World Cup Brazil 2014: Part 5 – Recife to Salvador for USA Belgium and Netherlands Costa Rica

Note: This is part three of a series about my world cup trip. Read part one here about Natal and USA/Ghana, part two about Porto de Galinhas and Costa Rica Italy here, part three about Manaus, Sao Paulo, Natal and USA/Portugal, Chile/Netherlands and Uruguay/Italy, part four about Recife and USA/Germany and Costa Rica/Greece, or the entire series here.

After watching Costa Rica advance to the quarterfinals, we set out to the south, aiming for Salvador, about 750km away. Every Brazilian we’d told we were driving south to Salvador looked at us like we were crazy and tried to convince us to change our plans. They said the road was terrible, there were frequent robberies, potential kidnappings, random objects in the road to get you to slow down so that people could rob you, and that many of the police were so corrupt that you weren’t even supposed to stop for the police if they tried to stop you.  I assumed this was another case of south americans exaggerating the danger, but I looked online on trip advisor and found dozens of stories of bad roads and dangerous conditions.

We needed to get to Salvador for the US game three days later and we wanted to see the beautiful Brazilian coast line, so we decided to go. Because the Costa Rica game went to extra time and penalties and we got stuck in traffic, we ended up leaving Recife after dark. We stopped at a truck stop for a traditional meal of grilled meat, farofa, beans, rice and fruit juice and planned our route south. I so wish I had a russian style dashboard cam for this drive, as it was one of the craziest of my life.

Within 20 miles of leaving Recife, the road went from decent highway to a two lane road with no shoulder, car eating pot holes and heavy truck traffic. This route connects Brazil’s third and fifth largest city, but at least half of it is worse than anything I’ve ever driven on, even in South Africa. Over the next few hours we avoided: a road kill horse that was blocking our lane, a fully intact truck tire in the middle of the road and a two and a half foot long piece of metal that would have popped our tires.

After avoiding pot hole after pot hole in the now dense fog, we saw red flashing lights off in the distance. We had been told not to stop for police, so we weren’t sure what we were going to do when we came to the flashing lights. As we got closer, we saw that the police were blocking the road. What to do? We slowed down and got closer and we saw the entire road sparkling in our headlights. And then we saw it. A jackknifed semi truck blocking 80% of the road that had spilled its entire contents across the road: 10,000+ now shattered glass beer bottles. The police had used shovels to clear two tire paths for cars to pass and were trying to direct traffic.

We finally cleared the area and pulled into Maceió, which we later learned is the most violent city in Brazil. As I was pulling into the city, I read an article that said Maceió was mostly lawless, people solved problems with knives and that the police could be bought off for even the biggest of crimes. It was late, I was tired and we weren’t paying too much attention as we sped into the city, keeping up with traffic going 110km per hour, blasting through red lights, in 50km zones.

As we got closer to our hotel, I tried to turn left and had to take evasive action to avoid an oncoming car, as I’d turned down a one way street. That oncoming car was a police car with its lights on. I figured we were screwed and he’d stop us and maybe demand a bribe. But he just kept on going and didn’t pay us a second thought. I can’t think of many other places in the world where you turn the wrong way down a one way street, almost crash head on into a police car and don’t get pulled over. The entire drive reiterated why Brazilians were mad about the world cup. Basic infrastructure connecting the 3rd and 5th biggest city just didn’t work. And was outright dangerous.

Praia Francesa

Praia Francesa

The next day we went to Praia Francesa, a small beach town about 30 minutes south of Maciaó. It was absolutely beautiful and really relaxing after the long, harrowing drive the night before. Besides for the natural beauty, the first thing I noticed was the amount of people with knife wounds. On their faces. On their chests.  On their legs. I looked it up later and found articles saying that people solved their problems with knives instead of fists, guns or calling the police. And it showed. I bet we saw 10+ people that afternoon with some sort of knife scar, including our waiter who had a mouth to ear scar.

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After spending the day at the beach, we headed south again, with the intention of getting to a small town about an hour from Salvador. We missed our turn off and by about 1030pm, ended up in Conte, a tiny town about 120km from Salvador. We were some of the only tourists in town and stayed in a beautiful hotel for about $50 for the night. We ate dinner at a small restaurant where locals were drinking beer and sampled the local food.

Fish, shrimp stew

Fish, shrimp stew

Salvador and its region has some of the most interesting food in Brazil. It’s the center of afro-brazilian culture and you can see the influences in everything, but most of all the food. There are dishes that are very similar to southern food in the US, including Acarajé, which is very similar to hush puppies, boiled peanuts and stewed chicken with spices. Acarajé, one of my favorites and a ubiquitous street food, is made of smashed up black eyed peas and then covered with okra, boiled shrimp, greens and sauce.

Source: http://santomenino.blogspot.com/2011/12/acaraje.html

Acarajé.                                         Source: http://santomenino.blogspot.com/2011/12/acaraje.html

There’s also fish and seafood stew cooked with spices, served with the stew sauce thickened by manioc flour. I had this stew in Salvador and had to convince the waiter to let me order it, as he thought the shrimp and fish stew, along with the manioc would be too much for my gringo digestive system. I’m glad I was able to convince him, as it was by far my favorite dish I tried in Brazil.

Acai is the hidden gem of Brazilian snacks. I’d had acai juice before and didn’t really like it, but the frozen acai with bananas, granola and honey. I had it for breakfast, in hot weather on the beach and after hangovers. An incredible treat that I wish we had either in Chile or in the US.

In Conte, I sampled a manioc and chicken stew that had been cooked for 4+ hours in a spicy broth, while my friend had carne de sol, the most popular meat dish in the region. We also ate cheese grilled over open coals, another ubiquitous street food in the region. It’s really easy to always order grilled meat when you’re in Brazil, but if you go off the beaten path a bit, you can find really interesting, flavorful dishes.

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We got up early the next morning, ate Brazilian fruit for breakfast, and then headed south toward Salvador and the USA Belgium game. We stopped for a coconut water halfway to Salvador, then drove to the mall near where we would be staying to take the shuttle to the game.

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Lighthouse Barra, Salvador

Light house Barra, Salvador

Salvador was my favorite city I visited this trip and I would go back again. It’s a city that made sense to host world cup games. The historic Arena Fonte Nova is located downtown, within walking distance from Pelorinho, Salvador’s historic center, the beach and areas with bars. Located between a major street, a favela and a beautiful lake, the redone stadium is beautiful from the outside and had good sight lines from inside. We bought beers outside the stadium from entrepreneurial Brazilians and got into the stadium.

coconut water

coconut water

I had tickets from the US supporters club and was expecting to be in an all US section as I had been in the previous games, but FIFA screwed it up and I was in a mixed section with Belgians, US fans and Brazilians. I’d stood and cheered the entire first three games with thousands of other US fans, but this time I had to sit as Belgium dominated the first half. The US were lucky to be tied at halftime, but were still in the game.

