Chow Chile

So the end has come – of this year’s fellowship program and my blogging career. I can’t express enough gratitude to all the folks who made this possible and supported me. Special thanks to the EY Corporate Responsibility Fellowship Team, Prey Project, EY Chile, all the new friends made along the way and everyone back home. This has been a highlight in my professional career and I can’t wait to take what I’ve learned forward with me.

Chow Chile. Que te vaya bien.

Categories: Chronicles of Chile, Random musings, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Chile of Tomorrow

When I first got to Chile, it took about 5 minutes of leaving the airport to realize that this is not your typical developing Latin American country. It took about 1 day to learn just how far from a developing country Chile is, 5 weeks to get a good understanding of the history and politics that led to their current state and 7 weeks to form a point of view worth posting on a blog.

Chile has risen to what the World Bank would classify as a “middle-income economy.” This success is due largely to agricultural and other commodity exports including copper, silver, wine, salmon and lumber.  However, the problem with pegging an economy on natural resources is that those resources one day run out or you reach a point where extraction of the resources causes more instability than economic benefit. Further, commodity markets don’t have the ability to absorb a nation’s full workforce which results in stagnant employment.

In recognizing that Chile’s current economic dependencies are not viable in the long- run, the Chilean government began promoting future focused industries like professional services, biotechnology and software. Key public-private partnerships have also been made through CORFO and the National Innovation Council for Competitiveness to promote entrepreneurship and innovation. Organizations like Ernst & Young and Endeavor also partner to do their part by providing support and increasing visibility of Chilean entrepreneurs on the global stage.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to speak with a bunch of local high-impact entrepreneurs at the Endeavor/EY Knowledge Sharing Conference where I presented on the topic of Turning Risk into Results. Here, we discussed the top 10 global risks as published annually by Ernst & Young as well as specific risks in Latin America using the World Bank’s 2012 Ease of Doing Business Study. We shared some really honest dialogue on topics including strategic tax, transfer pricing, managing your innovation investment, human capital planning, leveraging automation early in your company’s growth and managing capital risk. It’s clear that understanding risk is a competitive advantage – even in early stage companies where failure is often the result of the things could have been avoided with proper risk assessment, prioritization, action and ongoing transparency/communication.  

I think it’s very possible that Chile could be home to the Silicon Valley of Latin America. If the government and private sector continue to create favorable conditions that promote commerce and limit corruption risk, more foreign investment will come to the edge of the world. Like with the rest of the world, it’s also critical that upstream investments be made in the quality of and access to education – particularly math and science as well as improving gender equity in the workplace. With this investment and a realistic outlook on managing key risks to enable the nation’s development strategy, the emerging enterprises of Chile today can become the next generation market leaders of the World tomorrow. 

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Street Speak

When you come to Chile, you will be forced to notice the quantity and caliber of street art aka: graffiti. While in most cities (and by most standards) the art form is considered vandalism, here it is sooo much more.

In Chile, the history of street art is rich and truly reflects the political and social struggles this country has endured. Many of the barrios in which you’ll find the most impressive work were once disenfranchised urban pockets which are now experiencing massive revitalization. The streets offer great social commentary on the best and worst of times straight from the source.

Part of what lends to the technical credibility of graf is the speed at which the work must be produced.  I am amazed at what these artists do within this constraint and had to document some works to share!

“Graffiti is not about clean lines, pretty colors and beautiful blends. Graffiti is my life’s turbulence exploded on a wall.”- Mint+Serf

Categories: Chronicles of Chile, Random musings, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Open Source 101

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been learning a ton about Open Source Software (OSS) – what it is and what makes it so powerful.  There must be folks out there who, like me, are new to the topic so I thought I’d start by breaking down the basics….Open Source 101.

What is it? The term Open Source applies when a software program’s source code is freely (as in free speech, not necessarily zero cost) available to the public. Hence, such program’s can be modified and distributed by anyone. OSS is often developed as a community as opposed to by a singular individual or organization.

Where did it come from? The history of open source can be traced back to the creation of the computer but we’re going to make a massive oversimplification for the sake of time and attention span and fast-forward to the 1980’s and Richard Stallman, developer extraordinaire and software freedom activist. Stallman launched the GNU Operating System project, created the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and is the main author of the GNU General Public License (GPL). This GPL was then used by Linus Torvalds in creation and release of the Linux OS – one of the best examples of free and open source software collaboration. A global community of developers, using Linux and few other platforms, drove OSS growth during the internet/ boom. This growth continues to be seen as the internet remains a necessary life- kernel. Now, open source runs much of the Internet and the Web – you may not even realize how much you rely on open source programs! The modern-day movement is supported by the Open Source Initiative (OSI) – a non-profit OSS advocacy corporation.

