On Fear, Entrepreneurship and Surfing

The last thing you expect while spending a few days on the coast, working and surfing, is to find yourself in deep fear.

I recently got back to Chile after a months of business trips across Europe: Milan, Barcelona, London – I came back tired but satisfied. Excited about the people and organisations I’ve met, about all the opportunities that are coming by and the interest we’re getting for Flythegap.

Though, less than 24 hours after landing in Santiago I left for Pichilemu, a spot on the coast. I felt like I needed to spend a few days regaining my energies, while surfing and (of course) catching up with emails.

And that’s when I started experiencing one of the weirdest feelings I felt in my life.

A sort of fear mixed with panic, enhanced by being physically tired and further messed up by my rational consciousness, that immediately wanted to regain the control and try to convince me that everything was just OK.

Meanwhile, of course I had to get back to Santiago, to the Startup Chile program and to my team – some of my responsibilities here in Chile.But I was missing the ocean, the waves and especially the surfing.

I know that staying close to the water always enhances my thoughts, and I felt the need to try to reconnect with that state of mind and see if I could use it to try to figure out what was happening.

And that’s how I ended up watching a movie that a friend of mine mentioned me a thousand of times, just telling me that it was based on the true story of a famous surfer: Chasing Mavericks.

You know, I love movies based on true stories, and there were waves and surfing too. Seemed OK to me. Well – it turned out to be quiet something more that just OK.

Chasing Mavericks

There’s this scene in the movie, when Jay and Frosty are diving in the water practicing holding their breath (Jay needs to get to four minutes to even consider surfing the Mavericks) and – as they are about to come up for air, a great white shark swims just above them (mini Spoiler Alert: they make it out).

When they get to the boat, Frosty asks to the upset Jay what happened.

“Why did you panic?
“Fear, I guess…”
“Well, one thing you gotta know: fear, panic. Two separate emotions. Fear’s healthy, panic’s deadly.”
“But if you’re scared to death, how do you not panic?”

“By identifying the fear. And what you’re afraid of. Not just out there, but in life.”


Hello, Fear & Panic. Nice to meet you.

I couldn’t help it – I felt like everything was clear again. Or at least understandable.

I think that especially when you have some sort of responsibility in life, or simply if you live by it as a principle, you just can’t avoid fear.

And it doesn’t matter if your fear comes from being afraid of failing as an entrepreneur and “lose everything”, or from the chance of disappointing your parents that are paying for your studies, or the team you work with, your family, your supporters, your friends… You fear to miss the expectations of what or who matters to you.

And that’s just fine.

The important lesson there for me to learn was to not panic about it.

The fear and panic separation and identification, the four pillars of foundation, the importance of being honest in recognising what your inner call is and how to better prepare for it… this movie has several concepts that I couldn’t avoid to relate to my life as entrepreneur.

Finding them all very simple, thought clear and powerful.

Chasing Mavericks to me has been one of those types of messages that just make it to you, precisely when you need them the most.

May this blog post do the same for some of us, out there.

Hang loose


“Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do.

Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

― Steven Pressfield

We are Gatekeepers

Tonight is one of those nights when you walk home and you feel like there are things falling into place, one by one. You can’t say exactly what, nor why – and maybe it doesn’t even really matter.

It’s been one month since I landed in Santiago – a month that’s been dense like 3 months and that passed by quick enough to feel like just couple of weeks.

I’ve been writing already about why I like so much the Startup Chile program and its potential to create change in a unique way, also through the various initiatives that it allows you to set up.

Today for example I was joining for the first time a gathering of some entrepreneurs from Startup Chile Generation 10, whose business are particularly focused on social issues. I was with Luis Bajaña (Cyclemoney), James Shannon (LocalFoodLab) and Christopher Pruijsen (Sterio.me) having an open confrontation on social entrepreneurship in front of a small crew of people, talking about our own projects and also introducing the Hack4Good hackathon that is taking place this weekend in Santiago.

At one point I was impressed by how we were all saying that, no matter how long it’ll take to get some funding or a proper investment – we’re going to bring our projects on anyway. “It’s just needed.”

There was no hesitation in our voices or looks, and it wasn’t the type of situation where you have to try to impress someone. It felt just like the most honest manifestation of the urgency we feel to do what we’re doing. More because of a sense of social justice than a sense of profit.

This made me think of quote that I found a few months ago, thanks to another impactful being I’m honored to know, Davide Casali:

“We have an ethical responsibility to not do things we don’t want into this world. We are gatekeepers.”

Mike Monteiro

I personally think that it’s important to talk more about social entrepreneurship, to explore more its dynamics and its characteristics. But if I take a look beyond the details, I see one single overall principle that silently unifies any business that keeps in mind the consequences that it creates on a social, environmental, economical or cultural level. A principle that Mike Monteiro‘s sentence expresses perfectly:

this world is going to be about what WE will decide it will be about.

Considering what impact our business is going to have on reality is more that a triple-bottom-line trend, and certainly more than just joining a social-impact-centered program for startups.

It’s about choosing to feel the responsibility of manifesting a certain type of values, with every single one of our acts – or not.

It’s about remembering that our life is our message, and that each of our choices creates an impact, and that this same dynamic scales exponentially when you set up a business: because it will create impact on many different levels at the same time.

We ARE gatekeepers.

And if knowing this is not enough to remind us the importance of what we’re doing (and of how we’re doing it), then I don’t know what else could.

Make it count.

Santiago, Startup Chile – day #1

This has been the day when being in Santiago met with being part of an international entrepreneurial program.

12K applicants, coming from 115 countries, tried to take part to the Startup Chile program since it has been founded.

Generation 10, our generation, counted alone 1600 application.

And the first thing Startup Chile’s crew told us has been:

“You have a huge responsibility for being here.

We look and stand for values like:

# Neverstop
# Create extraordinary things
# Do it yourself
# Dare not to be squared

But especially: make it count.”

For the very first time in my life I’ve found myself listening to people who are developing a completely different format to create new entrepreneurial culture and real innovation.

An innovation based on exchanges and interactions, and not on competition.

An innovation made of people, aiming to lower defences and unite aims, for a purpose that goes beyond what individual businesses are trying to do.

An innovation that believes in unity in diversity, and in the impact that this can create – at any level. Entrepreneurial, cultural, social, human.

There’s so much to do.

Glad to be here.