In 2014, I attended an entrepreneurship bootcamp in Chile called Exosphere. It was there that I met Luke and Lourdes Crowley, who would later join me in founding the Fort Galt project with Patrick White.
Flash forward to February of 2016 and I was recently invited to tell our story to a new batch of bootcamp participants. This video is the first 20 minutes of that presentation. A bonus Q&A video will be coming soon so be sure to subscribe to the Fort Galt channel.
by Brook Corbyn
Early in 2015 our family was living the good life in the hill country of south Texas. I lived with my father and his wife, their daughter, and my uncle on a 172 acre wild game hunting paradise with rain water collection, solar hot water heaters, geothermal heating and cooling, wind energy, and the largest private off grid solar system in the U.S. We owned several businesses and ran a hunting tour business on our farm.
One Sunday morning our entire family was headed off on the one hour drive for a fun day together at the beach. Everyone had been concerned for a while about the changing situation in the United States. We didn’t like the direction things were going. Different ones had been researching possible options and that Sunday, all together, on the way to the beach, we decided to uproot our lives and move to Chile.
We had never been to Chile.
Not only had we never been to Chile, we had never even visited South America. But it seemed obvious to us that Chile was a promising country with great opportunity.
By early summer in 2015 our family, including my grandfather and a good friend, uprooted our well-developed lives in Texas in search of a country with a better future than we foresaw in the United States. From the time that we made the decision to move to Chile to the time that all of us left was just a little over three months.
We purchased a property sight unseen, sold all of our belongings–two ranches, four separate households, ranch equipment, six cars, businesses, livestock, etc–and got on a plane with only our luggage and our six hunting dogs. None of our family has looked back or regretted our decision to move to a foreign country.
Ending up in Valdivia was only half intentional and the other half was purely luck. None of us knew anything about the towns or regions of Chile, except that northern Chile was dry and southern Chile had substantial amounts of rain. We were searching for a large ranch when my father came across a two and a half acre property in Corral (near Valdivia) with two houses. We researched online about Valdivia and it seemed like a nice region of Chile, so we went for it and started the purchasing process. The property was definitely smaller than we were looking for, but we decided it was the perfect landing spot for us until we got settled in our new home country, dealt with residency paperwork, and found a larger property.
After moving to our new home, our entire family fell in love with the Valdivia area and plan on staying here permanently. We prefer a more rural lifestyle, so we chose to stay in Corral, but we still make frequent trips to Valdivia.
Corral is a ferry ride over from Valdivia and is a commune of five thousand people with small rural communes along the coast line. For our family it is the perfect location as we can enjoy our small acreage with beach access and make trips to Valdivia whenever necessary. The close proximity to the ocean, the relaxed people, and the growing tourism industry gives an energy to the area that we have not experienced in any other Chilean city, although there are many cities we haven’t visited in Chile. Below are the various aspects of Valdivia that our family enjoys and an overview of life in Valdivia and the surrounding area.
Mercado de Fluvial, Calle Calle River, and Sea Lions
These three things are some of the most prominent parts of Valdivia that give it the life and energy that make it such an interesting town. At the Mercado de Fluvial you can find vendor after vendor of freshly grown vegetables, fresh caught fish and shellfish, different kinds of bread, eggs, plants, specialty foods, artwork, and other various items that change seasonally.
Since the market is located on the bank of the Calle-Calle river, you can watch sea lions waiting patiently for scraps from the fisherman who are cleaning fish. This is quite amazing as you can safely stand within ten feet or less from the sea lions and aquatic birds.
All of the vendors at the market are individual sellers, which is a huge breath of fresh air from the coast to coast shopping malls filled with franchises in the United States. Although it is centered around tourism, locals still frequently shop at the market, making it a truly unique experience. The Mercado de Fluvial is held every day of the week and the sea lions are around all day long.
Along the Calle-Calle river there is a long, beautiful sidewalk that follows the river. It is lined with clean grassy areas, trees, and benches where you can sit and watch the sea lions or people kayaking. On a warm, sunny day you will find many locals lying in the grass, flying kites, or taking a walk along the river.