Arena Fonte Nova

Arena Fonte Nova

My friend and I decided to move seat locations and stand with other US fans in another section, which improved the atmosphere. Tim Howard stood on his head the entire game, turning in the best goalkeeping game I’ve ever seen. Belgium really should have scored two or three times in regulation, but Howard kept them out. In the last seconds of the game, the US missed it’s chance win the game, missing a wide open chance from about six yards out.

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Belgium finally broke through in extra time and scored twice, but the US fought back, scoring quickly and almost scoring again off a beautifully executed set piece. It would be have been nice to see the US play more attacking in the Belgium game, but it was a good end to a fun world cup run. I was surprised how anti-US the Brazilian crowd in Salvador was, chanting “USA go home,” “bye bye USA,” and whistling loudly to drown out our cheers whenever we got something started. Although the US advanced to the round of 16 again, just like 2010, it was a good world cup that showed US progress. Hopefully Klinsmann learns from this world cup and puts in a good showing for Copa America 2016 in the US.

The next day was a public holiday, for Bahia independence day. Salvador de Bahia, founded in 1500, was the first settlement by the Portuguese and just oozes history. We drove to Pelorinho, the old city, which gets its name from the stockades where the Portuguese originally hung and tortured slaves and locals. We watched the celebratory parade with full brass marching bands and dancers, had a beer and enjoyed the old architecture. Everyone was incredibly nice, open and willing to talk to us. This was true everywhere in Brazil, but especially true in Salvador.

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We spent the next day in Barra, one of Salvador’s many beaches, enjoying the sun, caipirinhas and warm water. Barra is one of the only beaches in Brazil where you can see the sunset, which was absolutely beautiful. The Brazilians on the beach stood up and cheered as the sun went down, thanking it for making the day a great one. We decided to watch Brazil vs. Colombia in Pelorinho, the old section of town. People piled out of their homes to set up chairs in the streets and watch the game on tvs perched from windows and porches. When Brazilian won, this was the reaction:

I went to one last game, the Netherlands vs. Costa Rica in the quarterfinals, which was a tight, exciting and chance filled game. The entire crowd were behind the Costa Ricans, willing them to win. Both teams had great chances, but neither could convert. The Dutch manager substituted goal keepers in the last minute of extra time and his gamble paid off. Tim Krul, the substitute, taunted, psyched out and disrupted the Costa Ricans and then saved two of their shots, winning the game for the Dutch and sending them through. The atmosphere was electric, with the Brazilians singing anti-Argentina songs throughout the entire match at full volume. Argentines sang right back.

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By the end of my three week trip, I was ready to sleep in my own bed and stop traveling, but I was sad to leave sunny, warm Salvador for cold, rainy Santiago. It was an amazing trip through northern Brazil and I’d love to go back to explore more of Salvador and the surrounding area, along with southern brazil. Although it’s still four years away, I can’t wait for the world cup in 2018, even if it is in Russia.

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Last sunset in Brazil

Flying back over the andes

Flying back over the Andes

World Cup Brazil 2014: Part 4 – Porto de Galinhas for USA Germany and Greece Costa Rica

Note: This is part three of a series about my world cup trip. Read part one here about Natal and USA/Ghana, part two about Porto de Galinhas and Costa Rica Italy here, part three about Manaus, Sao Paulo, Natal and USA/Portugal, Chile/Netherlands and Uruguay/Italy, or the entire series here.

After recuperating in Porto de Galinhas on the 25th, it was game day again. USA. Germany. It had been raining off and on on the 25th, but that night, the skies opened up with a torrential, tropical downpour. We called it an early night so we could leave early the next morning for the 1pm game, 70km away in Recife.

We left Porto de Galinhas in a torrential downpour at 9am. We’d planned to drive to a bar near the stadium to meet up with more US fans, but we weren’t sure how the traffic would be, so we bought some tailgating provisions. We attempted to buy raincoats, or even just garbage bags, but the grocery store employees just laughed at us.

We covered the first 40km through the pounding rain fairly easily, but it took about double the time that we expected. We were amazed by the standing water on the road, but we made it through. Little did we know that this minor delay would seem like tiny puddles two hours later.

There are two “highways” that lead to the Arena Pernambuco and we decided to follow the shortest route. Two hundred meters after we merged with the direct highway, traffic completely stopped. I looked at google maps to check traffic and saw, for the first time in my life, black roads. I’d seen red and dark red, but never black. It was about 10am and after a quick check of Google maps, we decided that we would try the other highway. I maneuvered the car across three lanes of stopped traffic and took a “do it yourself” off ramp that brazilians had created and turned onto a small neighborhood street.

As soon as I turned, I saw the problem. The street was flooded. The large speed bumps that are a (maddening) fixture of Brazilian side streets were completely covered. Recife streets are not equipped to deal with torrential downpours. There’s no drainage. No storm sewers. Just potholed streets. Mud. And massive amounts of traffic. If it weren’t for the world cup, I would never have tried to cross the flooded streets. I would have called it a day and gone home.

When we finally got through the neighborhood and reached the other highway, we were greeted with stopped traffic. We needed to get 1km and move onto the other highway. But it didn’t work. We were trapped. It was 11am and we were getting worried that we wouldn’t make it to the game. We saw multiple US fans abandoning their cars on the sides of the street, in people’s front yards, anywhere they could park, and running to the metro, which amazingly, was still running.

US fans abandoning their car

US fans abandoning their car

We debated leaving the car, but we weren’t sure it would be there when we came back and decided to try to get to the airport, about 5km away. When we finally got to the freeway onramp, we realized the real problem: the entire freeway was completely flooded. The police had blocked the freeway and were starting to block the on ramp. We had a make or break decision: leave the car or make a break for it before the police blocked the road.

Other cars were attempting to drive through the 2-3 foot deep water. Some were making it. Others needed to be pushed. I took a poll of my friends in the car and we decided to make a a break for it before the police could close off the road. Just as we were about to start driving, a massive tour bus decided to ford the river. I followed, as the bus parted the waters and allowed our car to go through. And still we barely made it. I felt the car losing traction under us, but we made it. We navigated four more flood covered streets and finally made it to the airport, parked the car and tried to get onto the metro.

It was absolutely packed, but it was working! Hot. Humid. Sweaty. But at least we had cold beers. After a 45 minute subway ride, it was 1240 and we were dropped off a mile and a half from the stadium where we had to get on a bus. We were greeted with a 500 person line to buy $2 bus tickets. If we waited in line, we would miss the game.

Metro to the game

Metro to the game

To get most things done in Brazil, all you have to do is ask. I ran up to a security guard and asked if there was a way to get a bus ticket without standing in line. He pointed me to a few guys selling tickets and we skipped the entire line, getting on the bus after a few minutes. As soon as I finished my purchase, I yelled “you don’t have to wait in line, buy your tickets here!”, setting off a mini stampede.