Why does it matter? What Stallman and others did in their frustration with proprietary solutions was disrupt the technology status-quo. The premise of the modern movement is that people unconcerned with proprietary ownership or financial gain will produce a more useful product than commercially developed programs. Further, by decentralizing the model of program development, a more powerful and reliable (bug free) solution may be found at a quicker rate than through traditional means.

If the source code is intended to be distributed for free, how can you monetize it?
Open source disrupts traditional product to profit models and creates greater incentive for all market players to innovate. While OSS business models may be a bit elusive, they exist. Some successful OS business models include:

  1. Dual Licenses – Offer a free, open source version of a product under a GPL and paid version(s) under commercial license. This is also often referred to as a Freemium model. WordPress, who hosts this blog, relies on such a model.
  2. Sell Support Services – Build a services and support business on top of your OSS. RedHat is a popular example of this.
  3. Hardware – Bundle the software with a hardware you build or run. Android does this.
  4. Adware – Sell advertising space like Mozilla Foundation did in its crazy lucrative royalty agreement with Google.

The open source movement served as a bridge during the recent economic downturn when large corporations were cutting R&D budgets and headcount. It provided the people and technical expertise to sustain a consumer driven technology sector which mainstream markets and large organizations fundamentally cannot do. It is estimated that by 2016, 50% of all software will be OSS. This is the result of passionate users operating as both the demand generators and suppliers.

Now we just have to figure out how to apply this fight the power approach in a scalable way to open up other troubled industries like healthcare IT, pharmaceutical drug development, scientific research, education and energy…..but I think it’s best that I get off my soap box now.

Categories: Get to Business!, Uncategorized | Tags: | Leave a comment

The Absolute Desert

Chile, by nature of its length, has an astounding variety of extreme terrain and temperatures. To the north, it is home to the 2nd driest stretch of land in the world – the Atacama Desert. There are parts of this desert where rain has never been recorded….well at least that’s what the Accountants say.

The other weekend, Linda and I took our first out-of-Santiago adventure to this rugged terrain for a truly unforgettable experience.

Some background about the Atacama and what makes it so remarkable:

  • Atacama is made up of salt basins, sand and lava flows. The terrain includes lagoons and salt crust (technically speaking) where water has evaporated leaving behind concentrated nitrates and sodium. The pressure and heat from underground magma creates spectacular geyser-filled plains and hot springs. As uninhabitable as this region is, flocks of flamingos come here to feed on the red algae that grow in these salt lakes.
  • The sky in Atacama is unparalleled in clarity making it one of the World’s foremost astronomical research hubs. In 2013, the Desert will be home to ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array or Soul in Spanish). ALMA is the largest land-based observatory ever built and will have telescopic capability more powerful than even the Hubble telescope. Seeing this sky and taking an observatory tour with a professional Astronomer was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. Any X-Files fan would agree.
  • The Atacama landscape is so desolate that people often equate it to lunar terrain. Scientists have found that the soil quality in the Desert is similar to that on Mars and equally unlikely of producing life (so we better be nicer to the planet we’ve got).
  • Atacama is so dry that nothing rots there – not even human remains. The oldest examples of artificially mummified human remains – the Chinchorro mummies – were found here and date back to ~7020 BC. To provide some perspective, the oldest mummy found in Egypt dates ~3000 BC. ¡Increíble!

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the trip but don’t be fooled. These photos make it seem like the desert is very wet and much warmer than it actually was. Temperatures fluctuated from +/- 70°F in the day to +/- 20°F at night so, if you go, be prepared!

Categories: Chronicles of Chile, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Week 1 @ Prey

Week one as a CR Fellow at Prey Project has not just surpassed my expectations, it’s blown them out of the stratosphere. In one week, I managed to get to know a fantastic Company and inspiring group of people, be interviewed on one of Latin America’s most popular tech sites and have my photo taken with the President of Chile!! I’m not sure if I’m a victim of the best dumb luck ever or if there is something deeper going on here….

I arrived at Prey on Monday and was immediately swept up in the creativity and innovation flowing through this place. This is the kind of company where you work your tail off but never take yourself too seriously. After a warm welcome from the Prey team, we got right down to business. The first few days were filled with discussion and collaboration as I poured over their existing financials, performance indicators and market research. I was able to get a behind-the-scenes look at how Prey’s software works and had some honest conversations about the Company’s goals and vision for the future.  The key takeaway: These guys are BUSY!!!

This small team does it all and they are doing it and doing it and doing it well! It’s no wonder they’ve been collecting some great press and recognition. Some of the highlights and most newsworthy moments of the semana include:

2012 Small Business Award Winner (PREMIO PYME 2012): Today the President of Chile awarded Prey the Chilean Small Business of the Year in the category of Innovation. The entire Prey team – including yours truly – attended the ceremony at La Moneda Palace (the equivalent of the White House). During the event, the President made some spot on remarks on the role of entrepreneurs (namely small & mid-size companies) in creating jobs and advancing the quality of life for a nation’s people.

