January 4, 2016
I bought an apartment in the Lower East Side in the summer of 2015. The super high occupancy rates of high end hotels and Airbnbs in New York were forcing me to move location every few days, creating high transaction costs and defeating the purpose of my asset light living. It remains minimally decorated and sparse, but has become my New York home and allowed me to restart hosting intellectual salons and dinners again!
In 2015, I still traveled too much. It nonetheless was much improved from the previous years and I managed not to go to Kiev or Bucharest at all. I was able to spend over a month in row in New York and Cabarete a few times and intend to continue to do so in 2016.
Cabarete remained the de facto meeting place twice a year for all my friends and family – around my birthday in August and for New Year. Sadly, my physical activities were tempered by a string of injuries. I spent the first 6 months of the year doing PRP, artificial cartilage injections and rehab in my knees. The knees finally healed and I returned to tennis and kiting, only to be stopped in my tracks by a severe concussion following a kite crash in August. A professional kite surfer switched direction without looking and hit me with his kite while I was 30 feet in the air following one of my highest jumps ever. I kite looped away to avoid him and crashed face first into the water. I thought I had put it behind me, but it recurred both in November and December when I started kiting again. I will take a break from kiting for the first 6 months of 2016 in order to fully recover. I hope I finally will put all my injuries behind me in 2016!
On the bright side, traveling less for work gave me time to travel more for fun. In 2015 I went to Tulum, St. Barth, Nepal, Bhutan, Hong Kong and Machu Picchu for the first time and returned to Morocco and Turkey.
- Scuba diving in the cenotes near Tulum
- Exploring Cappadocia under the snow
- Racing quads in Morocco
- Taylor Swift’s 1989 concert in New York
- Flying in the Zero G “Vomit Comet” in LA
- Trekking on the Annapurna Trail in Nepal
- Flying to Camp 1 of Everest with the grandson of Tenzing Norgay
- Hiking to Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan
- Doing an elephant safari in Chitwan
- Wakeboarding off a junk in Hong Kong
- Hiking to the Temple of the Moon near Machu Picchu
Ironically the New York Times wrote an article covering my nomadic lifestyle just as I was putting an end to it. I preferred my interview with Jobspotting about how I failed my way to success and my interview with Alliancy about life in 2030. I also made the cover of Revista Mercado in the Dominican Republic where they covered my projects in Cabarete and philanthropic activities:
- I fund the education of 6,000 kids with the DREAM Project
- I bought land and built houses for all my staff
- I put lights on the two baseball fields around Cabarete
- Antifragile by Nassim Taleb
- Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
- Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
- The Old Man’s War sci-fi series by John Scalzi
Hamilton is a must-see on Broadway. The hip-hop musical is the best piece of theater I have ever seen.
I am admittedly biased as Alexander Hamilton is one of my heroes and I am a huge fan of Ron Chernow’s biography which served as the inspiration for the play. However, my love for Hamilton seems universal to the point The Economist felt compelled to write a brilliant article explaining its success.
My best blog posts of 2015 were:
- 2015 Venture Investing Update
- Asset prices are more sensitive to very low interest rates than most people suspect
- Why I chose Cabarete
- Macro perspective: The startup party is far from over!
On the professional side, Jose and I continued to pursue a hybrid venture builder and venture investor model.
I started working with Wallapop and we started building two new companies. On the investment side, we had our most active year ever! We invested in 58 companies, 43 of which are marketplaces and made 28 follow-on investments. We had 14 exits, 8 successes and 6 failures including the IPOs of Windeln and Mindbody. We have now invested in 230 companies, 150 of which are still active.
My predictions for 2015 were by and large correct:
- The US was the engine of global economic growth and was not affected by the global economic slowdown
- US unemployment hit 5%
- Interest rates remained lower longer than most people suspected with only a 25 bps raise at the tail end of the year
Sadly, I was completely off on my most important prediction of all which was that construction would finally start on my ever delayed La Boca project in Cabarete. My recent experiences with construction and regulation both in the US and the Dominican Republic definitely highlight the differences between the unregulated, fun and fast growing, world of bits, and the regulated, painful and slow, world of atoms. In the three years since I bought my property in Cabarete, I started 6 companies, raised hundreds of millions of dollars, created hundreds of jobs, invested in over 100 companies and sold dozens of companies. In the same time literally nothing happened on the La Boca construction project, despite the fact it could create hundreds of local jobs, many of them permanent and would be a huge boom to the local economy.
My more recent experience as a homeowner in New York is just as frustrating as the building and city pass intrusive and senseless rules. The offline world could use a huge stint of deregulation. Recent estimates suggest that overly restrictive zoning and landmark laws are costing the US $1-2 trillion a year in economic activity, a whopping 6.5-13.5% of GDP! Wholesale deregulation would be the simplest and most effective way to boost the US economy.
I am nothing if not an eternal optimist and as such my predictions for 2016 are as follows:
- Given the US presidential cycle and in light of continued global macro-economic headwinds, US interest rates will increase slower than most pundits expect
- Barring an exogenous black swan, the US economy will continue to do relatively well
- Given low interest rates, investors will continue to yield chase and disproportionally invest in technology startups
- The venture market will shake off the current mini-correction and culling of unsound companies in the later stage pre-IPO market as amazing companies like Uber and Airbnb continue to raise money and go from strength to strength
- Uber and Airbnb will not go public in 2016 as they delay the pains of operating as public companies
- Jose, Guimar and I will remain very active in 2016 as we are still seeing record numbers of amazing deals
- Construction will finally start on my La Boca project 🙂
Happy New Year!