April 06, 2008
I love Nicaragua
The people are kind and friendly. The food is great, and the business opportunities abundant. But one of the things I dont like is the way people ride around on Motorcycles with their children unprotected. Can you believe this picture?
And no, this is not a rare situation. I see it daily on the streets of Managua.
February 19, 2008
Interesting analysis on Latin American Outsourcing
I love this kind of stuff. Not only does it validate my business model, but just goes to demonstrate what an incredible opportunity we have here in Central America!
September 05, 2007
Open letter on the hurricane in Nicaragua
The following email is from a good friend of mine here in Managua, and the owner of one of the countries most promising call centers. Please assist if you can, and if you are uncomfortable giving via a private company, please donate to the International Red Cross, and make sure your money is earmarked to help the victims of this human tragedy.
I am depending on your generosity. Even small donations of $5-10 will help.
September 04, 2007
I am okay...
For those of you who know I am in Nicaragua this week, and were worried about me, I am fine. Hurricane Felix made landfall far north of Managua, where I am. We got some nasty thunderstorms tonight, but overall, it was a sunny, muggy, typical Nicaraguan day.
September 02, 2007
In Nicaragua for the next two weeks...
Will try to post some stuff, including some pictures. My latest project is coming to a head there and the next two weeks will be critical to its success.
August 27, 2007
While visiting Nicaragua, I had a chance to spend some time with Connect International, a new call center founded in Managua in February of this year. The call center is primarily focused on outgoing collections activities at the moment, but let me tell you, these guys are comers. They will be one of the dominant call centers in region within the next couple of years, of that I am sure. What I see is a dynamite team of young people, led by a young, intelligent, super motivated CEO, Juan Carlos Montealegre.
Juan is one of the latest generation of Nicaraguans whose families left the country during the war and who migrated to the U.S., now the children of these families, including JC and many of the people who work for him, are returning to Nicaragua and creating a whole new class of professionals.
Nicaragua is going to compete with Honduras as the next "Green Field," opportunity for Contact Center development.
July 24, 2007
Eh... Who is the clown?
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- President Hugo Chavez called a cardinal from Honduras an "imperialist clown" after the Roman Catholic prelate warned of increasing authoritarianism under the Venezuelan leader.
You got to forgive Chavez, he has been snorting too much Bolivian Flake! He actually believes he is God.
July 22, 2007
The Ever Growing Utopia
Looks like I will be off on another whirlwind trip in a couple of weeks. The Call Center Project in Honduras has been on hold for about a month now, as the client works on some other pressing priorities. This has not meant a vacation for me though. In the last month I have worked with a North American Company to start the process of evaluating three countries, with the purpose of locating a telesales operation.
I have also been working with one of Costa Rica's biggest Real Estate ventures on evaluating and developing a VOIP strategy for their telesales organization and for the companies internal use.
Looks like I will be back on the road the second week in August, and more than likely visiting some of my favorite Central American Cities again. With any luck, I may even have time to have coffee with some of my contacts and friends there.
I am hoping that we will stay at the Raddisson in Guatemala again, what a spectacular hotel, and what fantastic staff.
This coming week will be pretty hectic as I plan for this trip and evaluate some proposals for my North American Client. Things are looking pretty interesting in this project, and I am looking forward to being a part of it right up until it is operational.
In the interim, I also have a client coming in from Russia in the next couple of weeks, I need to set some meetings for him to establish a company here in Costa Rica. I dont expect it to take much time, but it must be done right, he is depending on my recommendations to ensure that he has the right contacts in country to kick his business off right.
Crossposted to Business Blog
July 03, 2007
Why I hate flying Taca
Last week, at the end of my three country tour, I went through a nightmare with Taca Airlines, that no one should have to endure. Granted, it was not 10 hours stuck on a tarmac, but it was almost as bad, especially considering the fact that San Pedro Sula's international airport has almost no airconditioning, and that it is one of the hottest cities in the region... Below is a letter I sent to a couple of people whom I know, one who is an executive at Taca. (Keep in mind that this email was sent on Friday Morning, AFTER the disaster.
Here are the details of what happened last night here in San Pedro Sula. I was scheduled to fly out last night on the regular flight (Flight 221 to El Salvador with a connection to Flight 7623, due to leave at 4:50. By 5pm the plane had not even arrived. No proactive status was provided for passengers, and those of us who asked, were given several stories.