Accepting of Americans
Although we have found most places in Chile to be accepting of Americans, people in Valdivia and Corral have been beyond friendly and accepting. Within just a few months of being in the area we had what seemed to be half the town of Corral honking and waving at us when we went to town. Whenever we shop at our usual stores in Valdivia, we have conversations with all the store employees and they are always beyond helpful. This is a drastic change from living in United States where if you said just a simple “hello” to store employee they would immediately become suspicious of you.
Also, we have found people in Valdivia to be very honest and have only been “gringo priced” a few times.
Independent Stores and Restaurants
Although this applies to most of Chile, except Santiago and other large cities, Valdivia is mostly run by independent stores and restaurants and very few franchises. The main chain franchises in Valdivia are Sodimac, Falabella, Hiper Lider, and Mcdonalds. Most all of the other stores and restaurants are independently owned and when you visit the businesses you will most likely be tended to by the owner.
Many of the products sold at the independent stores are made in Chile or another country besides China and the products are far superior to those from franchises like Sodimac or Falabella.
Customer service from the independent businesses is always high quality and they will go out of their way to make sure you get what you need. For example, if you are at a restaurant and they don’t have the type of drink you want, then an employee will run down to the nearest store and purchase it for you. I don’t ever recall customer service in any store or restaurant in the U.S coming close to what we have experienced here.
Even though Valdivia is a town of over 100,000 people, the town is easily navigable by bus, taxi, walking, or your own car. Many stores and governments offices are centrally located within walking distance of the city square. Although if you prefer not to walk, then Valdivia has an extensive bus system and an endless number of taxis throughout the city.
Driving your own car in Valdivia is also another option. The traffic is not terrible for a town of its size and the drivers tend to be courteous. The only issue can be finding parking near the square on busy days, but there is always something available if you search for a spot.
This topic is one that applies to all of Chile, but it is worth mentioning as it is a major part of life in Chile. There are approximately two and a half million “wild” dogs throughout the country of Chile and Valdivia is no exception. Some people don’t care for the “wild” dogs, but the majority of Chileans love the dogs and care for them when they can. Valdivia is home to many dogs, but so far we have yet to come across a sick or aggressive dog. They like to follow you around or beg to be petted occasionally, but the majority of the time they mind their own business. A funny, but common sight, are a few dogs lying on the sidewalk near the sea lions. If the sea lions get too close to the sidewalk then the dogs will bark at them and back them off.
Through the many encounters we have had with government offices, we have found the employees to be very patient, accepting of foreigners, and friendly. Most of the employees love helping foreigners and get very excited when they can provide help. We rarely found any government employee in the U.S that actually cared about what you needed.
Crime in Valdivia is far lower than most any United States city of equivalent population and we have always felt very safe walking through all parts of Valdivia. The per 100,000 people crime statistics for the entire Los Rios Region of Chile compared to Colorado Springs, Colorado (almost the same population):
Homicide: Los Rios – 2.5, Colorado – 6
Vehicle Theft: Los Rios – 40, Colorado – 442
Home Burglaries: Los Rios – 285, Colorado – 854
Thefts: Los Rios – 152, Colorado – 2,871
Keep in mind that the numbers are for the entire Los Rios region, so Valdivia’s crime rate is even lower.
Although life in Valdivia is suitable for almost anyone, the town is home to many universities and attracts college students from all over Chile. The main university is the Universidad Austral de Chile. This university is becoming one of the top universities in Chile and even gets students from Santiago. They are responsible for many events, activities, sports clubs, and beautiful parks throughout Valdivia. A few other universities in the town are Universidad San Sebastian, Universidad Pedro de Valdivia, and Santo Tomas.
Proximity to Nearby Activities
Valdivia has it all when it comes to location. Bordering one side of the town is the Calle Calle river that offers many activities such as tours, kayaking, and fishing. On the opposite side of Valdivia you start getting into beautiful farm land with rolling hills. Just a short drive away you can visit Niebla and catch the car ferry or passenger ferry to Corral or Chaihuin. Chaihuin is located right at the beginning of the Parque Nacional Alerce Costera. This is a huge National Park that has clean, sandy beaches, sand dunes, forests, and rivers. The park is part of the Valdivian Temperate Rainforest and has many opportunities for hiking, boating, kayaking, dirt biking, and camping.
