Start-Up Chile 101 and Chile The Expat’s Guide 2nd Editions

In 2012, after living 2+ years in Chile, I wrote Start-Up Chile 101, the book I’d wished I’d had before joining the Start-Up Chile program. A year later, I wrote Chile: The Expat’s Guide for all of the foreigners who were thinking about moving to Chile.

Since then, these books have been bought by thousands of people thinking about living, working and doing business in Chile. Over the past four years, while working as Magma Partners’ managing partner, I learned even more about Chile and the rest of Latin America and decided to update both of these books.

The new books are reworked to include:

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Some Books, Blogs and Podcasts I’ve Enjoyed Lately

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Here’s some stuff I’ve been reading, watching and listening to lately.

Postcasts

This being so, so what? – Jerry Colonna

Jerry is an ex-VC and now coaches CEOs. In this episode, Jerry talks with a startup CEO who has 4 months of money left in the bank and how to make sure they keep the company around. This episode has been really useful to multiple portfolio companies already. Check out episodes 9, 20, 25 and 45 as well.

Tony Robbins on the Tim Ferriss Show

Tim interviews Tony again. They talk about health, investing and living a good life. If you’re looking for an intro to Tim Ferriss’ podcast, checkout Jamie Foxx, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Naval Ravikant, Sebastian Junger, Cal Fussman.

Kiernan Dougherty on Jocko Podcast

Jocko Willink is ex special forces and talks about war, discipline and other interesting things. Parts can be tough to listen to, especially in this episode, but this episode is extraordinary. Kiernan is a veteran war and natural disaster photographer in places like Iraq, Belfast and the indian ocean tsunami. He tells his story on this podcast.

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Seven Important Books

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Over the past nine months or so I stepped back from writing and threw myself into reading. I took a trip into the classics, reading Wealth of Nations, Crime and Punishment, Brothers Karamozov, 1984, Brave New World, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, some light fiction and fun non fiction, but what I’ve really been interested in lately is the intersection between technology, our economy and how it’s changing our culture, both for the better and for worse.

I’ve started to formulate a thesis. And I don’t really like the conclusions that I’ve been reaching. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be writing about what I think might be going on, why its happening and how it may affect our present and our future. These are the key books that I’ve read that have shaped my thinking.

World

Antifragile – Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Taleb’s follow up to best selling and paradigm breaking The Black Swan, Antifragile, is probably the most important book in the past decade, if not longer. I found myself smiling and nodding in agreement throughout the book. And I’ve found that if someone’s read this book and enjoyed it, I’ll likely be their friend and share a similar world view.

Taleb creates a new word: antifragile – things that grow stronger from stressors. Humans get stronger from mild stressors. A glass vase does not. The restaurant industry does. Wall Street does not. Taleb shows that lack of skin in the game, the agency problem, micromanaging and a lack of understanding of real risk is causing our world to be more fragile when we should be orientating toward antifragile approaches.

Shorter: My Rules for Life in The Guardian.

You Are Not a Gadget – Jaron Lanier

Lanier invented the term Virtual Reality and has been involved in Silicon Valley since the very beginning. And he thinks technologist have gotten it all wrong. We’ve built technology that serves technology, not technology that serves humans. Our iPhones control us, not the other way around. And it’s wrecking our culture and economic future.

If you can’t read the book, read his oped in the Wall Street Journal, World Wide Mush.

Who Owns The Future – Jaron Lanier

In Lanier’s follow up, he talks about how technology is accruing massive returns for those who have the biggest, most powerful servers, not those who have the best ideas or give humans the most benefit. This techification eliminates the middle class and pushes economic returns up to a small group and gives the rest candy. Facebook without any users is worth $0. So why do so few people as a percentage earn money using Facebook?

If you can’t read the book, read his NY Times piece Fixing the Digital Economy.

Coming Apart – Charles Murry

Murry shows how the US has developed extreme income inequality that’s led to a small, super rich upper class that’s both physically and culturally separate from the rest of the population, similar to Latin American and other oligarchical countries. His description of how the US looks today is spot on and some of the consequences of income inequality, but I don’t buy his social root causes. I believe a similar pattern is taking place globally.

If you can’t read the book, read his Wall Street Journal piece The New American Divide and then Ross Douthat’s What Charles Murry Gets Right from the NY Times.

