The Best Thing a Chilean Can Do is to Leave Chile

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After five years in Chile, I firmly believe that the best thing a Chilean can do to better his or her life is to leave Chile. Traveling is ok, but to get the full benefit, a Chilean should live and work abroad, ideally for at least a year. Working in another Latin American country is ok, but to get the full benefit, a Chilean should try to live and work in the US, Europe, China, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand or another well developed country with a completely different culture and set of values. It’s easy to see the difference in attitude in a Chilean who’s been abroad and one who hasn’t.

Both upper class Chileans and non upper class Chileans should leave Chile, but for different reasons. For non-elite Chileans, their lives get instantly better getting out of Chile’s classist system. They instantly have more opportunity, are more likely to get evaluated for who they are, how smart they are and not their skin color, where they went to school or their last name. Non-elite Chileans quickly realize that lighter skin and blonde hair isn’t always aspirational in every part of the world. Continue reading…

Elite Chilean Ambition


One of the biggest things I’ve noticed working and living in Chile over the past five years is that most Chilean elites have a very different attitude toward business than US business people do.

In the US, most business people, even those with vast fortunes, are extremely driven. Whether they’re driven to make more money, for more recognition, for more power, to make the world a better place, or for their own entertainment, most US business people are always looking for the next challenge. They want to expand, to try new things, to make more money.

If they own the 5th biggest mortgage business in the US, they’re likely working their ass off and are very motivated to try to grow to #4. If they own the second biggest Honda dealership in the greater Milwaukee area, they’re doing everything they can to get to #1. And they’re busting their butt every day because they know all of the people with smaller businesses are gunning for their spot. And so are new entrants into the market. In short, US business people are extremely ambitious because they both fear competition and want to grow to make more money, leave a legacy or just because they enjoy it.

In the US, we celebrate rags to riches stories. Continue reading…

Why is Chilean Customer Service so Bad?

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Over the past two weeks, I’ve eaten at three restaurants in Santiago that had incredible customer service. I was so surprised by good service that I had to compliment the waiter at each restaurant and got to talking with each one. What did they have in common?

One was Uruguayan, one was Peruvian and the other was Venezuelan. The Uruguayan waiter told me that he makes about 80% more than his Chilean coworkers because he’s nice to people and tries to go the extra mile. The Peruvian waitress was so nice, warm and got everything right and said that she counldnt undestand why service was so much worse in Chile than in her home country. The Venezuelan waiter was incredibly attentive and got everything right. His Chilean partner gave zero fucks, forgot parts of the order, disappeared for long periods of time and added two extra items to the bill.

Chilean customer service is the worst I’ve experienced in all my travels. I’ve been all over South America, North America, Europe and parts of Africa and the Middle East and Chile Continue reading…

Doing the Dirty Work

dirty work

In 18 months since starting Magma, we’ve invested in 18 companies. The biggest predictor of success so far is very simple: does the entrepreneur value doing the dirty work and is he or she willing and able to identify it and then do it.

Paul Graham calls it doing things that don’t scale. Sam Altman’s How to Startup class 8 is devoted to it. Successful entrepreneurs and VCs all have different names for it. But at the end of the day, it’s the same idea: the stuff that takes you from 0 to 1 and then 1 to 2 gets you on the path to validating your business and start to scale it without building software and business processes. (I wrote a blog post about doing the dirty work in an commerce company here.) Continue reading…