My last full day in Guatemala can be summarized as such: morning ritual, smog and traffic, bureaucrat sit-down, mentoring from “Guatemala’s Zuckerburg”, hardest lunch order ever, more smog and traffic, bed and breakfast owner visit and wind down at the Spence’s. I’ll go into more detail with pictures or you can skip to the bottom for the trip summary.
Morning involved the normal light exercise (walking, yep I’m old) and stretching (only because the Whole Life Challenge compels me to do so. It doesn’t hurt when the rising sun mutes the fire and lava spitting from an active volcano in the distance. I did notice that most of the Guatemalan house builders or caretakers start showing up for work around 5:30am. For many this is their first of two jobs they will work today. After my walk, a cup of very good Antiguan coffee and an over-salted egg, rice and bean breakfast that I made for the house, I showered and prepped for the workday.
At 9am sharp our driver arrived to bring us into Guatemala City. A black car no less. A black mid-2000 Toyota Corolla with 260,000 miles. Guatemalan “Uber”. Our driver was awesome. He spoke great English and new the city and our multi-destination itinerary like the back of his hand. After 90 minutes, about 40kms, endless chicken buses and more smog than I think I’ve encountered in a city (the record previously owned by Mumbai) we arrived at the American Chamber of Commerce or AmCham if you’re hip. Our host provided us with more high quality coffe and then told us a) we should join her club so we could get good benefits, b) they can provide lots of information and assistance with setting up a U.S.-based business in Guatemala and c) a chance for networking opportunities. Felt about like we expected it would. A resource if we need it nonetheless.
From there we drove 5-10 minutes to what looked like a mall. After visiting the right address in the wrong building we entered the most high tech office environment I think I have ever seen. Every 20-something in the world wants to work in this office. I would have taken pictures of this but candidly I didn’t think it would look very cool but man, I wish I had! Our meeting was with what felt like the ‘Guatemalan Zuckerburg.’ He told a fantastic story on how he worked his butt off to make nearly $10M as a 22 year old. I was worried we were in the wrong room…a room with a heartless capitalist. He shared how he parlayed that $10 million into many companies over the next 10-15 years. Still worried. Then he started the screenshow where he shared how all of this helped define his true goal and purpose: raise up Guatemala to a tech leading country competing with the US, India, China, etc. He shared an interesting fact that makes me think he will get there in this ambition: the top 20 wealthiest families support this goal and furthermore back it financially because it has little to no competing interests with areas that could impact their respective wealth generators. In fact, it probably ensures the growth of the wealth of the aforementioned families and their industries. To ensure this buy-in he has spent considerable time meeting with these families to build support. Impressive. Even more fun is the fact that a single conversation with Philip from EcoFiltro on Tuesday led to this conversation. Candidly, Torrent being 164th on the Inc 5000 Fastest Growing Company list helped open this door. Business is a funny thing. Nonetheless, this is a contact we will want to stay in touch with as our mission directly supports his greater goal.
Afterwards we spent an hour interviewing a few tech candidates and then what seemed like an hour ordering lunch where English was clearly not going an option. I considered pulling the Google Translate app out it got so bad. Must. Learn. Spanish.
Our last stop of the day was back in Antigua. We were meeting with the cousin of a colleague. Candidly, I’m not sure we knew why we were meeting with this person, nor did she. She owned a bed and breakfast in Antigua (which was also her home) and shared lots of fun stories. We toured her B&B which was rustic, grabbed some fruit from her internal courtyard (most homes have an open air courtyard in the interior) and left wondering if one day we will look back on that visit as the connection that made everything else come together.
Our trip wrapped up with a nice dinner at the Spence residence, some reminiscing, repacking and then bed for a 3:45 alarm and 4am departure for Guatemala City. I’m grateful for the hospitality the Spence’s provided. While I’m sure it is not easy to live abroad, they surely have a great opportunity ahead of them. One I’m excited to play a small role in helping shape.
Guatemala has been a fantastic trip. I’m lucky to work with great people who care about each other and humans in general. I hope to get back down there often with both my family and other co-workers. While I can’t put my fingers on exactly what will come of this yet, I sense something bigger than me. Something that I hope will result in raising others up, raising me up and raising our company up. What do I mean by ‘raising up?’ I mean helping give others an opportunity to emerge from the cycle of poverty. I mean helping my co-workers seek what I have wanted for 22 years of employment: deeper purpose tied to my work. I am grateful and hopeful we can tie this story together where business profits can tangibly help raise communities up to higher educational levels and life quality.
A tortilla maker – she seems to have a long day ahead of her.
The courtyard, patio and pool area of our B&B owner meeting.