What is Fort Galt? Interview With Founder Gabriel Scheare
Gabriel Scheare began mining Bitcoin in 2013 and then moved into real estate development a year later by co-founding Fort Galt, a new start-up village for entrepreneurs. He lives in Valdivia, Chile, near the project build site.
Listen to the full audio here, or read below for the slightly abbreviated transcript.
So What is Fort Galt?
Fort Galt is a startup village for entrepreneurs. So it’s not that unlike other gated communities, or homeowner’s associations, except that it’s very intentional in its design, and who it’s catering to.
It sort of came to being when I met my business partners, Luke and Lourdes Crowley at an entrepreneurship boot camp called exosphere. And that was a three-month program where a whole bunch of people gathered together in Chile from all over the world with business ideas and basically just trying to figure out what they wanted to do with themselves.
Some people had some good ideas, some not so much, but it was this great sort of an incubator type environment where there was a whole lot of cross pollination going on because everyone was living in close quarters, working in close quarters so ideas flowed very freely…
And so we really loved this environment… but it was very limited time wise, after the three months everyone went back to their home countries and fell back into their old habits. A lot of the business ideas never panned out and people just kind of let things fall apart.
But we got to thinking, what if we could solve that shortcoming at the end of the pipeline there. What if we could provide housing options, some kind of residential option for this where people wouldn’t have to go home after three months, where they could stay and keep working as long as they needed to.
We eventually got together… and we started basically asking ourselves what would our perfect community look like? Where do we want to live? How can we incorporate this theme into some sort of a permanent living environment?
And that was essentially three years ago and it has been sort of this slow step by step process of figuring everything out from absolutely nothing to where we are right now. Which is this gorgeous coast property in Valdivia rainforest. And we are essentially ready to pour concrete now once the weather clears up.
Did you all have this same Atlas Shrugged idea? Are you all big fans of Ayn Rand, or all pretty libertarian?
We all kind of have that background in common. It’s not a prerequisite for people moving in though. A lot of the people that we met at exosphere were very much not libertarians in their speech in what they professed. But what we found was that if you expatriate from your home country and you’re an entrepreneur… and go your own way and carve out your own way and make your own life–you’re pretty libertarian.
…So we did meet some of those, and some of those types of people even ended up joining us in the end. It was kind of reassuring that way and we have sort of incorporated that lesson in our own marketing and design. We don’t try to make it sound like we are only appealing to hardcore Objectivists. If you’re responsible for your own outcomes, if you’re a self-motivated self-reliant type person then you’re most of the way there.
It sounds like it’s more for young entrepreneurs and a lot of people that move there would have to be more location independent, is that correct?
That was the idea, and we incorporated in the design of our first main residential building, a handful of these small entry level affordable rooms with those types of people in mind. But we also found that we were appealing to a lot of other types that we didn’t count on.
A lot of retirees that are looking for an interesting environment to live in and interesting people to work around and a lot of ex-military people for some reason. They kind of go through this phase where they kind start to reevaluate their life choices and start planning an exit strategy and we tend to pop up on their radar.
How do you feel about the military people, is there a little piece of you that’s like, oh good, now we have this tight knit community that can defend itself?
The more talent we have the better. I kind of adhere to this concept of keeping the community small enough where you can actually know everyone very well. That’s the context I grew up in, in a small farming community. You didn’t have very many neighbors but you made the effort to get to know them very well because you knew you would have to lean on them sometimes.
It was kind of anarchism in practice just by default because there were no cops around. There was this one summer where we had all these straw bales that caught fire and the whole farm could have burnt down but the neighbors saw the smoke and they all came and put the fire out. Not the fire department the neighbors. So we are carrying that philosophy into this context. We want basically an environment populated your ideal neighbors.
Could this be a curation space for investors, with the young entrepreneurs living alongside older experienced retirees?
Absolutely, and that is one of the things that attracted me to Chile in the first place. There was this other project that was promising a very similar environment where you would have the young nimble start-up kids co-mingling with the older retiree people who have more experience to share, could be valuable mentors, maybe some investors with capital to share… so yea we are definitely working that angle.
How much of a town do you think you’ll be able to make it?
I’m a big believer Dunbar’s number which says once you get over 100 people it gets really hard to actually know them. So somewhere near 100-150 people, I would think would be kinda the max.
What will happen if there is overwhelming demand for this? Would you start another next door? Or say tough luck?
We just have to listen to the market on that. If there is a waiting list of people that want to live in the same general location, then we have to find another property close by…
But for me, the long term plan is to replicate this all over the world, using the Freemason concept of having a lodge in each town so people can travel freely and work easily and integrate into new places as they are traveling. So eventually we can network all these locations together to be a sort of decentralized nation that’s not dependent on any one physical country.