Also, within a few hours drive, you can visit Osorno, Pucon, Panguipulli, Puerto Montt, and all of the famous volcanoes nearby. These areas offer many camping, hiking, horseback riding, boating, kayaking, and other outdoor activities.
Cost of Living
From what we can tell, Valdivia’s cost of living is lower than that of similar areas nearby. Buying property in areas farther east such as Panguipulli or Futrono is far more expensive from the tourism and growing popularity of the area. Although the Valdivia area is gaining popularity among native Chileans and foreigners, it is still reasonably priced compared to the other regions of Chile.
We have come to the conclusion that Valdivia is an excellent location for anybody wanting to experience the best of the outdoors with temperate weather while still having access to major resources. All within one area you have huge rivers, small creeks, open ocean, rocky beaches, sandy beaches, flat farmland, rolling hills, thick rainforest, access to local groceries, big city shopping, and restaurants. Unless you have specific obligations to live in a particular city, I think everyone should consider Valdivia or the surrounding area when moving to Chile.
About the writer: Brook is the owner of Consult Chile, a relocation and immigration service. Although based in Valdivia, she handles residency and citizenship throughout Chile.
On Dec 10th, Fort Galt members gathered in a Google Hangout to discuss the land we secured as well as our transition from gathering pledges to collecting payments. In a nutshell, we brought everyone up to speed about the land, payment options (bank wire transfer, western union, and bitcoin), and the next steps ahead of us.
We secured a one hectare lot for building the main Fort Galt building and maker space via promissory contract, which will be paid-off in full by our existing members' first 10% payments. We also secured the rights to broker the rest of the residential lots that exist around the construction site. Altogether, the lots make up a private community that's nestled in a lush rainforest and overlooks the Pacific Ocean. It's in a prime eco-tourism area just fifteen minutes by car from Valdivia, Chile. The community was initially planned and started in 2008 but its founder died, leaving the project dormant. Since then, the landowner has installed a fully self-sufficient water system to support three-hundred residents while also installing electrical lines and roadways with overhead lamps. The subdivisions, water rights, and all other legal aspects have long since been taken care of and the whole place was practically waiting for us on a silver platter. The landowner loves our project and has been remarkably flexible and willing to cooperate with us to bring the Fort Galt dream to life.
The Next Steps
After gathering a half-million dollars worth of pledges from members over the past year, we're now sending out invoices and gathering the first 10% payments now. Once they've been processed, we'll be paying-off the build site and moving on to the next phase, which consists of funding the site preparation and other such preliminary work before we then proceed to the construction phase itself. Summer is beginning now and we intend to start building in the nice weather. Several members have already visited us down here in Valdivia and more are scheduled to arrive shortly. The community that's coming together for this endeavor is already pretty impressive and we're excited to see it continue to blossom over the months to come.
Early Adopter Window Closing
As we progress through each phase, new members will have to make larger initial payments upon joining. While now, at the first phase, a new member's initial payment is only 10% of their total room value, it would be 20% if they were to wait until we've entered phase two. Likewise, it would be 60% if they were to wait for phase three and 100% if they were to wait until the end.
New Summer Content and Visitors
Now that the rainy season is over, we'll be shooting fresh new videos and photos on location at the Fort Galt property over the next few weeks. Viewers will be able to get a more complete and vivid picture of the community site as well as the beach and nearby city of Valdivia. If you are intending to come and visit us this summer, don't hesitate to reach out in advance to let us assist with your travel arrangements. We can help you find an apartment in town to use during your stay or simply recommend a hotel or hostel. We've got a great big, busy season ahead of us and we're looking forward to having as many of you down here to share the adventure with us as possible.
Happy New Year!
-The Fort Galt Team.