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We finally made it to the stadium just as the first ball was kicked, in the constant torrential downpour. 4 hours to go 70km. We had amazing seats in the 4th row, just on the top of the 18 yard box. Germany were impressive, but the US held off the attack for 55 minutes, but the Germans put in a goal off a set piece and held on to win 1-0. The crowd support was amazing, as both the US and Germany brought about 20,000 fans each. As the game ended and we realized that the US was through, we continued to cheer in the rain, celebrating with the team.

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The route back to Porto de Galinhas was treacherous, but we made it back safely. We were almost run off the road by a semi truck that got surprised when his lane ended abruptly, as is custom. We saw a Jeep driving through water that was over his headlights. But we made it back. We spent the next two days on the beach, enjoying the sun.

We took a few hours off from the beach and went to a bar to watch Chile vs. Brazil. Tiago and I decided to watch the game with some taxi drivers we met in their hangout/bar. They had amazing grilled meat for lunch and cheap beers readily available.

We entered the taxi driver betting pool as the only non taxi drivers and the only people who thought Chile had a chance. When the game ended 1-1 after 90 minutes, we were the only ones celebrating, as Tiago took the pot. We bought the taxi drivers a round of beer and became close friends. Chile gave Brazil all they could handle, but came inches short of pulling it off in one of the best games of the tournament.

Tiago with a taxi driver after winning the pool

Tiago with a taxi driver after winning the pool

On the 29th, we headed back to the stadium for Greece against the upstart Costa Ricans. This time we had no problems getting to the stadium and the weather was perfect. We had two extra tickets to sell so we bought beers outside the stadium and talked with fans trying to get rid of tickets. After an hour, we finally were able to sell for half of face value. As an aside, you could have gotten in for face value or below for about half of the games I went to, with only Chile/Netherlands significantly over face and Italy/Uruguay and USA/Germany 2x over face.

Costa Rica Greece

Costa Rica Greece

The Costa Rican fans were so excited to be in the round of 16 and showed it the entire game. They sang, danced and chanted throughout the entire match. It was fairly boring until Costa Rica scored a great team goal and the Greeks had to come out of their shell. A Costa Rican red card right in front of us (we were in the first row), turned the game on its head. The Greeks tried and tried, throwing everything at Costa Rica, but terrible finishing and an unbelievable effort from the Costa Rica keeper kept them out until the dying seconds. After extra time, some of the Costa Ricans, who had been defending with 10 men for 60+ minutes, completely collapsed.

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We got lucky and the penalty shootout was right in front of us, so we had first row seats to see Costa Rica advance. Costa Ricans were running around the stadium, celebrating, going crazy. They couldn’t really believe they’d made the quarterfinals. But they deserved it!

After five days in Porto de Galinhas, I was ready to move on. We left the stadium to begin the last leg of the trip: driving from Recife to Salvador. And again, we almost didn’t make it.

World Cup Brazil 2014: Part 3 – Manaus-Sao Paulo-Natal for USA Portugal, Chile Netherlands and Italy Uruguay

Note: This is part three of a series about my world cup trip. Read part one here about Natal and USA/Ghana, part two about Porto de Galinhas and Costa Rica Italy here, or the entire series here.

After relaxing in Porto de Galinhas, I left my group to travel 5400 miles in three days to see USA/Portugal, Chile/Netherlands and Italy/Uruguay in Manaus, Sao Paulo and Natal, respectively. I left Porto de Galinhas with flip flops, shorts, a USA jersey, a sweatshirt, USA sunglasses and my tickets to the games, nothing more. My plan was to wake up at 4am, get to the Recife airport by 5 at the latest, then fly to Brasilia, then onto Manaus. But I almost didn’t make it.

We’d arrived in Porto de Galinhas two days earlier, but hadn’t filled up with gas. We’d planned to fill up upon arrival, but beach and caipirinhas got in the way. Instead, we decided to fill up at 430am on the way to the airport. But nobody told us that gas stations aren’t open 24/7 in northern Brazil. The first station, a half mile from our house, was closed. We asked the people partying (yes, partying at 430am in a gas station parking lot) where the next closest one was. They said there was one down the road. Closed too. The next one was closed, with all the lights turned off.

Enrique was accompanying me to the airport so he could use the car while I was gone, so the two of us continued until we got to a toll booth, already riding below empty on the gas gauge. I asked the toll booth operator if she could sell us a few liters of gas, but she said it wasn’t possible. I even offered to pay 3x the normal rate, but alas, no dice. I asked if there was roadside assistance and got an affirmative, so I asked if they could call now and have them bring me gas, but they said that they couldn’t call until we were fully out of gas. We decided to press on, against the warnings of the toll operators. They said that if (when) we ran out of gas that we had to stay on the highway and not get out of the car, as we had to pass favelas and other dangerous areas. As we pulled away they asked “first time in brazil?” and just smiled and shook their heads. Silly foreigners, expecting the gas stations to be open 24/7!

About a kilometer later, Enrique had the idea to go back to the tollbooth and have them call us a taxi. His idea saved me. As we pulled into the toll plaza again, an unoccupied taxi materialized out of nowhere. I jumped out of the car before he could pay his toll and asked how much it would cost to get to the airport. He quoted me a fair price and much to the shock of the toll operators, I jumped out of the car and into the taxi and was on my way. As we pulled away, I heard the toll operators yelling in a confused voice, “but where’s your luggage!”

Enrique turned around and made it back to within 2 blocks of our beach house and promptly ran out of gas. If I hadn’t turned around, I would have missed USA/Portugal and Chile/Netherlands. Two lessons learned: gas stations close early and there’s always taxis in Brazil!

Manaus – USA vs. Portugal

I needed to sell two extra tickets to the game and had been anyone wearing US colors if they needed tickets. Luckily the girl sitting next to me on the plane from Brasilia to Manaus needed a ticket, as did another guy she had met in the airport. Turned out the guys she had met were recent UW grads (Badgers are everywhere!) and I now had sold my extra tickets and had friends to hang out with before the game.

Manaus Spider

Manaus Spider

It made absolutely no sense to have Manaus be a world cup city. Although its a city of a few million people, it’s completely in the middle of the Amazon. You can’t arrive by road. Just boat and airplane. It’s 90% humidity and 90+ degrees. There’s mosquitos. Spiders. Crime. Hotels are incredibly expensive. And the local soccer team draws about 1000 people per game. But FIFA and its corrupt Brazilian partners decided to make Manaus a venue. They spent at least $300m on a stadium that was used four times and might be used as a jail afterward.