The fact that it’s on the coast, is that more than aesthetic? Or is there something there?
Ha! You’re thinking ahead. You can’t really look at the beach and not envision building some kind of a port there. It doesn’t have to be anything enormous but some kind of a dock or something at some point will definitely be considered. We do have members that have boats and it would be convenient for them. And of course, we are all big fans of seasteading so we would love to participate in that…
I’ve heard you say in the past, the reason you’re channeling Ayn Rand is that [the inhabitants of Galt’s Gulch] weren’t just going off on their own, they were going to Galt’s Gulch to live amongst these other producers. How can you make sure the people moving here are that type of person? Is there a curation process?
Yes, we do vet people before we let them join. normally that just involves getting to know them a bit through conversations. And we have a lot of people that like to come down and actually visit the site see it for themselves. We have had to turn a few people away but not very many…
Right now all the big decisions are made by the founding partners, just by default, because we are the ones that are actually here doing stuff. As things come together and people move in on site and the population blossoms it will be up to the members to decide whether or not they like our service…
So people will own their own lots?
Yes. If you look on the website there’s a map showing the lots and you can buy any of those right now. We aren’t actively pushing them yet because we decided to focus on marketing the main building first because that’s kinda the reason for people to be here.
I mean unless you just love living on the coast in a gorgeous rainforest, which I mean I would. But that’s not enough of a reason to really justify leaving your life behind and moving to Chile and taking a huge leap like that. But once the crown jewel is in place then we think that will serve as a sufficient magnet to really attract people to come and buy lots…
In the main building in order to avoid all the SEC regulations and crap like that, we came up with a clever system kind of based again on the Freemason model of a private club. There’s a lot of loopholes around rules and things like that there, so what it is you’re are buying a membership into the clubhouse.
So you are not buying property which the SEC would regulate. We don’t have to worry about our US clients or anything like that because they aren’t buying land they aren’t buying any kind of asset. They are buying a membership which entitles them to exclusive use of their room. And it’s transferable, they can pass it on to their heirs, they can sell it. In practice, it is as if they bought the property. But legally speaking it is just a club membership.
And dispute resolution?
The first step is just resolve your own problems, come on, we’re all frickin grown-ups, act like them. But if that fails people agree to a third party arbitrator…
It’s just sort of a case by case thing, but there are steps in our policy to handle these things…
We’re definitely not like that stereotypical homeowner’s association that runs around measuring blades of grass.
Who’s gonna build the roads?
Where we’re going, we don’t need roads. Seriously though, we do have these little paths throughout the village. How they want them built up, will be up to them, the members that is.
Right now they’re just tramped down dirt, they are fine for most cars. But if they want gravel they can have gravel if they want pavement that’s fine, if they want solid platinum, I guess that’s possible. It’s all comes down to how much do they want to pay for.
I once lived at a homeowners association in California that was built around of a golf course, and everyone resented that gold course because it was just a money pit. There was no avoiding having to pay for it so I definitely learned my lessons from that and we are not imposing costs on the members that they don’t want. It is just going to be up to them, how much service do they want, how much infrastructure do they want, and are willing to pay for.
What part of the project are you most focused on right now, where’s all your time and energy going?
… I started this new little project called the Crypt Academy which is essentially a one room schoolhouse. The idea being that we will offer free educational courses for the locals… to promote cryptocurrency use. Because here in South America it is still one of those crazy nerd things that doesn’t make any sense and is scary and stuff. We just need a physical interface to help people get comfortable to help people use it and try it.
The idea of the one room schoolhouse goes back to where I grew up. My grandparents went to one and that was very common back then where you’d have the older kids in school mixed in with the young kids so they could help them and then the young kids had fresh perspectives on things and they can help each other.
It’s just this melting pot of not just talent but also enthusiasm too because sometimes you can get burnt out. And sometimes the teacher needs help too like managing a bunch of kids is hard sometimes. We know this is a village where kids will be growing up so thinking ahead and having a facility like that in place will be useful. We can use it not just for putting on workshops but also for our own children to go to school in.
It almost sounds like this is an alternative to college?
Our experience at exosphere made [it] painfully clear. College and university or whatever is obsolete. That model is completely useless now, it looks like a joke. So we need to rethink this, and that doesn’t necessarily always mean making things more high tech more advances and weird.
Sometimes you can look to the past for inspiration too. And basically, with this one room school house that’s the point because we are teaching cutting edge scary tech stuff were balancing that out by doing it in a more comfortable old fashioned environment to help people feel comfortable through the process…
How can readers keep up with what you’re doing?
If you want to keep tabs on what we’re doing, we do have a mailing list for the newsletter at FortGalt.com.
[We’re] gearing up to do fundraising for the construction of crypt academy, so the fundraising will be going through September… and you can keep track of that at cryptacademy.com.