Back in the late 1910’s and early 1920’s, the collapse of the Ottaman Empire generated waves of mass migration from Palestine to some friendlier place. Chile was chosen by many of the migrants, mostly from Belen, for it has a similar climate to Palestine and its locals are rather welcoming to foreigners.
500 000 Palestinians in Chile
The palestinian community in Chile is said to be the most important one in the world outside the Arab world. The rough estimation is that about 500.000 people of palestinian origin live today in Chile, a country of 17 millions inhabitants.
Residents of palestinian origin in the worlds (by Cecilia Baeza)
Not only the community has a Wikipedia page, it also has a significant impact on the country.
You may get a taste of it in times of conflict between Israel and Palestine. During the recent Gaza Strip issue, pro-palestinian demonstrations in Chile were among the most impressive ones in the World. In July 2014, even the Chilean government took position against Israel, and took the strongest action worldwide by calling back its ambassador in Israel and suspending Free Trade Agrements negotiations.
Take something less polemical, like Football, and you will also see a tint of this old immigration wave. Palestinians in Chile founded the Deportivo Palestino, a football club in the 1920’s which is today competing in First Division. Definitely means something in a country where Football is a religion!
The Club Deportivo Palestino, a 1st Division Football club founded by Palestinians in the 1920’s
What’s more, Chile counts with many prominent businessmen of Palestinian origin, such as Álvaro Saieh, a billionaire owning the main media conglomerate of the country, Salvador Said, who has participations in many listed companies.
But the question is: does this privileged relationship between Chile and Palestine have an impact on their startups ecosystems?
It might be.
Palestinian startups and investors in Chile
Lately the Diario Financiero annouced that a Palestinian VC is looking for investors in Chile. It could be the starting point of an investment flow from Chile to Palestine, and there’s a man at the center of it: Marcelo Díaz Bowen, well known for being the managing director of IncubaUC, best startup university incubator in Chile and the sixth worldwide according to the UIB Index.
Marcelo Díaz Bowen, MD of IncubaUC
Marcelo is of Palestinian descent, and went to Palestine a few years ago to meet his family. As an entrepreneur and an investor, he obviously took the opportunity to check what was up in the tech world. After meeting with the main local incubator: PICTI, he exposed in two major technology events in Ramallah: Expotech and Celebration of Innovation, and met the Chairman of the Bank of Palestina: Hashim Shawah, to talk about a project of fomenting innovation through investments in palestinian startups: Palestine for a New Beginning (PNB).
The PNB idea is to create a fund that would financially support palestinian incubators, which are already efficient in the startup acceleration process, but lack fundings. PNB supervises the money spendings without getting involved on the operational level.
PNB also selects palestinian startups through Hackatons before sending them to incubators. They’ve already decided to help a few non-copycat startups well adapted to local specificities, especially on cultural and religious matters. For instance, when FadFed – an online platform for psychology consulting – was launched, they had to take into account two cultural facts: seeing a psychologist is not well seen especially if it’s about matrimonial issues, and a muslim can’t cover his or her face on video. By making consultation anonymous (the patient has the video off while the psychologist switches it on), they actually solve the reputation issue and help addressing marriage problems by making consultations easier and more acceptable by patients.
The objective of PNB is to gather $10.000.000. In 2013, Marcelo Díaz crossed over the West Bank and gathered 5 millions USD in two weeks. They also got one extra million from US investors. PNB recently declared to be looking after investors in Chile. So far, they’ve gathered about $500.000 of chilean money, and have good hope that the Palestinian community, which counts with many wealthy men, helps in that regard.