What Panama has to offer Silicon Valley companies, benefitting both

Upcoming countries, like Panama, have to figure out how to become and stay competitive in the future.

The Panama Canal with logistics, a solid financial sector, mining and tourism are already in place and growing. Starting a business is easy to do.

facebook.com/canaldepanama

facebook.com/canaldepanama

But how about high tech and a way to prepare the younger generation? Panama should seriously consider high-tech initiatives.

Of course, there is no way to copy something like the “Valley”. It has been tried already. But Panama is ideal to become a SECOND HOME & BOOTCAMP FACILITY for SV companies. And a super-affordable springboard for hightech startups anyway.

City of Knowledge, a special economic zone at the banks of the Panama Canal, only 15 minutes from downtown PanamaCity, is the right place to begin with.

City of Knowledge PTY

City of Knowledge PTY

Stay tuned how this project goes along.

Better weather

In 2000, Dr. David Viner, a climatologist with CRU said: “Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past.”

CNN today, 15 years later: “Boston has its snowiest month on record.” (since 1872)

Panama today: Another fine day, 30C/86F and sunshine.

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Could be your place to relax or to develop some ideas. All year round. Walking the beach is my preferred activity to think about issues and come up with fresh ideas.

Or take a small plane, head South over the Pacific Ocean and enjoy Las Perlas Archipelago views and beaches after less than 30 minutes. There are 7 airstrips on different islands to choose from.

Las Perlas island

Tropical lifestyle comes with a much better and healthy work-life balance.

And, don’t worry about snowfalls.

Earthquakes here and there

Tuesday morning at 4, a swinging movement woke us up in our 11th floor condo. For about 30 seconds the ground was shaking, smooth but very remarkable. 6.7 as USGS told us and 280 km away.

The first one we’ve experienced in Panama 2009 was pushing harder and moved us newcomers out. As the only ones.

In the meantime, earthquakes like in Colombia and Guatemala have left asking ourselves if there was “too much alcohol last night?” or “not enough water this morning?”, before USGS gave the true reason for the dizzy feeling.

So our earthquake experience during 6 years in Panama has been tranquilo. Confirmed by, yes, USGS again. Here’s the picture:

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Looking good, whereby the diameter stands for strength and the data begun as late as of 1973.

Same timeframe for California looks like this:

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Well, there has been more action, right where the action is – Silicon Valley area. This, by the way, has been a selling point of Texas-based Rackspace.com in their early years and worked out nicely: Put your servers where there are no earthquakes.

How about your talents?

First things first

What a coincidence: While our friends told us about the first first 25 cm of snow near Toronto today, the Playa Blanca Airport had the first arrival of a Sunwing 737 from Montreal.

From now on, the Playa Blanca Airport (MPSM) will receive 2 Canadian charterflights per week and a third one from Quebec is scheduled from mid of December. Just the right time to get out of the cold.

Also this week, United has announced a new service from Denver to Panama City (MPTO), starting December 3. Becoming more and more easy to come to Panama.

The FAT CAt is killing your business opportunities – but there is a solution

Even if the headline looks funny, it is not. For decades now, entrepreneurs from all over have gone West, to build their business in the Silicon Valley, in NYC, Boston, Austin or elsewhere. Many still do so.

However, the way how the United States is nowadays treating their citizens or people with a greencard or other form of visa is very disturbing.

All over the world, these persons, once welcomed and respected, are now knocking on closed doors of banks and employers. What a change.

It’s all about FATCA, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act – Uncle Sam’s way to make every bank employee in the world an unpaid IRS agent.

When I opened a bank account days ago, here in Panama, there is a mandatory questionnaire to fill out, assuring your bank that you are not a trouble maker with a blue U.S. passport, a green card, a U.S. visa or even having spent more than 182 days in god’s own country. A formula is applied to the number of days spent during the last 3 years, in order to figure out if you are a risk, they may reject or charge more fees.

I am quite sure, right now, there are entrepreneurs out there, thinking about their plans to move business to the U.S., but do not want to end up under such a rigid regime for decades to come.

Here’s my recommendation: Come to Panama.

This blog has some posts describing the business environment and how life is here. Save your business a lot of money and enjoy a tropical lifestyle instead. Settle in a special economic zone and earn foreign income tax-free. Good for your business, right?

An increasing number of global leaders are establishing their regional or global HQ in Panama. What’s good for them is most likely good for your business too.

Try something new. Come to Panama.

Visiting 2 oceans within 2 hours

Try this from San Francisco.

In Panama it’s a piece of cake. What was planned as a roundtrip does look more like rectangular, doesn’t it?

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It’s one of not so many days during the rainy season in Panama, when Caribbean and Pacific coast are both and between available for VFR (visual flight rules). Today it is.

Our FlightDesign CTLS LSA (light sport aircraft) takes off from Chame (MP24), few miles only from the Pacific coast. Wind from South today, so it’s runway 18 on this non-towered airport. We need to coordinate with 2 SENAN (coast guard/boarder patrol) helicopters doing training.

When airborne, we turn North and contact Panama Radio. We have submitted a flight plan already as we are kind of surrounding Panana City with 3 international airports: MPTO, MPMG and MPPA.