Flight into Manaus

Flight into Manaus

The flight into Manaus is extremely beautiful. You can listen to people describe the Amazon, but until you see it, you can’t appreciate just how big it really is. Swampy wetlands as far as the eye could see. A 1-2 mile wide river. Bright colors. Incredible clouds. But Manaus itself is just another past its prime big city. Manaus was one of the richest cities in the world during the rubber baron era, but when synthetic rubber was invented, it began its first precipitous and now slow decline. The Brazilian government wants to keep its hold on the Amazon, so Manaus is a tax incentive zone where manufacturers can produce products with little to no taxes.

The Amazon

The Amazon

The first thing that you notice when you land is the humidity. It hits you like punch in the face as you leave the airport’s strong air conditioning. You’re sweating immediately. Otherwise once you’re in the city, you’d have no idea you were in the middle of the Amazon.

It was all a bit surreal when we arrived at the American Outlaws party to find 500+ US fans drinking beer, caipirinhas, eating some of the saddest pizza I’ve ever eaten. There was a live band playing patriotic songs and every so often the national anthem would break out. We proceeded to drink beer and hang out with US fans from all around the country that had made the trek to the middle of the Amazon to watch the national team.

Manaus, USA Portugal, Bodypaint

Manaus, USA Portugal, Bodypaint

We piled into a taxi and were dropped off close to the stadium. We were so hungry that we stopped at the first shack/bar we saw that had food. It didn’t matter that a 13 year old was manning the grill and that the owners didn’t tell me what kind of meat it was until they sheepishly said “beef” after I asked for the 4th time, but in the moment it tasted amazing. You can’t do much better than mystery street meet on a stick in the middle of the amazon! Shockingly, I ate an incredible amount of street food in Brazil and only got mildly sick on my last night from a dodgy “dogao”, or street hotdog, in Salvador.

Manaus

Manaus

The stadium itself in Manaus might have been my favorite stand alone stadium. It’s small enough that you’re right on top of the action and the outside design looks like something that could be floating down the amazon. Really beautiful. A great place to see the game. But it just made no sense to build it just for four world cup games. What a colossal waste of money and resources, not to mention making four games nearly impossible for most people to go to.

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We had second row tickets in the US section and had a blast. Even though the US went down 1-0 inside five minutes, the fans were into it and screaming the entire game. When Jermaine Jones equalized with one of the best goals of the tournament, the entire US section went crazy. When Dempsey put the US in the lead a few minutes later, people really started to believe the US would qualify. When the ref showed 5 minutes of stoppage time, we booed mercilessly, but didn’t really think Portugal would muster much of an attack. After the first five minutes of the first half, the US really worked Portugal from end to end. But Cristiano wouldn’t be denied and made one of the best passes I’ve seen in person to a diving teammate who scored in the 95th minute. Even though the US had just tied Portugal and had 4 points from two games, it felt like a loss.

We were deflated and left to drown our sorrows in more brazilian churrasco, or steak, rice, beans and farofa. After dinner, we went to a bar for a beer, then I bid my new friends goodbye and went back to the airport to continue my adventure to Sao Paulo to see Netherlands vs. Chile twelve hours later. Manaus was a strange, expensive city in the middle of nowhere, but I’m glad I made the trip.

Sao Paulo – Netherlands vs. Chile

I slept a few hours in the airport, then the entire three hour plane ride and arrived in Campinas, about an hour from Sao Paulo at 6am for a 1pm game. I was still in my same outfit that I’d left 85 degree Recife and 95 degree Manaus, but arrived in 60 degree Sao Paulo in my flip flops, body paint stained US jersey, shorts and sweatshirt. I slept the entire bus ride into Sao Paulo and met up with some Chilean friends.

The look on the my friend’s face was priceless, but all he could muster was “you have something in your eye…” I knew I looked like a wreck, but I had to push on. I met up with another friend a few hours later and took a shower in his hotel room. As soon as I looked at myself in the mirror, I realized I must have scared my friend half to death! Some of the body paint from the night before had gotten into my eyes and had created a white streak across my entire eye. It looked like a big white cut across my eye or some strange tropical disease.

Chile Netherlands

Chile Netherlands

After showering, we took a taxi to the stadium, which is about 45 minutes outside of the main part of the city and met up with Enrique (who had a new Chile jersey for me). He’d had his own adventure, flying in from Recife that morning for the match. The stadium itself is really cool looking, but it was one of my least favorite venues because it’s hard to get to, isolated and there’s nothing to do around the stadium, as it’s located in a poor area of town with no bars, restaurants or really anything around it. And probably 30% of the seats (the ones behind the goal in the upper deck) are really, really far from the field. At least the stadium will be used after the world cup by Corinthians, one of Sao Paulo’s biggest teams.

 

Sao Paulo - Chile/Netherlands

Sao Paulo – Chile/Netherlands

Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo

Chile’s fans were the most impressive and most passionate of any that I came across. There were at least 100,000 in Sao Paulo, many of whom were paying whatever price they could to get into the game. They cheered loud and long during the game, even when they got scored on and even when they ended up loosing. The national anthem was worth the price of admission.

Marea Roja, Chilean Fans

Marea Roja, Chilean Fans, Sao Paulo

I wish I had taken better photos from our seats in the fourth row, but Chile looked like midgets compared to the Dutch. Chile was the smallest team in the world cup and the dutch were the second tallest. It looked like the u12s were playing the u18s, but the u12s were somehow holding their own. The game featured the two most impressive players I saw in person: Arjen Robben and Alexis Sanchez. Both players change the game just by being on the field.

Dirk+Kuyt+Alexis+Sanchez+DugU-pbOOZKm

Natal – Italy vs. Uruguay

After the game we went back to the airport to catch our 3am flight back to Recife. I was so tired and promptly fell asleep beneath a bank of phones and slept until they called our flight and then the entire flight to Recife. Still wearing my same clothes, we got off the plane at 6am and were on our way to Natal for the 1pm Italy/Uruguay game that afternoon. We arrived in Natal at 1030am, parked in the mall, had more gaucho food and then walked to the stadium. We drank a beer while we watched the crowds and met up with a Japanese friend of mine from the Japan/Greece game.

I had two extra tickets to sell and sold to two Uruguay guys who kissed me on the cheek they were so happy to get into the game. I saw one of FIFA’s henchmen directing the police to arrest ticket sellers and then the police taking people away. The saddest was when they arrested a ~25 year old Uruguayan guy with face paint and a flag draped around his back for selling his one extra ticket. He started crying knowing that he would miss the match.

The professionals mostly knew how to avoid the police and never got arrested, as far as I could tell. I saw the same scene at other matches, even when people were selling below face value. It would infinitely more ridiculous a week later when Rio police busted an illegal FIFA ticket selling ring worth a reported $100m per world cup. FIFA’s disgusting corruption really knows no bounds. It’s bad enough that FIFA were reselling their own tickets at 10x face value, but to have the gall to tell police to arrest fans selling single tickets and tickets for below face value is just too much!

