Tag: uyuni

My 2014

Ever since I started blogging, I’ve done a year end post summarizing what I’ve done in the past year. These posts are mostly for me, so that I can look back and remember what I did, what I was thinking and what was important to me each year. Previous versions (2000s200920102011, 2012, 2013). Here’s what I did in 2014.

Like 2013, I rang in the new year on a friends balcony overlooking Santiago surrounded by friends, including my friend Polsky who was visiting from the US. Polsky and I took off for southern Chile, visiting Pucón, Frutillar and Puerto Varas during the first week of 2014. I was back in the south six weeks later when my parents and brother came to visit, adding Chiloé to the list. Every time I go to the South, I don’t understand why I don’t go more. It’s relaxing, stunningly beautiful, has incredible food and, in summer, has amazing weather.


I always come back from the south with new ideas, rejuvenated to get back to work and this time was no different. While 2013 was a year of starting many new projects, 2014 was the year that I focused.

In January, I partnered with Francisco Sáenz and Diego Philippi to launch Magma Partners, a private seed stage investment fund and accelerator based in Santiago, Chile. Our goal was to bring US style investment and know how to Chile and pair it with Chilean connections and mentorship to help entrepreneurs create successful businesses.

magma partners fondo inversion chile

A year in, I’m extremely proud to say that we’re already starting to see results. Over the course of 2014, we reviewed over 350 startups, met hundreds of entrepreneurs and finally invested in 13 startups. Running a fund has been much more work than I thought it would be. But it’s been worth it.

We’re already starting to see promising results from multiple companies, but 2015 will bring the hard part: helping our 13 portfolio companies make their way from nascent startups to real, scaling companies. I have high hopes and 2015 will be an extremely important year for Magma and our portfolio companies.

In addition to Magma, I started the year with four active projects Andes Property, La Condoneria, Startup Chile consulting and teaching entrepreneurship at multiple universities. By mid year, my head was ready to explode from so many different projects taking up brain space and I started to focus.

First, I realized that I was using the same part of my brain to mentor Magma companies as  I had previously used to teach entrepreneurship at universities. I knew I had to stop teaching because I was getting mentorship overload, so I found other entrepreneurs to take over my classes. Next, I stopped doing Startup Chile consulting, as it was taking up too much brain space and tried to figure out how I could get La Condoneria and Andes Property to run more autonomously.

After a long search, I hired employees to help run La Condoneria and Andes Property, both of which continue to grow quickly month over month. At the start of the year, I was personally picking, packing and taking packages of condoms to chilexpress (chilean fedex) five times per week and was personally showing apartments to foreigners for Andes Property.  I still work on both businesses, but Andres, Gonzalo and Bernadette have really stepped up to the challenge to take responsibilities away from me.

2014 was the year that I finally started to get better at spanish again after feeling like I’d plateaued in 2013. I still speak with a strong accent, but I can say 95% of what I want to say and am now happy making a joke per day, up from one per week last year. Baby steps.

2014 was the first time I wrote an entire post on my blog in Spanish and the first time one of my spanish blog posts went semi-viral in Chile. It was the first year I presented to large audiences in Spanish without notes, just like I do in English. I also did multiple radio interviews in Spanish for the first time. I’m still not as good as I’d like to be and I hate to see eyes glaze over because I’m not as engaging in Spanish and I am in English.

2014 was a great year for travel, as I explored Chile’s south on two separate trips to kick off the year. In February I took an incredible ten day trip to Uyuni, Potosi and Sucre in Bolivia. I’d previously been to Uyuni in 2011, but never to Potosi and Sucre, both of which were amazingly different from anything else I’d ever seen. I took a mile long tour of the Potosi mine, where miners as young as 10 years old use pick axes, dynamite, coca leaves, pure alcohol and their brute strength to try to scratch out a living. Sucre was an amazingly beautiful window into the Spanish Colonial past.


