It’s Thursday night in the heart of Miami’s financial district. At Novecento, a buzzing bistro, salsa and flamenco music blast while waitresses circulate Malbec and mojitos. Businessmen in fitted European suits survey the scene.
In walks angel investor Dave McClure, fresh off a flight from San Francisco. People rush to shake his hand as he makes his way into a private room packed with bankers, programmers, and executives. After a welcome from the mayor of Miami-Dade County, McClure, clad in jeans and a wrinkled blazer over a faded red T-shirt, takes the podium to talk about his impending tour of South America. Foreigners, he tells the audience, like to complain about their countries’ lack of Silicon Valley-like entrepreneurship. “Bull-s–t!” thunders McClure. “You’re the one that’s full of s–t! You’re the one not investing in your entrepreneurs.”
“Right on!” yells a guy in the back of the room.
So began the latest installment of the three-year-old traveling venture capital show McClure calls Geeks on a Plane. After dinner and a night of partying in South Beach, the 50-person delegation, which includes entrepreneurs, techies, attorneys, and investors, flew to Mexico City, São Paulo, and Buenos Aires for 10 days of mixers, lectures, and a competition to find Argentina’s best hacker. Along the way, McClure hoped to discover a startup or two to invest in.
Over the past three years, the Geeks have visited 30 cities, including New Delhi, Shanghai, Amsterdam, Prague, and Honolulu. McClure “is becoming an entrepreneurship rock star in countries like Brazil and India,” says Vivek Wadhwa, a former software developer who has lectured at Duke University. Over the next 18 months, they will descend on Tallinn, Berlin, Moscow, Dubai, Istanbul, Tel Aviv, and Amman, as well as cities in sub-Saharan Africa. “We’re one of the few VC firms to get outside a 30-mile radius of Sand Hill Road,” says McClure.
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