A few months ago, I gladly took advantage of a rare opportunity to participate in a special adventure called Geeks on a Plane – thanks to our dear friends at 500 Startups! #GOAP, as it’s fondly referred to on the twitters, is a brilliantly devised plan to take America’s most intrepid startup enthusiasts to various regions around the world, with the goal of facilitating the exploration of the many unique startup communities planet Earth has to offer.
Since #GOAP’s inception in 2009, Dave and crew have been accelerating cross-border pollination in the world of tech startups and early-stage investing, while covering Asia, Europe, Latin America and beyond. On each journey, they introduce about 40 technology/startup enthusiasts to local communities and the entrepreneurs and investors that fuel these areas of bourgeoning startup activity.
In mid-May, I was fortunate enough to be included on GOAP LatAm. The group first converged on Miami, FL, and from there embarked on a 10-day voyage that took us to Mexico City, Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires. As the bulk of the group returned to the States from Argentina, a small group (6 of us) hopped on a ferry to Uruguay, where we made more connections with yet another vibrant community of entrepreneurs and developers in Montevideo.
GOAP was by far one of the coolest things I’ve done in my relatively short lifetime. I forged strong relationships with 40 like-minded people, each of whom is amazing in his/her own right – ambitious, accomplished and influential in the worlds of technology, entrepreneurship, media, investing, government and beyond. I made far-reaching connections across one of the most important cultures and fast-growing economic regions on the planet.
I was afforded a number of once-in-a-lifetime (or at least first-in-my-lifetime) experiences. Below are a few of the highlights:
•A warm welcoming of the Geeks, from the Mayor of Miami
•Mingled with the US Ambassador to Mexico, at his private residence
•A walking tour of Mexico City artisan markets
•Climbed the Piramidi di Teotihuacan, outside of Mexico City
•Lunch, meet & greet with Sao Paulo’s most active and accomplished entrepreneurs and investors (at an amazing restaurant!)
• Visited the Garoa Hacker Clube, Brazil’s first active hackerspace
•Witnessed the launch of SP Beta – a huge success orchestrated by our very own Pedro Sorrentino!
•CNN covered our visit to SP and compiled a nifty little story, based on interviews of me and several other geeks
•Visited and toured Catmandu Studios to learn about CGI and get a sneak peak at the making of Foosball, Argentina’s first 3d movie production
•A futbol match in Buenos Aires
•Learned about Uruguay’s branch of One Laptop Per Child, from the program’s director
•Hung out with the Cubox peeps and other startups at the coolest co-working space ever (think giant, retracting stain-glassed skylight)
•Ate lunch, played with kittens and saw an incredible classic car collection at a beautiful winery in the Uruguayan countryside
In each city, we gained unheard of access to genuine insights and experiences, through frequent visits to successful startups-turned-grownup companies and off-the-record conversations with important players in their respective markets.
As you might imagine, I returned from this trip with a newfound appreciation for the opportunities that exist in this vast world. There is so much more than what we see within our borders and so many smart people making a real impact. As importantly, there is much room for improvement. Many walls need be broken down, before we realize the true potential that lies within the entrepreneurial minds of the planet – walls that exist throughout public and private sectors, within individuals and organizations, among the young and their elders.
You can bet that you’ll see our team hanging with our fellow geeks on more planes, trains and automobiles. We’ll be participating in each of the two remaining GOAP trips in 2012, to continue exploring the world, meet more awesome people and advance our mission of SendGrid Everywhere.
So, if you’re planning to be ‘one of the geeks’, or you live in any of the areas we will be visiting this fall, please reach out – we’d love to connect before, during and after our trips!
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Community Guy @SendGrid and Producer @BoulderBeta. Passionate about bringing people together around things they love. Leads the SendGrid Developer Relations team in their effort to help developers around the world do more with email.