Cerro Rico, Potosi
Cerro Rico, Potosi

I took an express trip to Lima for the first time when my Aunt Nancy and Uncle Paul decided to come go to Machu Picchu. It was fun exploring old Lima with them and I ate the best meal of my life at Maido, a japanese/peruvian fusion restaurant. I can’t wait to go back to Peru to continue exploring the rest of the country.

2014 was a World Cup year and I made it three world cups in a row, spending three amazing weeks in Brazil. I saw 10 matches in five different cities, traveling over 14,000 miles in the process. My friends Enrique, David, Sandra and Tiago each traveled with me for parts of the trip, making it an incredible trip. I’ll never forget the marathon trips getting to the first three USA games, early and late goals in USA/Ghana, Jermaine Jones’ goal in USA/Portugal and the trip to the jungle, and the incredible spirt of the Chilean fans, even in defeat against the Netherlands and Brazil. I’m so thankful I’ve been able to attend.

USA Germany
USA Germany

I took three quick trips back to the US, one in late May to visit family, another for a friends’ wedding and the third for my group of college friends’ 10th annual Friendsgiving and the holidays with my family. I think I stayed better connected to family and friends by visiting more, but for shorter amounts of time each visit, a plan I’d like to keep up in 2015, rather than one 5-6 week long trip as I’ve done in previous years. It still isn’t fun to miss weddings, bachelor parties, thanksgiving, the Forward Festival and birthdays, but life is all about tradeoffs.

I made it back to Madison on all three trips, including an extended stay where my friends and I reunited for a weekend of Badger football and memories. I honestly can’t believe it’s been ten years since I started college. Time really flies. Madison is noticeably more dynamic each time I visit. The tech scene is on the leading edge of this new dynamism and I’m thankful and proud of Madison’s entrepreneurs for paving the way. Capital Entrepreneurs (made one meeting this year) and Forward Fest (sad I missed it this year) continue to be pillars of he newly emergent startup scene, with other entities and institutions arriving to continue to progress.

2014 saw me focus on two key businesses, continue to explore South America, attend a world cup and still stay connected with my friends and family in the US. I’ve been very lucky that the years keep getting better and better and I hope 2015 is no exception.

Favorite Posts of 2014

2014 was my lowest blog output in the six plus year history of my blog. And even worse, I didn’t make up for the lack of quantity with better quality. I’m not sure if its because I’m writing less or because my brain is getting mixed up because I’m speaking more spanish, but my writing is noticeably worse than in previous years. Last year 10 posts made my list. This year only four made the cut. I need to get back to writing more.

Seeing Things From Other People’s Perspectives

Never Give Up Is Terrible Advice

The Chilean Mindset Needs to Change From Extraction to Value Creation

Lack of Skin in the Game is the Root of Our Problems

My best posts from the Magma Blog

Ten Frequent Mistakes of Chilean Entrepreneurs / Los Diez Errores Frequentes de Emprendedores Chilenos

The Magma Partners Latin America Investment Thesis / Tesis de Inversión de Magma Partners Para Chile y Latinoamérica

The best books I read in 2014:

1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created – I learned more from this book and its companion book 1491 than I’ve learned in a really long time. 1493 talks about how things changed after Columbus arrived in the Americas. It busts myths, adds new facts and really made me think.

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus – This book completely changed my understanding of what the Americas were like before Columbus and opened my eyes to some of the amazing things that native cultures in our hemisphere had done. Really worth reading and makes me want to explore Peru and Mexico.

Five Days at Memorial – An investigative journalist looks at what happened at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans before, during and after Hurricane Katrina where doctors potentially euthanized patients.

The Everything Store – A Jeff Bezos biography and the history of Amazon.com.

The Boys In The Boat – A history of the US rowing team in the runup to and at the 1936 Olympics. Entertaining story at the confluence of history and sports.

