. Talk about my background, how I got to Chile, give some good no bullshit advice on being an entrepreneur. Heaven knows there’s enough patting on the back and good-for-you’s going around.

Several things went wrong. Continue reading →

Aug 11

Why I’m in Chile

A friend of mine, Sean Collins, as me this morning about why I chose to apply for Start-Up Chile. He asks

“I’m messaging because I’d love to pick your brain a bit about SUP as I’m smack dab in the middle of the fence on applying. I’ve got a few questions that I’d appreciate you taking the time to answer as there really is no other way to get clarity on the situation than to talk to someone on the inside, actually living it.

As with every time I ask for people’s opinions, the most blunt and honest you can be, the better. Continue reading →

Aug 11

On Reimbursements and Tear Gas

We journeyed back to Santiago today. The long distance bus system here in Chile is very good, and very cheap. 1.5 hour round-trip only costs about $10 CDN. Not too shabby :) That same trip is over $50 in Canada.

Arriving in Santiago the conductor on the metro line was telling people that several stations were closed… or rather, under siege. We, however, didn’t speak enough Spanish to interpret this and we got off at our regular stop at the University de Chile, to go to the CORFO Start-Up Chile offices. The second we got off the train we thought we could smell someone welding, or something burning. Turns out that smell was tear gas, and the burning was our lungs! Continue reading →

Jul 11

Arrival at Start-Up Chile

Some background: We’ve been running Mesh Canada for a little over two years. Our company realized that we would rather be writing the software tools to manage wireless hotspots rather than physically deploying them. There’s simply too much red tape to cut, hoops to jump through, and truck rolls to pay for when it comes to running a company based around physical hardware management. Software as a service, however, is relatively painless since we can manage everything from wherever we are and our potential market broadens to almost every country on the planet.

We mashed together our own minimally viable product for a client and when I heard about Start-Up Chile (SUP) we decided to apply. The next iteration of our product, Surreal, was somewhat planned and we thought it would be a great opportunity to focus if we were in a foreign incubator. Continue reading →