Harvard IXP: Building Cities (Lima and Buenos Aires)


Every year HBS takes 40 second-year students to different parts of the world to work on specific consulting projects for 2 weeks in January, and I really wanted to go on the Latin America IXP. I had gone to Buenos Aires last November with MIA to play at a festival called Movistar Free Music Festival, where we played in Palermo right by the Planetarium:

What I came to learn on that trip, which had been my first time ever in South America, was that music consumption and telecommunications were inextricably linked. The way that consumers in Buenos Aires get their music is largely by selecting the music streaming option on their cellular plan, much like you’d choose how much data you want and minutes and texting etc. In the west, there have been several attempts of streaming services to partner with cell services (Beats/ATT, Spotify/Orange in Europe etc) but none of have been successful. I thought a lot about how we in the U.S. may have something to learn from how Movistar and other telecom companies use their massive user base to deliver music and other entertainment content that might not necessarily have reached those consumers otherwise.

For this reason, I was keen to return to BA and Lima with a mission in mind. I got selected for the IXP and was assigned an awesome team of 4 other HBS students I had never worked with.

Our project in Lima sure enough was on telecom and public-private partnerships. Here were our questions specifically:

Theme: Economic Development: Support, Incentives, Clusters

Assignment Question: How to leverage info and communication technology in economic development?

Specific Considerations: Concessions for Public Infrastructure and Return on Investment from Telecommunications
1.  The nation has awarded several concessions to install and operate fiberoptics
throughout the country.  What are the most important aspects of risk‐sharing between
state and private parties?
2.  What are the three most promising services or applications enabled by the fiber network
to encourage economic growth and development?
3.  What are the three most successful illustrations of IT enabled business clusters to date,
for example software or services or logistics clusters (if any)?

I learned that the biggest challenge facing telecom growth in Peru is its geography – majority of the country spans across jungles, mountains and coastline, making it very difficult and expensive for telecom companies to service those regions. For this reason, PPP was especially critical – the government lays the fiberoptic cables in the cities, making it attractive and easy for major telecom companies to bid for and then operate these lines, but they mandate that the same companies will also service the hard-to-access regions of the company as well, so that no citizens fall off the grid. It was huge for me to see telecom treated almost as a social good as opposed to a luxury.

During our free time I quickly learned that Lima is about eating divine food all the time. One of the most famous chefs in the world, Gaston Acurio, lives in Lima and is responsible for essentially making Lima a food capital of the world because of all of the restaurants he has owned and curated in the past several years. I also met up with sisters Tilsa and Eliana who were close friends of DC bestie Kristy who runs Maracuyeah DC. We also lived really close to Miraflores beach during our week there, so I would run and run and run. On the last day when everyone went to dinner, I ran the entire stretch of the beach (that had a path), 13 miles, right as the sun was setting. It was insanely beautiful and empowering.

Lima Thoughts:

– Drink Inca Kola Zero!!!!

– Eat at Panchita, Central, La Huaca, Canta Rana

– Run Miraflores, do pull-ups on the beach gyms

– Explore Barranco: Cafes and 73 and Barranco Beer Company

– Find this bar that is in an old train car: Cafe Cultural Restaurant Expreso Virgen de Guadalupe

Buenos Aires, Argentina:

BA is so alive. So packed and busy and also really fashion driven and people look really put together. Our project here was centered around the local government’s open data initiative – to see how data from the government can be used to inspire entrepreneurship, and also see what needed to be implemented to improve the initiative. Specifically, our questions were:

Theme: Economic Development: Support, Incentives, Clusters

Assignment Question: How to leverage info and communication technology in economic development?

Specific Considerations: Open Data and Civic Entrepreneurship
1.  What are the three best investments in open data from the point of view of benefit/cost
2.  What are the three data sets or types that best stimulate civic entrepreneurship?   How is
civic entrepreneurship defined?
3.  What are the two most important performance indicators for the success of the open
data initiative?

We met with super inspiring people that week – members of the government, people at start-ups, entrepreneurs, La Nacion newspaper and content experts. At the end of the week we had to present our findings to Fundaccion Pensar, the think tank put in place to prepare policy and ideas in advance of Macri’s potential presidency.

My favorite thing about BA was the fashion – so many young designers making amazing things. I got some sharp black boots, wild shoes, a virgin Guadeloupe jumpsuit, and another matching top and bottom black and green printed outfit that made me insanely happy. The creativity expressed in fashion felt very inspiring to me. Stores and restaurants I loved listed below.

Buenos Aires Thoughts:

–  Sunday: San Telmo market and there are drummers and sun and happiness

Monday: Wait in line at Konex to hear Bomba de Tiempo drum ensemble play it’s so fun – go early like 7pm

Tuesday: La Grande – same crew from Monday (including the founder, famous Santiago Vazquez) but this time it’s live composing on various instruments at a gorgeous art gallery space with ping pong tables – good drinks – definitely go  and hang out and listen – the music is so damn gorgeous it moves your heart to a different place – it starts at 7:30pm – Santos Dumont, 4040 (at Corrientes) – take the Subte Linea B to Dorrego

Wednesday: Take a tango lesson at La Catedral – even if you don’t take a lesson you can hang out and eat food and watch – the space is so gorgeous it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen – it’s huge and high ceilings and very inspiring

 – Thursday: Go see a show on Av. Corrientes – theater and plays are huge in Buenos Aires

Friday/ Saturday: Good lord, you can do anything but it only starts at 3am

– Eat at Million restaurant and have wine and provoleta

– Explore the shops and cafes around the intersection of Armenia and Costa Rica in Palermo

– Run/walk around the Rosedal Lago/ Racuelta area

– Lunch at any of the restaurants along Puerto Madero

– Eat at La Cholita and get cazuela – there are many types but we had the spinach and pumpkin and cheese one and it was so insanely good there is nothing like it in the world – imagine a spinach/artichoke dip but super hot and hearty and insanely delicious

– Hang for a while with good company at Shout bar – it’s dark and cozy and creative

– Dinner at Dada – feels kind of Moulin Rouge ish – everyone seems to know each other there 

– EAT AT CHILA – it is a brand new, $$$$ place, but the food is so creative and delicious and the menu is small you just trust them – the only choice you really make is whether it will be a 3 course meal or a 7 course meal – get the dulce de leche souffle – and anything with an egg in it

– SHOP: Bauths shoes (bauths@bauths.com – they have a store at the innovation district but if you email they can also tell you where they sell their shoes), Menton pop up shop (carries some Bauths, Paraguay 5512 PB “A” in Palermo, open Weds-Sun), Chicco Ruiz (like a museum of insanely finely crafted shoes – you must go, Thames 1780 in Palermo), DAM clothing (sold at Chicco Ruiz)

– Check out Oreja Negra for live music – I had the pleasure of performing here on the Friday of our trip with singer/songwriter Abril Sosa!

– Drink yerba mate whenever offered – buy the gorgeous cup and metal straw, buy the loose-leaf tea. I brought it back to Boston and have been making cold-brewed yerba mate almond milk lattes. BOMB