· The plane is late, it will arrive in 15 minutes
· It will arrive in 30 minutes
· It will not arrive, but another plane is being sent from El Salvador
After the plane had not arrived in two hours, many people went to the desk to ask what was going on. At no time while I was at the gate, was a proactive approach taken. By 7pm, the word had spread and most of the passengers were aware that the flight had been canceled. Those of us who asked, were sent downstairs to the main checkin counter to see what arrangements could be made. NOTHING was proactive. Old people (Several Grandmothers), and young children some as young as 6 or 7 years old, were forced to stand in line for HOURS, while only TWO agents worked the check-in counter.
Since there is a festival here in San Pedro Sula, no hotel rooms were available. Thanks to the help of Grupo Karims and Alexis Ramirez, I was able to locate one room for myself. But was then told that the cancelation was due to weather, despite the arrival of other Taca and other carrier flights, and that Taca would not pay for my Hotel. I demanded to see a supervisor and informed her (Helga), that the situation was unacceptable and that she needed to take ownership of mine and other passenger issues. Since I was the squeaky wheel, I got help, (A voucher), an rescheduled flight for today. Many people, including a major executive for Pepsi Latin America, were left standing in line for many hours, with no reasonable possibility of an alternate flight last night, OR a Hotel. MANY of the passengers were exhausted, hungry and without water or any drink for hours, including myself. God only knows how many customers Taca lost last night. I cut up my Distancia card and will make every attempt to fly Copa from now on my many business trips in the region. I have already visited Managua and Guatemala City earlier this week via Taca, and experienced other delays with the ON TIME GAURANTEE airline.
On Wednesday, my flight from Managua to El Salvador was over 40 minutes late, and I had to LITERALLY RUN when I got to El Salvador to make my connection to the SPS Flight, despite my bad knees, because they were announcing final boarding…. My gate was 8 gates away.
I am tired, angry and not looking forward to my flight tonight. My knees hurt and I am not looking forward to being treated like a vaca and cramped up for another two flights. But I am one of the lucky ones. At least my contacts and ability to plead my case resulted in me having a bed last night. Over 50 Taca passengers were probably not so lucky. It would seem that a company the size of Taca would at least have the decency and human compassion to see that grandmothers and small children, for that matter ALL of their passengers, would have something to drink and a sandwich!
I intend to write a full accounting of this experience on my website, which is visited by over 2000 people a day, and is one of the most popular websites in the world, and the number two rated Blog in Latin America! I will also be talking to the editor of La Republica in Costa Rica. I am often interviewed for the paper and have a relationship with its owners. I do not intend to rest until this issue is addressed fully by Taca, and an accounting is made of how they handled this case. It was PURE CHAOS!
UPDATE: Taca sent me an email offering me 500 miles for them failing to meet their "on time guarantee. " I guess they missed the rest of the email huh?
Crossposted to my Business Blog
June 25, 2006
Nuns pray over the bodies of four American sisters killed by the military in El Salvador in 1980
Jan. 8 - What to do about the deepening quagmire of Iraq? The Pentagon’s latest approach is being called "the Salvador option"—and the fact that it is being discussed at all is a measure of just how worried Donald Rumsfeld really is. "What everyone agrees is that we can’t just go on as we are," one senior military officer told NEWSWEEK. "We have to find a way to take the offensive against the insurgents. Right now, we are playing defense. And we are losing." Last November’s operation in Fallujah, most analysts agree, succeeded less in breaking "the back" of the insurgency - as Marine Gen. John Sattler optimistically declared at the time - than in spreading it out.
What was the Salvador option? It was our clandestine support of ARENA, a Facist organization in El Salvador responsible for thousands of murders and rapes in the name of anti communism. But our support of murderous thugs in El Salvador was the tip of the iceberg. Our support of a murderous regime in Guatemala and of the Contras in Nicaragua. In fact, our hands are so bloody in Central America, that it is amazing to me as someone who lives here that Americans are not outright hated.
Empire's Workshop is an incredible piece of historical reporting and analysis, tying together the players and philosophies that have driven America's political ambitions for the last 50 years or more. It makes an incredibly compelling read.