Travlogue: San Pedro de Atacama

I spent four days in and around San Pedro de Atacama, in the far north of Chile, about two hours north of Santiago by flight.  Atacama is one of the strangest, most beautiful, rugged, remote, stunning places I’ve ever been.  Normally, I really dislike tours and prefer to go out on my own, but San Pedro is the exception.  I went with my friend Katie’s business called Pathway Chile which takes mostly young people on trips around Chile. I paid about $400 for four days of hostel, flight, day trips and a few meals.  Our group consisted of 12 people from six different countries and was really fun.  Fellow startup chile-r Paige Brown of Tripeezy gets credit for most of the photos in this post.

I think it would be extremely hard to do San Pedro on your own because of the terrain, weather and impossibility to get around.  Over our four days, our guides drove rugged buses and 4x4s over mountains, volcanoes, salt flats, desserts and much more.  The network of mostly dirt roads can be deadly for even the most experienced drivers who know the area.  The roads were lined with little shrines to mark previous accidents.

San Pedro the town is a bit strange.  It’s in the middle of nowhere, with the closest airport about 1.5 hours away in Calama.  It’s made up of restaurants, hostels, bars and tchotchke shops.  It’s a tourist trap, but the scenery more than makes up for it.

I saw more weird/stunning things in four days that I think I’ve seen anywhere else in the world.  Our first day, we went for a drive to Valle de la Luna, aptly named because it looks like the surface of the moon.  We played around on huge sand dunes and sprinted down to get to the bottom.  Liberating.  People were sand boarding, which looked cool, but I bet hurt a lot.

We went to the amphitheater to watch the sun set, which was absolutely unreal.  The sky was on fire.  It was truly the best sunset I’ve ever seen, even better than Cape Town.  We hiked through a cavern and looked at the star filled night sky while the moon came up in the sky.  The night sky in Northern Chile is the best in the world and there are international telescopes all over the place.

The second day, we went for a drive through small towns and ended up at two lakes at the foot of a perfectly conical volcano.  It was beautiful.  There were lots of flamingos, which are pink because of the creatures they eat.  They eliminate the beta carotene via their feathers, hence the pink.  The redder the flamingo, the older (or fatter) he is.  We ate lunch at a tiny town of about 100 people where they grew all of the food in a garden out back.

Lunch was quinoa, rice, bean soup, followed by potato, bean and quinoa main dish.  It was hearty, spicy and good.  that night we ended up at a flamingo sanctuary, where we saw our second amazing sunset in a row.  It reflected off the water and outlined the flamingos against the backdrop of the mountains.

We got up at 330am the next day to find it raining.  We took a 2 hour ride up to about 4500m to see hot springs and geysers.  The mountains had a fresh coat of snow, which almost never happens.  We ate breakfast high above the geyser field under the cover of the snow capped mountains.  We hung out in the hot springs to warm up.  Before we left, we check out the active mud vents and sulfur vents.  Since we were so high up, it was a bit hard to breathe if we did any sort of extended exercise.

In the afternoon, we went to the eyes of the desert, which are two random holes in the middle of the desert believed to be caused by meteor strikes.  These two perfectly circular holes are about 40 meters across and super deep and filled with water.  We jumped from about 20 feet up into the refreshing, salty water.

Next, we went to Laguna Cejar, the saltiest lake in the world, even more than the Dead sea.  We floated around and enjoyed the sun.  You can’t even go under water if you try and it was comical to see people try.  When we got out, we had to get hosed down because there was so much salt on us.

We ended the day at salt flats to watch the sun set.  It was a great scene with the mountains in the background.  The salt flats had a bit of water on them, so they reflected everything.  Luckily they were only a preview to the salt flats of Uyuni.  On our last day, we went for a drive up to the Bolivian border and through the mountains.  The weather was amazing.  Rain, snow, hail, sun, lightning in a short period of time.  We saw an amazing red sunset, capped off by more flamingos and Vincuñas, which are sort of like llamas.  The beauty and force of nature was humbling and reminded me how lucky we really are.  I’ve never seen colors and such quick changing weather like that.

That night, we packed up to head out to Bolivia the next morning.  It was an incredibly interesting trip and not very expensive.  If you’re going to San Pedro, I recommend 3-4 days, it’s worth it.

near the bolivian border