Live WebTV cast on On Thursday, Prey was the featured guest on Mejorando – one of Latin America’s premier tech review and education sites. Due to some truly dumb luck, I was able to participate in the show and share some information on the Corporate Responsibility Program and what working with Prey has been like thus far. This site has a hardcore international following and it was a blast connecting with them!

WRAL Segment on Prey: For those of you who may not still understand what Prey does or how it’s useful to anyone looking to minimize the burden of theft/loss of your tech devices, this segment on WRAL really lays it out! The story goes into detail on how Prey solved a burglary that took place at a North Carolina home while the couple was on their honeymoon. Check it out!

I can safely say that this week has officially made it to the hit list of “best weeks ever.”

Categories: Get to Business!, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

And the adventure begins…

Day 1 in Santiago was a major success. Linda (my fantastic co-Fellow who will be working with another Chilean entrepreneur) and I made it safely to our apartments in the neighborhood of Providencia. This part of Santiago is hip and lively with no shortage of things to do or see. We enjoyed an authentic late afternoon lunch, wandered the neighborhood, got some essentials from the local market and finished the day with pisco sours at a local watering hole. I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to Santiago!

Categories: Chronicles of Chile, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

The future of voting?

My bags are packed, apartment’s clean, work is in able hands, cab is on it’s way and my vote is cast. I am officially ready to go. This election year is the first in which I cast an absentee ballot and I have to say it was a rather painless process! I was able to submit my forms and my ballot via email and complete the entire process within 2 weeks! I can now rest assured knowing that come November 6, my vote will be counted.

This process showed me that states vary widely in their absentee voting protocols and, lucky for me, D.C. is probably among the more flexible and provides plenty of options for sending in your vote (as it should be). However, as easy as the process was, I couldn’t help but wonder why it still wasn’t EASIER. We still rely so heavily on community groups hitting the streets grassroots style registering people to vote and then making sure they get to the polls and yet so many eligible and interested voters remain left behind. It got me thinking….if I can deposit a check using my cell phone without ever having to go to the bank then why can’t I register and cast my vote from my cell phone too???

So along came google search where I learned that Washington state is the first and -from what I’ve been able to find- only state to develop a voter registration app. It was done through public-private partnership (as most good things are) between the state, Facebook and Microsoft Corp

My opinion (and not those of Ernst & Young):

1. This is awesome and I hope that come next general election year every American can register and cast their vote from their phone, tablet or whatever the future of technology brings us.

2. The private sector needs to continue pushing this movement forward because states are too resource constrained to bear the costs.

3. Partnerships (like with Facebook) may impede independence of the state as many social media sites encourage and allow users to post their party affiliation and even donate through these avenues. Not only would such a thing add to the polarization and partisanship we all hate so much but could it even deter voters from participating at all??

Anyway, hopefully some techy folk (maybe even those expecting me in Santiago) will come along and revolutionize the game. Until then, I’m just glad to know that I can participate in this process with confidence that my vote will matter.

This morning we had our quarterly Risk Advisory Network Series which covered an unintentionally political series of topics including COSO framework changes, Kentucky Tax Reform and employer considerations with passing of the Affordable Care Act. Our Louisville Office Managing Partner, Dave Calzi, made a remark about business and community working in partnership that I think is appropriate to leave this audience with (if you’re even still reading):

“We as people in business have a significant say in what’s going on around us….through our vote and through our voice.”

Categories: Random musings, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Santiago dreamin’

So I’m a little more than 36 hours from departure time and I am so full of thoughts, feelings and to-do’s that the idea of sleep is a total joke. What better way to fight insomnia than to start blogging, eh? I’ve been learning so much about Chile and wanted to share some interesting factoids:

  • Chile got its name from natives that first occupied the land. The meaning of the word Chile means “Where the land Ends”.
  • The Capital of Chile is Santiago de Chile – where I’ll be spending the next 6 weeks!
  • Chile is the leading global exporter of salmon
  • Over 1/3 of the world’s copper production is done in Chile
  • Chile has the largest annual fireworks show in all of South America.  I wonder how it stacks up against Thunder Over Louiville??
  • Michelle Bachelet Jeria was Chile’s first ever female president (elected in 2006)
  • Chile is the sixth largest exporter of wines…..I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

** The image in the header of my blog is a satellite view of Santiago, Chile. The City sits in the Santiago Basin and is flanked by the Andes to the east the Chilean Coastal Range to the west.

Categories: Preparing for Departure, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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