Disclosure: I was given a complimentary copy of the book by the publisher.
March 18, 2006
The Start of a New Adventure
Busy week ahead. I hope to meet with the representative of a group of Angel investors this week. I have been working since the completion of the Guatemalan project on an idea for a new company focused on wireless technology. The response to my initial executive summary has been encouraging, but there is still much work to be done.
The truth is that after five years, I have grown tired of the original charter of Grupo Utopia. To be sure we have acomplished some incredible things on the small investment we started the company with. GU has become synonymous with high technology leadership. We have forged relationships with some of the biggest technology companies in the world, including Intel, Oracle, IBM, Motorola, Palm and HP, and we have created a buzz about wireless technology and high technology in general. We have also created a strong brand...
So why start a new company?
There are many reasons, but the primary one is to seek a level of investment that will allow me to develop some exciting new concepts. With the ownership structure of GU, it would be hard to raise sufficient funds to do so, without long and drawn out negotiations with existing investors. I plan to refocus GU on Call Center Consulting, while structuring the new company to be 100% focussed on wireless and associated technologies.
One of the great things that has come out of my adventures has been developing a relationship with the Press. GU is one of the most written about companies in Costa Rica.
This week, I have two interviews appearing in the local business press. This picture is from one of the Interviews.I am frequently consulted about trends in Outsourcing or wireless technology.
Both subjects are hot right now, as Costa Rica struggles with more competition from other countries in the region, as an outsourcing destination, and as ICE (The National Phone Company), is finaly working to make their three year old GPRS wirless network a "real service."
RACSA, ICE's official Internet subsidiary has also put together plans for the launch of a Metropolitan Area network of wirless hotspots, more than likely 802.11B or G.
So wireless is about to take off in a big way in Costa Rica, and we want to be there to take advantage of the trend. Five years ago, Grupo Utopia installed the first, "Public," wireless network in Costa Rica, at the Palma Real Hotel, and then we stood by and watched the market explode with public access points at almost every major hotel here. We made ZIP off of our Pioneering efforts. We will NOT miss this opportunity!
I have never been a believer in LUCK. I believe in Destiny. The two interviews appearing this week were not planned, they just happened, as I got a call from a reporter friend who was in the process of writing them. The timing is perfect...
December 01, 2005
More on the Panama Canal issue....
Earlier this week I pointed out a post on the CA+ Blog about a possible expansion of the Panama Canal. Chris Short picked up the story and adds some valid points. Read both posts, while we dont often give much thought to things like the canal, there is no doubt about its strategic importance, at least for the forseable future.
November 29, 2005
A new and improved Panama Canal?
This could be major news over the next couple of years...
Panama is wrestling with the biggest decision in its history - build a new canal at a cost that may be not much less than the value its annual output, with all the risk that implies, or do nothing, and let the existing waterway deteriorate, along with the country’s ports and terminals.
While new technology will allow such an effort to be accomplished with far less people and danger, than the original project, a new canal would be a boon to the regional economy. It will be interesting watching how this one shapes up. Read the whole article.
November 19, 2005
More photos from Guatemala
The Front Desk Staff at the Hotel Brecianni.
My two favorite old dudes... Chico, the Bellman and Don Victor, my taxi driver in Guatemala
The lovely maid who cleaned my room every day. Man you should see her in her street clothes. This picture does not nearly do justice to her
September 12, 2005
The New CA+
We have been working for the last month with the President and Publisher of Costa Rica's top Business Journal on a new Project, the CA+ Blog. To my knowledge, CA+ is the first major media Blog in Costa Rica, and it has a tremendous amount of potential. CA+ is going to be a major source of information for the Central American Region. It's focus, Business, Investment and Regional Politics, will provide valuable insight into the dynamics of a region which will become increasingly important with the passage of CAFTA. In one of it's first post's, CA+ touches on the CAFTA issue in a very interesting article.
If you have an interest in doing business in Costa Rica or Central America, CA+ is a valuable resource, bookmark it or add it to your blogroll. Remember it's a new blog, so content will be lacking for a while, but drop in, comment and provide suggestions.
I also want to congratulate Rogue, who did the design work for CA+. The publication of CA+ will hopefully spur more blogging from Costa Rica and the region. We welcome the company.
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