Italy Uruguay

Italy Uruguay

The Uruguayan fans were really impressive. They got to the stadium early, chanted and sang though out the game and stayed late. It was a pretty boring game until Italy’s red card, but then the game opened up. Luis Suarez’s bite was right in front of us, but we could only see that he’d done something. I speculated that maybe he bit him, but nobody could believe that he would be so brazen in a world cup. The entire stadium erupted into pandemonium when Uruguay scored to put them into the knockout round and eliminated Italy in the group stage for the second straight world cup.

After the game we had lunch and then made the long drive back to Porto de Galinhas through a driving rain. We had two near death experiences on the road leading into Recife which again drove home the point why Brazilians were mad about spending money on the world cup when basic things like “this lane ends” signs were non existent.

After traveling 5400 miles in three days, sleeping in airports and airplanes for three nights, I was ready to get back to the beach and stay put for awhile. In past world cups I’d never done anything like this and I don’t think I will in the future. It was worth it, but just barely!

World Cup Brazil 2014: Part 2 – Recife-Porto de Galhinas for Italy Costa Rica

Note: This is part two of a series about my world cup trip. Read part one here about Natal and USA/Ghana or the entire series here.

On the morning of 20th, we left Natal at 6am in our rental car, hoping to make it to Recife in time to grab a bite to eat and have a few pregame beers before the 1pm kickoff. We drove through sugar cane fields and beautiful rolling hills and made it to the outskirts of Recife by 10am, but quickly realized that things would be different as we got closer to the city.

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Traffic stopped, so we took a local road, speed bumps, potholes and all, across the city to get closer to the stadium. We’d finally made it through what we thought was the worst of it, but all the sudden, traffic just stopped completely. We were within 6km of the stadium, but we just weren’t moving. I shut off the car. Brazilians got out of the their cars in the blazing heat to sit in the shade. Food vendors appeared out of nowhere. We sat for a good hour and then were finally moving again. It was the first time I’d ever seen black on google maps traffic.

We finally got to the front of the line and realized the holdup: the police were blocking the road and letting the cars on the road we were trying to merge with go. We were unlucky and had to wait another 30 minutes. A side note about the police. They’re scary guys. They have massive automatic weapons, battle armor and look like they know how to use it. And that they want to use it.

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The policemen at a completely non threatening road block had their fingers about a half inch from the triggers of their guns and brandished them at anyone who dared ask what was going on. It’s no wonder that at least 2000 people are killed by Brazilian police each year. The ultimate reason for the blockade was that the Italian team bus was running late, so they needed a traffic free route to the stadium.

The bus finally passed and we were on our way again. The Recife stadium is beautiful, but it’s about 30 minutes outside of the city, really in the middle of nowhere. Even though there’s nothing around, we had to park about 2 miles from the stadium and take a bus to the stadium. Why? Because FIFA mandated it. Some Brazilians just pulled over on the highway and walked to the game rather than pay $20 per car, plus $5 per person to park and ride.

The stadium itself is beautiful and a great place to see the game. We had tickets in the 2nd level in the corner and watched at Costa Rica picked apart Italy, leading to a beautiful goal. The Costa Rican fans could hardly believe it and continued to sing the entire game. Games like that are one of the reasons I love the world cup. A tiny country of about 4.5m can take on a world soccer power like Italy and dominate.

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After the game we drove to Porto De Galinhas, but had to do some offroading to even get out of the stadium. Brazil hadn’t finished all of the onramps, so we had to go under a bridge on a dirt road, through a quasi favela, and then pull onto the highway via the shoulder. This entire maneuver took at least an hour, but we were finally on our way. We were running out of gas as we got to Porto de Galinhas, but were too tired and hungry to stop. Instead, we checked into our Airbnb house and went out in search of food.

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Offroading to get home from Recife

Nearly everywhere we went, we found “gaucho style” dining: a salad, veggie and potato bar, plus all kinds of cuts of meat for a fixed price. It was a great way to eat well without spending a ton of money. We had our first experience in Porto de Galinhas, where we paid $15 for all you can eat meat, plus fejoada (black beans), farofa (a grain that you put on meat, rice and beans), veggies and salad. We’d have variations on this meal at least 10 more times on our trip. It’ll be one of the things I most miss about Brazil when I’m back in Chile.

The next morning we explored the beach. It was an absolutely beautiful day on one of Brazil’s best beaches. We set up shop under a beach umbrella and ordered a caipirinha, Brazil’s national drink, and laid back to take it all in. One of my favorite parts about Brazilian beaches in the north are the food vendors. They bring full lobsters, crabs, fresh fish, meat skewers, fresh fruit, coconut waters, tapioca fried cheese and more. You never have to leave your seat.

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The water was warm, tropical blue, with just the right amount of waves to play in. After multiple caipirinhas and a full day at the beach, we headed back to our house. The car still needed gas, but we weren’t going to drive that night, so we didn’t bother. That decision would be very important about 10 hours later on my way to Manaus and the USA-Portugal game.

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Lobsters on the beach

World Cup Brazil 2014: Part 1 – Sao Paulo-Recife-Natal for USA vs. Ghana and Japan vs. Greece

I started my world cup trip flying from Santiago to Sao Paulo on June 14th. I planned to see some friends and then fly onto Recife, then take a bus up to Natal to arrive in time for the USA game on the 16th, but as I got off the plane in Sao Paulo, I realized I didn’t feel well. After the hour trip to the hotel, I was really feeling it and decided to take a nap. I woke up an hour later with the chills in my 75 degree hotel room. I pumped the heat up to 90 and proceeded to not leave my hotel room for the next day and a half. I really thought I wasn’t going to be able to make it to the USA/Ghana game, but thought to myself, there’s only a world cup once every four years, you have to go.

I pumped myself full of aspirin and water and left the hotel at 130am to fly to Recife. Luckily the medicine started to kick in and I slept the entire flight. I arrived in Recife at 6am, feeling a bit better, but still very weak. I needed to get from the airport to the bus station to get one of the three busses that would take me to Natal in time to meet my friends before the USA game.

Open in test mode!

Open in test mode!

The fan assistance staff told me to take the metro, but as soon as I walked over the 90% completed new bridge that was “open in test mode” and saw a packed metro, I decided I was going to take a taxi. Luckily I negotiated a price beforehand instead of going by the meter, as there was massive traffic. Recife, Brazil’s 5th largest city, with a population of about 5m in the metro area, has an amazing coast line, but the interior of the city is very poor.

I immediately could see why Brazilians had been protesting the world cup. There’s no highway that goes across the city. The roads are pocked with pot holes that are big enough to eat your car. There’s a decent homeless population living in the streets. And you can tell people are struggling to get by.

