Friday, June 15, 2007

fuBarrio's great BIG dreams for Uruguay

The more time I spend in Uruguay, the more I start to think of it as "home". It is afterall where GL is, where I lay my head on a daily basis, where I spend my productive hours working (now) and where I am pursuing legal/permanent residency.

When I first came to Uruguay it was a lot easier.

I wasn't working and had no plans on starting "work" (outside of trading). I was still in "tourist" mode where if I got tired of things here I would just extricate myself at a moment's notice and put Uruguay in my rearview mirror....lots of other places to check out before I got thrown off the big blue ball.

Now, in some ways, it's not so easy.

As an "immigrant" to Uruguay, I felt that I owed a duty to my new country to try to make things easier for them -- without necessarily trying to "change" things dramatically. I toyed with a lot of ideas (including volunteering to teach business English), but what I kept hearing over and over again was that they wanted/needed above all, were economic opportunities for young people.

No problem, right?

Well....even someone as arrogant as fuBarrio doesn't really imagine that he is the missing spice that is going to turn a small, relatively beauracratic, ranching/vacation destination into a global financial powerhouse. Uruguay needs some good ideas...a lot of energy....a lot of time...a lot of help, and a lot of luck.

I heard a lot of ideas for how Uruguay would become the next nexus of "call centers", "software outsourcing", "medical outsourcing" (insert US globalization victim du jour), but none of them really sounded right to me.

Granted, there are some small software outfits that operate in small niches...and there is at least one big player operating a call center out of "zona america" (a tax-free zone operating on the outskirts of MVD)....but what, other than waiting for the chinese and indian consumption patterns on meat to drive the prices of uruguay's cattle into the stratosphere did Uruguay have that wasn't so easily reproduced elsewhere? (note: the meat price inflation is no small deal and will have a profound effect here i believe...but, i'm not a general don't eat cows....and they don't need me for this. it is inevitable)

What does Uruguay have?

In spite of their obnoxious beauracracy, which makes starting a small business here unattractive for a newcomer they have a few really nice things:

1.) a liberal immigration policy (people are makin businesses out of bringing immigrants/expats here and providing them services). however, that isn't really my bag....too much like a "newbie shark" for my tastes. despite my involvement with, that organization doesn't make any money...nor does it really charge for anything i'm aware's just a service to help expats, immigrants, and visitors to network.

2.) good property ownership laws for foreigners. This makes it attractive for foreigners of all stripes to come to Uruguay and purchase a ranch or vacation property on the coast without fear of having their property "repatriated". I think a decent living could be made moving realestate to foreigners. This felt a little too to me though (the online outfit that helps people become expats, but business model seems to be predicated on conferences where they pump new realestate developments to foreigners (for a cut of the sales i suspect)...see number 1 above, where i discuss "newbie sharking".

3.) Good banking secrecy laws. This seemed the most interesting to me. I had the dream of coming to Uruguay and helping people (from elsewhere) get set up with offshore companies (if needed) and offshore bank accounts for transacting business where repatriating dollars (or Euros or loonies or whatever) didn't make sense from a taxation standpoint.

Of course, once I got here and realized:

1.) how beauracratic this place was
2.) how hard opening a simple bank account was for an American for any bank in Uruguay that had a US affiliate bank,

I got discouraged. Then, I met some guys working on the same challenge.

What I spend my days doing

It so happens that the people who organized UruguayLiving and the online forum (English) dedicated to all things expat/immigrant uruguay ( ) moved to Uruguay specifically because of the banking secrecy laws....well that, and it's a nice place to live.

They started a "Treasury Company", Capital Conservator, as an offshore banking alternative. The unique structure helps them tackle the challenges of the immense beauracracy in Uruguay and the Uruguayan banking system, while enjoying the advantages of the banking secrecy. Our location in Uruguay, allows them to avoid the scrutiny and hassle that dealing through a bank from a recognized offshore financial center (like the bahamas) puts one through in the post 9/11 - Patriot Act - world.

While they had a small number of "high value" clients, they wanted to grow their business and brought me on to streamline the application process ( ) automate the banking transactions/secure messaging with clients, and "get the word out" :)

Working to get the first part of our project out to the public has made me feel closer to the ranching's been at little bit like birthing a calf...or "herding cats" is perhaps more apt.

I've been working with collaberators, coworkers, and vendors in 6 separate time-zones...which of course got more confusing when the southern hemisphere moved the opposite direction of the northern hemisphere...and the northern hemisphere decided to change at different times :)

So what's the BIG dream for Uruguay?

We really feel like Uruguay has the chance to become the "Switzerland of South America". Of course, I realize the gravity of this endeavour will require decades of effort (at least). Meanwhile, fuBarrio has a birthday rapidly approaching (266 in dog years), and I realize it will likely be men after me that make the final push towards creating a recognized financial center out of this small ranching enclave. However, I will take solace in the fact that a played my small, insignificant role in bringing Uruguay just a little bit closer to being able to provide jobs for its educated and motivated youth.

ciao for now,


Steve Bowman said...


It seems like we have common interest. Your site is a business blog like ours.

I don't see a way to email you so could you email me? Our site has an address for me.


Adam and Leandra said...

T, you're crazy--don't deny it! Look at your crazy cyber name and picture--isn't that dog from Evil Dead III? Anyway, missed you at hoops today...adam