Update (8/5/2011): Another Start-Up Chile entrepreneur got caught in the protests, see her blog post here.
With Chilean high school and university students planning to protest in central Santiago this evening despite government warnings not to, the Start-Up Chile office advised its startups and then closed the office at 4:30pm local time.
Start-Up Chile is a government program that gives foreign entrepreneurs $40K and a one-year visa and takes no equity in exchange for them bootstrapping their startup in the country.
American entrepreneur Marshall Haas, in Chile for the program since early June, was working from home today but tweeted frequently about the clash between riot police and students. He ventured too close to the action out of his own curiosity and got tear-gassed (see his video and photo above). The students want more government funding for education, and today's protests come after many others in recent weeks.
Could such violence scare off potential entrepreneurs?
Marshall tweeted, "Today is probably not the best day to convince my buddy to apply to Start-Up Chile :-)", but he told LAUNCH via email, "I don't think anyone is scared, I think everyone is just really intrigued. We all sit at our computers for 15 hours a day."
Washington Post columnist Vivek Wadhwa, who serves on the Start-Up Chile advisory board program and writes frequently about tech entrepreneurship, told LAUNCH by email "in a democracy you always have protests." He added, "What would people think of the U.S. if they went just by such press coverage? Wouldn’t worry about this."
Vivek will be in Chile in two weeks and "shall find out first-hand in any case" how things are on the ground.
See the recent Chile meetup on This Week in Startups.