Got our squawk code and are handed over to Panama Advisory. When reaching FL55 (5,500 ft) we are already over Lake Gatun, which is a significant part of the Panama Canal passage. Watching ships on their way and assembling on both sides of Gatun Locks. The old ones, in 24/7 operation since 100 years, and the new ones under construction, to double transit capacity from early 2016. Impressive.

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Then the city of Colon, Atlantic-side entrance of the Panama Canal and home of the second largest free zone, after Hongkong. Colon’s airport (MPEJ) is a waypoint to overfly today.

Now we are flying along the Caribbean coast of Panama, still under-developed, but not for long anymore. Clouds are building over the rainforest and we climb to 7,500 feet now. This leg, as the other ones too, is approx. 50 nautical miles long.

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Next waypoint is El Provenir, a settlement on few small islands, and even the airport is on an island. Runway is 400 m and this place cannot be reached by land. As these pictures look, it goes along the coast for another 120 km, into Colombia. Islands, palms, sand, seafood. A true natural paradise, which we will overfly the next time, but low and check out all the airstrips along the way.

Now we turn South, leaving Caribbean/Atlantic behind and climb to 9,500 ft because of clouds. It takes time for our Rotax 912 engine at this altitude and still 57F outside. New course: Las Perlas Archipelago, Pacific Ocean. And after a few minutes we can already see these islands ahead.

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Weather is perfect, the views are amazing. Landing on Isla Contadora (MPRA), out of the plane and straight into Gerald’s garden restaurant. Watching hummingbirds, enjoying super-fresh seafood, talking with our hosts. What a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere.

Now it’s high tide and the beach is only 200 meters aways. White sand, turquoise clear water to the ground. Turn on your back, close your eyes and drift for an hour.

Getting ready for the last leg. Another 50 nautical miles westward to Chame, our homebase. At 4,500 ft towards the sinking sun. A lonesome container ship is on its way to the canal, and already descending we take another picture of Punta Chame.

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Departed 10:40 from Chame, arrived 12:50 at Isla Contadora. Up again at 15:55 and arrival in Chame at 16:40 local time. Per Foreflight planning it was 204 nautical miles but we took several detours because of clouds or to slowly descend into Las Perlas. Closer to 450 km probably, burning 13.5 galons of 95 autogas. Gas for US$50, food for US$35 … total of $85 for visiting 2 oceans. Not bad, right?

Most of the journey we have been on the radio with and on the screen of Panama Advisory, coordinating our flight with some other traffic this morning. They were, as always, doing a great job, taking care in a friendly and professional way.

Gracias amigos.

TexMex and CalPan

TechCrunch yesterday had an interesting article about how “Mexico’s Ressources Fuel The Texas Startup Economy”. Quite impressive.

There is a solid trend to consider Texas’ (and others’) neighbour country before China or India. Mexico appears to become the better place for manufacturing jobs. Labour may still be higher but transport costs and flexibility are superior, compared with Asia. Mexico and Central America will most likely become the new workbench for U.S. companies.

How does Panama fit into the picture?

 

PTY Downtown

 

Well, Panama has no surplus in workforce, nor does it have any track record in manufacturing. Panama is much more of a service than a manufacturing economy. Think of the vessel registrations, the solid financial sector, the offshore business industry. And how multinationals are moving their global or LatAm headquarters and callcenters to this country.

What Mexico is and will become for outsourced manufacturing, this should Panama be for California’s IT and VC firms. Fueling growth and profitability.

Preferrable business, tax and immigration rules, constantly growing economy, US currency, first world infrastructure, very affordable living costs, excellent investment opportunities,  and a tropical lifestyle.

 

Island

 

Think about it.

Coincidence

Funny. Few days after starting this blog I ran into an article today in AllThingsDigital.

Judson Moore writes about “How to Achieve Silicon Valley Anywhere”. Here’s the link.

It describes their view of what it takes to begin building something similar. Their example is the Brazos Tech District, downtown Austin, Texas. Good job.

brazos

 

However, the Panama approach is different. Come back soon to learn how.

And if you like the topic, share it. A blog has to be read, you know, or as we Germans are saying: A beer that is not drunk has missed its determination.

 

 

Panama – Building a global workforce

Panama has a population of 3.6 mio and 44.7% of them are age of 24 and younger. (USA 33.1)

 

PM_popgraph 2014

This makes for a perfect population pyramid, as shown. Life expectancy is 78 years. (USA 79.5)

Despite the USA’s unemployment rate of 7.3%, Panama has 4.6% what in reality means a lack of qualified workforce. Therefore the immigration rules have become much easier through the last years and is now kind of inviting for 44 so-called friendly connected nations. (Source)

Bringing these relaxed immigration rules into a mix with Panama’s tropical lifestyle, excellent business environment and investment opportunities,  it is easy to attract talent from everywhere to staff hightech businesses with global reach. And this way to offer many opportunities for young Panamanians too.

 

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This picture shows the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal with the Bridge of the Americas, kind of connecting North and South America, crossing the Panama Canal, which connects Atlantic and Pacific.

There is a marina on the left, where ferries and yachts are leaving to and arriving from the numerous islands in the Gulf of Panama, a general aviation airport is 10 minutes away by car. Along the coast there are many surf spots and year-round, nobody wears a neopren suit. Here’s why not:

 

Playa-Venao

 

Conclusion: There’s no better place to attract, motivate and keep talent.