Because traffic was so bad, the taxi driver asked me if we could take an alternate route. I agreed and we went through neighborhoods instead of the main road. I saw feral pigs eating trash, kids wearing shorts and nothing else, dilapidated houses and people with just their basic needs being met.

Recife’s new stadium, located in the middle of nowhere, about 15km outside of the city, cost taxpayers $250m and probably another $100m on infrastructure to get people there. With the conditions away from the rich areas, it’s easy to see why people are mad.

730am. I finally got to the bus station and got in line for a bus ticket. I had tried to buy my ticket online at least 10 times, plus asked Brazilian friends to buy for me, but nobody succeeded. I was greeted by a 25 person line, but wasn’t worried because I was only a “3 hour bus ride” from Natal and the game started at 7pm. The line barley moved. Two of the three people who were working, decided they didn’t want to work anymore and left their posts, so the line moved even slower.

When I finally got to the front of the line, the clerk told me all the tickets were sold out for the 830, 9 and 1030 busses. The only one available was at 330. Which would mean that if there were any delays, I’d miss the game. There were hundreds of other people in the same situation as I was. Except almost none of them spoke Portuguese or spanish. None of the workers spoke English.

My new friends and I started planning the hour long taxi ride back to the airport and then renting a car, or taking a taxi the three and a half hours up to Natal, but just as we were about go back to the airport, a family behind me in line told me they had an extra ticket for the bus at 9am. I was the only one traveling alone, so I was saved! Or so I thought.

I asked the bus company if I could use the ticket and they said no. Apparently there’s a Brazilian law that says the name on the ticket needs to match your id. Great. I decided to try to get on the bus anyway. I had to “tip” the id checker, but I got past the first obstacle. He warned me that if the police stopped the bus for an “ID control,” and my name didn’t match the ticket, I’d be taken to jail (or have to pay a big “tip”). It was worth the risk. I didn’t want to miss the game. To be extra safe, I gave my passport and my ids to another guy from the US and planned to tell the police that someone had stolen my ID.

330pm. The three hour bus ride turned into a 6 hour bus ride. All the people who’d taken later busses would miss the game. I finally got to the bus terminal and took a taxi to our apartment and finally, after almost 15 hours of traveling, I met up with my friends. A guy offered us a ride to the stadium, but the traffic was so bad we had to get out and walk. The stadium is right in the middle of the city, but the city just isn’t made for lots of traffic. Our driver told us that the city’s traffic is “chaos” normally, but on gameday it was insane. It was 15 minutes before the game and we decided to make a run for it. We arrived just as the national anthem was starting.

After 15 hours of travel, running the last 10 minutes, we made it.

After 15 hours of travel, running the last 10 minutes, we made it. USA-Ghana, Natal.

There’s nothing like singing your country’s national anthem at the first game of the world cup. And the US had at least 20,000 fans belting it out. Thirty seconds later, Clint Dempsey beat a Ghana defender and scores a goal. The crowd erupts. A few minutes later, Jozy Altidore’s world cups ends and you can see Jurgen Klinsmann say “shit” on the big screen. The next 80 minutes the US is handing on for dear life and finally Ghana equalizes. We were devastated.  Five minutes later, John Brooks scores and the party is on. This was probably my favorite game of the tournament for the US.

USA Ghana Natal

USA Ghana Natal

We stayed the next three day on the beach in Ponta Negra, playing soccer on the beach and relaxing. The beach was an all day party of music, soccer, beach food, beers and caipirinhas. In Natal you don’t need to go to a bar or a restaurant, you can just wait for the vendors to come by and sell you food. Crabs, lobsters, shrimp, skewered meat, fruit, whatever you want. At night, the beach promenade turned into a party, as guys pushed “mobile juke boxes” around playing whatever songs you wanted for a bit of money.

The crew in Natal

The crew in Natal

I was still really sick, so I went to a pharmacy to buy some drugs. I quickly realized that you can get pretty much any drug in Brazil without a prescription. I got a super strong inhaler and some other drugs to help me get better and within 2 days I was pretty much back to normal! It was clear that Natal was just getting to be a tourist destination, as many of the hotels and attractions were pretty new. It didn’t make much sense as a world cup city, but I would go back to the beaches!

On our 4th day in Natal we spent the morning at the beach, then made the trek across town again to the stadium to see Japan take on Greece. Although it ended 0-0, the game was highly entertaining. The greeks got a red card in the first half and the Japanese pushed forward to try to get a goal the rest of the game. We were in the middle of the Japanese supporters section, which was a real treat. The fans stood the entire game, chanting, singing and waving their blue plastic bags. After the game, many of the fans used the blue plastic bags to clean up the stadium.

I had a great time in Natal, but was ready to move onto Recife and Costa Rica Italy the next day!

World Cup Brazil 2014

Brazil was my third straight world cup. It’s a trip I look forward to for four years. It’s the best time to travel to a country, as everyone is happy (at least to start), people want to show off their country and you get to meet interesting people from all over the globe. I saw more matches and travelled more this world cup than the previous two and had an amazing time. All that said, I now completely understand why many Brazilians were angry about having the world cup. FIFA’s corruption really knows no bounds. See the rest of the posts below for the full story!

Games Attended: 10

  • USA-Ghana – Natal
  • Japan-Greece – Natal
  • Italy-Costa Rica – Recife
  • USA-Portugal – Manaus
  • Netherlands-Chile – Sao Paulo
  • Italy-Uruguay – Natal
  • USA-Germany – Recife
  • Costa Rica-Greece – Recife
  • USA-Belgium – Salvador
  • Netherlands-Costa Rica – Salvador

Distance Travelled: 14,676 miles (23,615km)

Cities Visited:

  • Sao Paulo
  • Natal
  • Recife
  • Manaus
  • Salvador
  • Brasilia (just the airport)

Best Matches: 

  • For a neutral – USA-Portugal, Italy-Uruguay, USA-Belgium & Costa Rica-Netherlands.
  • For a USA fan – USA-Ghana

Favorite Stadium – Fonte Nova – Salvador

The Fonte Nova stadium is a historic stadium in the middle of Salvador. It’s a short walk from the old city, the beach and has easy access from four directions. It’s a unique stadium, as its located on a lake right in the middle of a favela. On game days it seemed safe. Many of the locals came down to buy and sell tickets, beer, water and street food.

The stadium itself is a little big for my taste and some of hte seats weren’t that great, but the overall combination of the location, design and history makes it the best stadium I went to.

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Favorite City – Salvador

Founded in 1500 by the Portuguese, Salvador was the original capital of Brazil. It’s got miles and miles of beaches. An old city filled with bars and live music and an historic, downtown stadium.

Most impressive individual player

It’s a tie:

Arjen Robben - A complete game changer. I saw him in person in 2010 and felt the same way. Say what you want about diving, but his skill, speed, passing and shooting really stand out as the best player on the field in person.