We found and secured the ideal property (photos) and modified our business plan to avoid the nuisances posed by the SEC and FATCA. Now, our members are simply buying lifetime memberships that are transferable rather than buying real estate or shares in a foreign company. This allows them to enjoy their suites, rent them out, and freely use all common amenities without any of the legal hassles that come with owning securities abroad. The Fort Galt company will not be operating for profit but members will still be able to operate their own businesses on-site as they wish. Right now, we're speaking with members to figure out the best time to hold our next Google Hangout in order to discuss the transition to this next step. It's almost time to collect everyone's first 10% payment, which will go towards paying-off the property, so if you are a member, please let us know when you can be available to join-in the conversation.
As some of you are already aware, we've secured a purchase agreement for the land and are almost ready to begin collecting everyone's first installment so that we can proceed on to the next step. We've been setting up our company bank account to be able to receive international wires and working out a few final wrinkles before moving forward.
Our accountant's research into FATCA and its implications has led us to consider a modification to the business plan and we'd very much like to hear from members about it. In a nutshell, FATCA compels Chilean authorities and banks to report the assets of US citizens to the IRS. This results in double taxation because both countries want a cut of your revenue. This doesn't sit well with us at all so we looked at our options to find a way to spare our members this burden. The simplest solution we came up with was to do away with the shares altogether and instead operate in such a way that covers expenses but generates no profit as a company. That way, members would still own a lifetime membership with rights to their suite and common amenities but they wouldn't legally own any taxable foreign assets or liabilities. Members would still be able to rent their suites out in an AirBnB fashion and we could still host festivals and other such events on site but we would have to do it in such a way that the Fort Galt company isn't used as the conduit for revenue to the members.
If this sounds good to you too, let us know and if you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to ask.
Here in South America, we use Mercado Libre instead of eBay and Mercado Pago instead of PayPal. These southern commercial platforms are very similar to their northern counterparts but now, there's one huge difference. Mercado Pago now supports Bitcoin. We're expecting this development to encourage BTC adoption as the people of South America seek alternatives to the government inflated currencies they've been stuck with so far. You can also bet that eBay and PayPal will be watching with a keen interest as things unfold as well.
Fort Galt members seeking permanent residency in Chile will be happy to know that the drivers' license study material and exams are now offered in English.
Download the PDF guide book here.
It's nice to finally have a good bitcoin exchange in Chile, especially one that has been given the government's blessing (funding by CORFO). Last week, we asked the owner of surBTC for an update on Chile's embrace of bitcoin, which has been a slow, uphill battle so far. This was his reply:
"This week was the last version of Chile-Digital, the largest conference about e-commerce, technology, digital marketing & mobile. Impressively, Bitcoin was the absolute star. It was a two day conference, launched by former Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, and the second to present was Jon Matonis, founder of the Bitcoin Foundation. A little after presented Juan Llanos, AML & KYC expert, specialized in Bitcoin. Besides them, there were two more Bitcoin keynotes, and all of them in between keynotes from traditional bankers. This is particularly important, for it is the banking industry that's Bitcoin's highest risk. Besides that, SurBTC, became the first Chilean Bitcoin company to be accepted under Chilean FinCEN's supervision, which proves that Bitcoin can have a space in the institutional side, which is a good thing for companies dealing with other people's money."
In short, bitcoin has a good foothold in the country now and we're looking forward to working with them more in the future. If Chile continues on this course, it will be even more well-insulated against international financial turmoil.
In the market, innovation is much like evolution in biology. The birth of new and stronger generations is one side of the coin while the other is destruction of the ones who came before.
At the gym, we challenge ourselves and apply stress to our bodies so that older, weaker cells die to be replaced by newer, stronger ones. This process is often downplayed in the business world because of how uncomfortable it makes so many people feel. I can only guess that this is because it alludes to our own personal shortcomings and expendability. That which fails to strengthen and grow is ultimately eliminated to make way for others and when it comes to employment, we're seeing this in most industries across the board. From the robots of factory assembly lines, to ATMs, to the fleets of autonomous cargo trucks that lurk just around the corner, human laborers are being innovated into obsolescence. Whether you see this as a good thing or bad depends only upon which side of evolution you've chosen to be.