US Specific

Rise of the Warrior Cop – Radley Balko

Balko traces the militarization of US police forces from the US’s birth to present day and shows how the drug war and now terrorism fears have turned a police from traditional beat cops who knew everyone in their neighborhoods into body armored, automatic weapon toting, tank driving para military forces that have eviscerated the 1st and 4th amendments, wreaked havoc on families, killed innocents and brought terror the american households, all without even doing anything to lower crime.

Shorter: Why Did You Shoot Me? I was just reading a book! from Salon.

Three Felonies a Day – Harvey Silvergate & Alan Dershowitz

The US federal law system is now so vague that we all commit at least three felonies per day and the only reason we don’t get prosecuted is that we haven’t run afoul of a politician, a bureaucrat, or a prosecutor or even just gotten unlucky. Rise of the Warrior Cop interplays very well with this book. While I don’t recommend reading this book for pleasure reading, as its clearly intended for technical attorneys, the thesis is spot on.

These two books together paint the picture of why I’m very worried about NSA spying. Between a militarized police force, a government that collects all of our data and a criminal justice system that can indict you with lifetime jail time for living a normal life, we’re well on our way toward a police state.

Shorter: You Commit Three Felonies A Day from The Wall Street Journal.

Fiction

Super Sad True Love Story – Gary Shteyngart

A dystopian, but extremely readable look at what the future might look like where everyone’s always connected to the internet, we’re constantly alone together, the government monitors everything, the US is a banana republic and everyone is rated on everything via metadata. Read it.

Photo Credit: hobvias sudoneighm

The Kindle Can Change South America

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Books are incredibly expensive in Chile.  I’m talking $50-$80 for a new hardcover and $30-60 for a new softcover.  Even used books can be $5-15.  It’s even more expensive for books in English.

It’s easily 2-5x more expensive here to buy a book, sometimes more. Textbooks are closer to US prices, but that’s still much more expensive when the GDP per capita is around $15,000 and the minimum wage is about $400 per month.  These extremely high prices put books out of range for Chile’s poor and even middle class.

I talked to a friend who works in a language school who told me that when she goes back to the US, the school asks her to bring books back because they are so much cheaper there.  Every Chilean I’ve talked to about book prices says “oh man, don’t get me started, it’s ridiculous.”  It’s a big problem.

Books are fast, simple ways to transmit large amounts of knowledge quickly.  They are the the most cost effective way for poor and middle class people to learn.  Those without access to the internet still read the printed word, and even those with internet access still buy one of the four published daily newspapers (primero, sengunda, tercera, cuarta) which come out at various times of the day.

I’ve talked to a few people and it seems that the reason they are so expensive is taxes.  The government has a tax that amounts to about $3-6, and sometimes more on each book.  Also, there seems to be a tax on publishing that gets baked into the cost somehow.  All of these costs add up to $80 hard cover books.  It makes no sense, when the government ran on a platform of education reform and educating the poor.

Which brings me to the Kindle.  The 3g enabled Kindle provides free access to the Amazon store from over 100 countries in the world, including Chile and Argentina.  You can be sitting in park, pull out your Kindle and browse for free and Amazon foots the bill.  They have made deals with all of the local cellular networks so that you can buy books from anywhere.  I can buy just about any book in English for between $1 for classics and $9 for brand new hard covers.  The vast majority are $6 and you have the entire Amazon store at your fingertips.  Books download in 30 seconds.

The new wifi enabled Kindle costs $139 and the 3g enabled Kindle costs $189 on Amazon.  When buying a Kindle costs less than 2 books, it just makes sense to buy, even for those without much money.  As the price of Kindles fall below $100, they will begin to be even more attractive to South American readers.  Unfortunately, you can only buy a two generation old 3g Kindle in Falabella for 199,000 pesos, or about $400, as the government slaps a tax on imported electronics.

The other problem is that there are hardly any books in Spanish available for purchase.  There are classics like The Count of Monte Cristo, Don Quijote and The Three Musketeers, trashy romance novels, a few different versions of the Kama Sutra and believe it or not, lots of books from the “church” of Scientology.  There are a few exceptions: you can find a few Isabelle Allende books and other very well known Spanish speaking authors, but there are not many.

As more books in Spanish get formatted for Kindle and Kindle’s price falls, Chileans will have a much greater access to books at a much lower price.  Kindles and other ereaders are poised to change Chile and other South American countries by providing cheap access to knowledge and circumventing the taxation and publishing industry prices.  It will be interesting to see if the government tries to extend it’s hand into ebooks, as they have with published books.