Alexis Sánchez – He’s only 5-7, but he makes things happen. The ball just sticks to his foot. He gets the ball, backs into defenders a foot taller than him and somehow keeps the ball and gets around them. really impressive player in person.

Most Impressive Fans:

Chile – Per capita, Chile had the most fans at the world cup, or so it seemed. They were the loudest fanbase of any that I saw. Plus finishing the national anthem a capella is impressive.

Chilean fans in Sao Paulo

Chilean fans in Sao Paulo

Best Beach:

Porto de Galinhas, a small town about 30 minutes south of Recife, has everything you want in a beach town. Beautiful, warm water, good restaurants, bars and close enough to a big city to take a day trip if necessary.

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My Trip

Part 1 – Sao Paulo-Recife-Natal for USA-Ghana

USA Ghana Natal

USA Ghana Natal

I started out flying from Santiago to Sao Paulo on the 14th. I planned to see some friends and then fly onto Recife, then take a bus up to Natal to arrive in time for the USA game, but as I got off the plane in Sao Paulo, I realized I didn’t feel well. After the hour trip to the hotel, I was really feeling it and decided to take a nap. I woke up an hour later with the chills in my 75 degree hotel room. I pumped the heat up to 90 and proceeded to not leave my hotel room for the next day and a half. I really thought I wasn’t going to be able to make it to the USA/Ghana game, but thought to myself, there’s only a world cup once every four years, you have to go.

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Part 2 – Recife-Porto de Galhinas for Italy Costa Rica

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On the morning of 20th, we left Natal at 6am in our rental car, hoping to make it to Recife in time to grab a bite to eat and have a few pregame beers before the 1pm kickoff. We drove through sugar cane fields and beautiful rolling hills and made it to the outskirts of Recife by 10am, but quickly realized that things would be different as we got closer to the city…

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Part 3 – Manaus-Sao Paulo-Natal for USA Portugal, Chile Netherlands and Italy Uruguay

Sao Paulo - Chile/Netherlands

Sao Paulo – Chile/Netherlands

After relaxing in Porto de Galinhas, I left my group to travel 5400 miles in three days to see USA/Portugal, Chile/Netherlands and Italy/Uruguay in Manaus, Sao Paulo and Natal, respectively. I left Porto de Galinhas with flip flops, shorts, a USA jersey, a sweatshirt, USA sunglasses and my tickets to the games, nothing more. My plan was to wake up at 4am, get to the Recife airport by 5 at the latest, then fly to Brasilia, then onto Manaus. But I almost didn’t make it…

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Part 4 – Porto de Galinhas for USA Germany and Greece Costa Rica

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After recuperating in Porto de Galinhas on the 25th, it was game day again. USA. Germany. It had been raining off and on on the 25th, but that night, the skies opened up with a torrential, tropical downpour. We called it an early night so we could leave early the next morning for the 1pm game, 70km away in Recife. We left Porto de Galinhas in a torrential downpour at 9am…

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Part 5 – Recife-Salvador for USA Belgium and Netherlands Costa Rica

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After watching Costa Rica advance to the quarterfinals, we set out to the south, aiming for Salvador, about 750km away. Every Brazilian we’d told we were driving south to Salvador looked at us like we were crazy and tried to convince us to change our plans. They said the road was terrible, there were frequent robberies, potential kidnappings, random objects in the road to get you to slow down so that people could rob you, and that many of the police were so corrupt that you weren’t even supposed to stop for the police if they tried to stop you…

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Tips to For Your Startup Chile Application

The startup chile application phase is open again and that usually means a blog post offering startup chile consulting and help with applications. Even though I’ve gotten emails from 10 companies wanting my help and I still have a 66% hit rate for the companies that I help, I won’t be offering my services this time. I just don’t have enough time this time.

Instead, here’s my tips for writing your application and getting into startup chile:

1. Public description, video, website

The most important parts are your public description, your website and your video. I know many judges who read your public description, then go to your website and watch your video. If they’re bored, they’ll skim the rest of your app and toss it in the no pile.

The judges are reading a huge quantity of applications, so make sure yours stands out.

2. Don’t write to fill space

Say what you need to say as directly as possible. Don’t write like a college term paper. That’s the opposite of business writing. Write directly and clearly.

3. Native speaker english

If you’re not a native speaker or aren’t a great writer, find someone to help you edit your application. It’s completely worth it.

4. No passive voice

It’s weak. Doesn’t inspire confidence. And it’s boring to read.

This: We make money three ways:

Not This: Money is made three ways by the company

5. Use present tense as much as possible

This: Our company sells sunglasses online

Not this: Our company will sell sunglasses online

6. No business buzzwords

Be direct. Buzzwords make you look weak. And they generally don’t mean anything.

7. Write like you want a 10 year old or your mom to be able to understand it

It’s not impressive to write in jargon. It doesn’t show that you’re smart. Clear, direct writing does. I’ve read countless applications where I truly don’t understand what the entrepreneur is trying to say. But it sure has lots of big words! And buzzwords.

8. Use Lists

You should answer a question about revenue model like this:

We make money three ways:

  • Selling products via our online store
  • Charging placement fees to vendors
  • Logistics fulfillment for partner vendors

This way you save words and go right to the point. Then add a few descriptive sentences and you’re set.

9. Start with your niche, then go bigger

For the target market, scaling plan and your plan, start with your niche, then describe where you’ll be in 6 months or a year. Something like:

Our first clients will be young males between the ages of 18-24 who go to our university and study engineering. They have the biggest pain point for the problem we’re trying to solve. After we win our niche, we’ll expand to the rest of the university, then replicate the model at other universities in our city, then expand internationally following the same model.

10. Tell a story and don’t be boring

Tell a story. Make it fun. The judges read a ton of applications. Stand out by not being boring.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, there are about 2000 applications per round. 100 make it in. Probably half will get thrown out quickly. Your job is to get into the top 300, where it’s going to be a crapshoot. It’s the luck of the draw that the three judges assigned to you will actually like your project.

You just never know. My favorite project ever didn’t make it. Some projects I’ve helped are decent, but not great and have won. Good luck and happy applying!

Andes Property: Furnished Apartment Rentals in Santiago Chile

When I first got to Chile in 2010 as part of the pilot round of Startup Chile, my first task was to find an apartment. We rented a hostel for the first week, and set out to rent an apartment.

It was a daunting task. I spoke a bit of spanish, but my business partner Jesse didn’t really speak much at all. We started looking for shared apartments, furnished apartment rentals and unfurnished units in Providencia, Las Condes and Bellas Artes, but quickly were stymied. We didn’t really know where to search, our spanish wasn’t up to snuff and even when we did find a decent property, many landlords either didn’t want to rent to foreigners or jacked up the rent 2-3x when they heard my broken spanish.