As innovators, we have to be at peace with our mortality and cling not to that which must rightfully perish. Just as much as we're the midwives of a brighter tomorrow, we're also the agents of destruction and will forever be seen as the enemy of those we deign to displace. It's at the times of protest and outcry that we widen our gaze and bear in mind our purpose. We challenge the status quo and chip away at its decay not for the sake of misery or ruin but for the betterment of ourselves and the generations to come. We don't mourn the loss of the dead cells that are displaced by stronger ones when we lift weights any more than vinedressers mourn the branches they prune from their vines. For a garden to thrive, weeds have to be pulled and the aging plants that no longer produce have to be uprooted and returned to the soil to nurture the next crop to come. Seeds from the best plants are sown while the rest are consumed and so it is that nature stays on course and life continues to improve. Just as genetic mediocrity is massacred on the killing fields of biological evolution, flawed ideas and inefficiencies are slain in markets, companies, and laboratories. I would go so far as to suggest that this is one of the primary reasons that so many are not cut out for entrepreneurship. It requires a willingness to subject one's self and ideas to the merciless market forces that have little patience for nonsense and weakness. Granted, the regulatory mechanisms of government can insulate some from these forces for a time but in the long run, there's no escaping the laws of economics.
Just as your truest friends are the ones that challenge you for your own good, so too are innovators the truest friends of humanity. It's not always pretty but sometimes, one just needs to step back a bit to appreciate the bigger picture in all it's flaming glory. While some prefer the stability of stagnation and the predictability of an enforced order, those people tend not to become entrepreneurs. I, for one, happily count myself among the connoisseurs of creative chaos who embrace our evolution and look forward to the coming changes with a giddy enthusiasm for the wonders we have yet to behold. Neither disposition can be said to be objectively right or wrong as long as they don't employ literal physical violence but I can say this much: One of them is infinitely more interesting.
-Gabriel Scheare, FortGalt.com
We had a great hangout a few nights ago and it went really well but a software hiccup left us without a recording in the end. Sorry 'bout that, everyone.
In other news, people have been receiving their t-shirts and they look pretty darn great. Looking forward to seeing them wandering around at PorcFest in the week ahead.
Our next Google Hangout will be tomorrow (Tuesday, June 16th) at 7pm PST. It will be uploaded on the Fort Galt YouTube channel afterwards and a link will be posted here in a blog post as well.
We hope everyone enjoys their new shirts. We're looking forward to seeing them ourselves! In the mean time, we're due for another hangout. We're looking at either the 14th, 15th, or 16th and will be discussing it in the members-only facebook discussion group. Once decided, the date will be announced here.
We've just launched our first T-Shirt design via T-Spring and it will be available for one week only so if you'd like to get one of the very first batch ever printed, now is your chance! Available in Men's and Women's sizes and a variety of colors.
Q: Will the fort pictured in the concept renderings all be built at once?
A: No. The plan is to build it in pieces. Towards the end of the year, we'll proceed with building the first pieces to accommodate our first adopters that have reserved space. If we were to build right now, it would likely be one wing with a tower on either side of it. Depending on how many more people join before construction begins, we might build more. Regardless of how much is built in the first stage, more wings and towers will be added later as the population grows. Once we have over a hundred people, we'll start looking towards closing up the design.
Luke and Lourdes recently traveled up to New Hampshire to tour the headquarters of the construction company that we had been planning to use. They got to sit down and talk about the project and were finally able to get some more solid numbers regarding costs. In short, it wasn't great news. After adding everything up, including shipping, labor, and taxes, the cost would be much higher than they originally predicted. This prompted us to step back and re-evaluate our strategy. Fortunately, we were able to find another contractor, based here in Chile, that has been able to offer a contrastingly positive alternative. It's still early and nothing has been confirmed yet but Gabriel and Patrick will be traveling to Santiago to meet with him in the coming days to discuss the project in more detail. We've also been viewing properties around Valdivia and have found that the prices to be lower than we had predicted so at the end of the day, we're having to adjust our plans but are still well on track.