What waves taught me about angel investing… from Montanita, Ecuador

What waves taught me about angel investing… from Montanita, Ecuador

There’s a little town on the coast of Ecuador that is a down-market heaven called Montanita. Believe it or not, it taught me about angel investing.

Montanita is about four hours drive outside of Guayaquil, through some pretty backward towns (read really depressing filth and poverty). And Montanita would be no different but for one thing: the waves go off all day every day with sublime consistency.


I shacked up at La Casa del Sol, the Uber beach cabana of Randy Hood, former pro surfer and erstwhile architect and omelet maker. And I happened to have come to the place as Carnival approached and the SA Surfing Championships were getting rolling. Not bad timing at all. I was awarded big spender status because I took the room for $12 per night, all included. This basically means clean room, waves, board, lessons, food, and other niceties. I was clearly going to have a challenge spending $100 for the week.

I was up early my first morning and headed to the chow cabana. Javier greeted me with an omelet pan in one hand, a bottle of jack in the other and a funny looking cigarette in his mouth. Madre was yelling at him for getting ashes in the food, and he had a giant smile as he rolled his eyes at me. Not only did he make a great omelet, he was out surfing the big break an hour later. Made no sense how he could do it, I guess he needed to get stoked in his own way. I prefer carrot juice. I shudder to think what I would be like trying to keep up with him, in the kitchen or on the waves.

But as we got to talking out on the water, he shared some very basic insights I have used a lot since: “Amigo- do not chase the latest wave, or the next wave. It’s already too late. Look at the wave behind the others, because by the time everything is in order, that wave will just be hitting the break.

Since then, I’ve learned a thing or two about being too early, or picking waves that just won’t support you. We gave local social media a try before FourSquare, and we kicked out long before they caught the big one and sailed by. Likewise, I gave crowdsourcing a try, only to learn that its still a small wave, unless you consider Groupon in the genre because they have crushed it. We didn’t.

But I did find my biggest wave in the last five years has been digital media, more specifically mobile. I would point to the success of Mojiva as Exhibit A, which just a year ago people were questioning if Mobile was real. Mary Meeker blew the cover on that one, and AdMob and Quattro kicked off over a billion dollars of transactions in the field since. Now, they are wondering where will it end. Within that wave, Mojiva and it’s team are well positioned to ride the tremendous wave of being the technology platform that serves more mobile ads than anyone else in the world. And to complete the analogy, the product name is Mocean Mobile, like the OCean with an M.

Yes, we had the chance to chase the latest thing in mobile: video, or networks, or mediation. But we went patiently for the big wave. And I think back to those days on the beach in Ecuador, while Javier has doubtless forgotten me, a pitiful gringo surfer, his words rang true. Thanks Dude!

If you go
» Casa Del Sol
» WaveHunters

I mentor two kids and several entrepreneurs. Similarities are coincidental.