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Nov 06, 2018

Networking, Technology and Burgers

Ordering food and networking at business events in Spanish pushed me well outside my comfort zone.

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The first night in Santiago we went to a local burger restaurant for dinner called Fuente Alemana. Incredibly tired and very hungry, we all found seats around the eating bar. After most likely completely messing up our food orders due to our very poor Spanish, a couple of us were seated next to a nice fellow-customer called Joe, who spoke a tiny amount of English. We had a great conversation with him all evening in a mix of Spanish and English. We learned that like a lot of people in Chile, Joe had no idea what a New Zealand was. We tried to explain our culture and what it is like in New Zealand, and he told us about his career as a drummer, and his aspirations to travel the world - and now maybe visit NZ too! We exchanged social media and left knowing a few more Spanish words, and I’m sure Joe learned some more English too. Overall, ordering food seemed to be one of the biggest struggles with the language barrier while over in Chile, but it also challenged us a lot to use our new-found Spanish skills and extend our vocabulary. The experiences where we interacted with locals who spoke minimal English made it not only one of the most amusing excursions but probably the most educational. We learned so much about Chile’s culture and language. One of my goals on this trip was to truly push myself outside of my comfort zone, and try heaps of new (and perhaps uncomfortable) experiences. Putting myself into a situation where I am conversating with a complete  stranger in a language that I don’t quite understand was a scary but enlightening experience. As someone learning another language, it showed me the power that immersion can have to rapidly increase the rate at which you learn and comprehend another culture and its language.

 

I really enjoyed visiting all the technology-related companies throughout our trip and learning about how they incorporated innovation and technology to create great products that have applications worldwide. Getting to meet these different entrepreneurs and hearing about the processes they went through building their high-tech products was incredibly inspiring, and I would love a future getting to do just that. I particularly liked visiting Fracctal where we got to see a working demo of their product, and the individual technical components involved. It was great talking to their team about how they transformed a mere idea into a product that is used around the world. I also really enjoyed talking to Motion Displays and hearing the story behind their business. They initially encountered a problem that most startups do- after building their product, they realised they did not reach their market very well and struggled to sell their finished and developed technology. After facing this first barrier, they identified the main issue with selling their product was the way it was being marketed through their agents and the way it was reaching their customers. The problem was that a lot of the agents didn’t have any technical knowledge on the product when it was needed, and they decided to set out and solve that problem. So instead of selling this new technology they developed, they instead designed an online interactive marketing platform to help improve the customer journey for other companies facing similar issues to what they had. Their software then grew rapidly and began to be used by companies internationally, and especially major companies in the US such as Apple and PayPal.

 

We had the amazing opportunity to work with some local students from the Grange School for the business challenge, where we pitched our YES businesses as if they are entering the Chilean market. I really enjoyed this challenge, as it encouraged us to gather all the information we had learned throughout the week about Chile, its people, business and culture, and also engaging with the students about their personal experiences when analysing how our business would fit into Chile. We decided to use my business, an automated vertical garden controlled through a phone app. It fit nicely into the Chilean market, where good quality fresh vegetables are often very hard to come by and are not very convenient to access. With plenty of apartments and small properties, vertical gardens are an incredibly convenient option for what many Chilean’s describe as a “lazy” or laid-back culture. Throughout our visits during our week in Chile, it was incredibly interesting to see how they market things differently compared to New Zealand. Most noticeable was a very strong value for family, which we learned a lot about when talking to Soprole. Interestingly they use the exact same products with the exact same packaging as Anchor in New Zealand, but they market them very differently in ads. Quite often the ads are extremely emotional and personal, and sometimes very unrelated to the product, whereas in New Zealand we normally focus on key values such as quality and sustainability.

 

After our business pitches, we got the opportunity to network at a female entrepreneurs in business event. I used this opportunity to get myself out of my comfort zone and meet new people. Networking events themselves are scary enough, but when everyone is mainly speaking in Spanish and already all know each other, it is even more daunting. However, I had a lot of fun getting to speak to different people, both sharing my story, and learning about theirs. Overall, I think this was one of the scariest experiences I had on this trip, and I now feel more confident in my networking skills