After looking for a few days, we thought we’d found the apartment we wanted right near Metro Pedro de Valdivia. The photos were amazing (like our three bedroom in Las Condes pictured below). It had a pool. Two bedrooms. A balcony facing the Andes. I called and asked for the price and a time to go see it. When we got there and walked in, I knew we’d been taken for a ride. It was a one bedroom studio that was no way close to what we’d seen online.

three bedroom apartment las condes

One of our 3br apartments in Las Condes.

When another apartment quoted me $1500 a month, I asked my Chilean friend Cristobal to call and try to rent it. He got quoted $700. They’d tried to gringo tax us! Other apartments just flat out told us they wouldn’t rent to us unless we could show a year of income in Chile, or have a Chilean cosigner.

We ended up using an agency that worked out ok, but we ended up paying high broker fees and having to put four months down. Other friends weren’t so lucky and ended up getting taken advantage of by brokers.

one bedroom apartment bellas artes

1 bedroom apartment in Bellas Artes

Many of our friends ended up paying way over market value or having to pay their entire lease up front. And forget about getting your security deposit back at the end of your lease! Most of our friends ended up losing nearly all of their deposit and had no recourse. It turns out that for most Chileans the idea of a security deposit is really a “I use your money as an extra month’s rent” deposit!

In 2012 when I first got back to Chile, I decided to start to solve the problem. Two of my ex startup chile friends and I decided to create Andes Property, a company dedicated to helping foreigners find apartments to rent with a US level of customer service, fully bilingual service and without the typical Chilean paperwork and demands.

We started by buying our own apartments in Bellas Artes and then have taken over management of Chilean owned apartments that allow us to rent to foreigners using our standards. If you’re looking for an apartment, shoot us a message. We’d be happy to help you out. Click on the logo below for more info.

andes property apartments in santiago chile

Introducing Magma Partners: My New Seed Stage Fund in Chile

magma partnersI’m excited to announce a new project I’ve been working on for the past six months: Magma Partners, a new seed fund in Santiago, Chile that invests in startups and high potential small businesses. Along with two Chilean partners, Francisco Sáenz and Diego Philippi, we’ll invest $25,000-$75,000 in 8-10 high potential entrepreneurs each year for the next three years. Some press: Andes Beat (en), Fayerwayer, Diario Financiero, Pulso Social, Pulso Social (en).

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Me, Francisco Sáenz, Diego Philippi

Our goal is to then provide follow on investments in the successful companies. We held our launch event last night where we announced the fund and our first two investments and it was a great time.

I’m excited to announce  our first investment, Propiedad Fácil, a property portal and real estate service provider in Chile. I think Magma Partners represents an opportunity to help keep the Chilean entrepreneurial ecosystem’s momentum going since the Startup Chile burst onto the scene in 2010.

Ever since trying to raise money for Entrustet in Chile in 2011, I’ve seen an opportunity for a Chilean early stage seed fund that operates using best practices from the United States. Chile is a very conservative country, so most investors still treat startup investing as if they were investing in a bakery or a bank and try to get as much equity as possible in the first capital raise, killing startups in the process.

I strongly believe that a higher percentage Chilean entrepreneurs fail than they should because the nascent Chilean entrepreneurship ecosystem lacks high quality mentorship, people willing to connect startups to existing businesses and access to capital using US industry standard terms. The best Chilean entrepreneurs get their start and quickly move abroad to find funding.

Our fund aims to fill the niche of high potential entrepreneurs who are starting their business in Chile with the goal of expanding across Latin America. We promise to be transparent, use US industry standard terms, give real mentorship and help you connect with potential clients and investors in Chile, Latin American and abroad.

But we’re aiming much higher. One of the things that I like about Chile is that it’s small. With about 17m people, you can have a nationwide impact fairly easily. Our plan is to not only help the entrepreneurs we invest in, but also to be a real help to those who we can’t invest in. I believe that if we execute our plan, we may be able to change the culture in Chile.

We’ve partnered with the Kauffman Mindset program to give mentorship to both companies that we invest in and Chileans who are interested in starting a business.

If you’re an entrepreneur with a business based in Chile who’s looking for funding, please check out our site, fill out our application form and a partner will get back to you within 48 hours with a “no, it doesn’t meet our criteria and here’s why” or a “yes, we’re interested, lets set up a meeting!”

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photo (12)

The Chilean Mindset Needs to Change from Extraction to Value Creation

People always ask me questions along the lines of “what’s the one thing holding Chile back from being an innovative country?” It’s a question I’m really interested in, not just for Chile, but for the US as well.

My latest column in the Santiago Times titled The Extraction vs. Value Added Mindset talks about Chile’s current preference for business models that extract value, either from the ground, the sea, or even other people, rather than business models that create new value.

From the article:

I was invited to speak at a roundtable at the Universidad de Desarrollo about the challenges of teaching entrepreneurship in Chile. We had a lively and wide ranging discussion about how best to continue to foment entrepreneurship at all levels of Chilean society. One of the best debates was about trying to answer the question: What is the biggest factor holding Chilean culture back from being more entrepreneurial?

The general consensus was that it’s the Chilean family’s fault. Kids live with their parents until their mid- to late-twenties and generally only move out when they get married. Moms and Dads tell their kids they can do no wrong. Many lead pampered lifestyles with doting parents (and sometimes nanas), who solve even the most trivial of problems.

Since entrepreneurship is opportunity recognition and problem solving, the thinking goes that if you never have to solve problems on your own and always turn to Mommy and Daddy when things get tough, you won’t be a good entrepreneur. And if we just got kids to move out at a younger age like they do in the United States, we’d have more successful Chilean entrepreneurs.

I agree that this is part of the problem, but I actually think the real root of the problem goes much deeper and that the solution is much harder to achieve. The real problem is that Chilean culture values extraction over value creation. Look at the biggest Chilean industries: mining, fishing, fruit, wine, logging, banking and retail (trading). Of the principal exports (mining’s currently 56 percent of total exports), only salmon exports are showing growth in the past 12 months, (+53%) while forestry (0%), wine (-8%), fruit(-16%) are in decline. Some are literally extraction, like mining and fishing, while others are extracting wealth from their fellow citizens via banking or arbitrage opportunities in trading.

Read the full article at The Santiago Times.

If you want to help change the culture to make it more entrepreneurial, we have to start valuing value creation above all else. We need to stop making entrepreneurs (especially those who are using extraction business models) into rockstars and heroes. The real stars of an entrepreneurial ecosystem that’s starting to take root are those who are creating new opportunities and creating value for their customers.

The most important piece of the puzzle is the entrepreneurial mindset. My partners and I have been working on trying to help shape this mindset via teaching classes at universities, but would love to see this effort expanded. I believe changing the mindset is the key to creating a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem.