Curtis Duggan: Hey everybody. Welcome back to Remotely Serious, your source for new perspectives on digital nomadism, global mobility, remote work — and in the case of this episode — the movement of sovereign individuals around the world, which is a concept that's adjacent to the other concepts I mentioned. I am your host, Curtis Duggan, and I'm here to help you navigate the new frontiers of remote work and remote life.
Today's episode is an interview with a guest named Alex Recouso. He is an entrepreneur with a startup called Baseflow, and Baseflow is a platform for helping people move and — in many cases — emigrate and get a visa to go around the world. And this is a concept that's obviously very important to digital nomads, remote workers, and sovereign individuals.
A concept that we'll discuss on the pod. So we'll talk about his startup Baseflow, but I also thought it was interesting. Later on in the pod we also talk about his time in Montenegro at a popup city called Zuzalu. And so if what I just said doesn't make sense to you at all, we'll get into it on the pod.
Here we go.
Alright, I'm here with Alex Recouso with From Baseflow, founder of Baseflow. I was — Alex — I was looking, I think it was LinkedIn or something — And I know that you're gonna — you can explain a little bit more about what Baseflow does, but one phrase stuck out to me, and I think it's from the LinkedIn, how you have a little caption and it said, building a society of sovereign individuals.
And that stuck out to me. I've heard that phrase a lot. I can't say that I've researched it quite as much. I see it on Twitter, but I was wondering if we wanted to start there. This is the Remotely Serious podcast, so we're interested in remote work, but it's like there's these even deeper political movements like "Sovereign Individual", and so I saw that and I wanted to start there.
What does that mean?
Alex Recouso: Hey Curtis, thank you so much for having me on the podcast. Super excited to be here. And yeah probably you have read it also on Twitter because that's like the one-liner that we have been using the most. And honestly the background behind of it.
Baseflow is essentially this platform that allows you to get a new passport or move your tax residency to remote- and crypto-friendly jurisdictions. And we start with Portugal, now we're expanding to other jurisdictions like Montenegro, UAE, Singapore also this citizenship-by-investment programs in the Caribbean islands.
But essentially, what I see as the bigger vision is that we are enabling this society of sovereign individuals to form around the concept of basically choosing your governance providers and deciding things that I believe that you should be able to easily decide — hey, where do you want to pay taxes?
Where do you want to be a citizen? And all that kind of stuff.
Curtis Duggan: What countries... do you think there are any countries that are doing Sovereign individualism or welcoming sovereign individuals really well. Are there certain countries you've chosen for Baseflow first because you think they're very friendly to this, or how do you make these decisions?
You mentioned UAE, Singapore, Portugal. What goes into those decisions to choose which country to help people move to?
Alex Recouso: Yeah, that's a great question because, so, basically the countries that we are going with are the ones that have — possibly both, but either — they are remote-friendly, meaning that they allow remote workers, digital nomads to move there and set up their affairs there.
Or countries that are really crypto-friendly and, because, like, from our initial users, many of them, they either working crypto or are invested into crypto and stuff like that. So I believe those are the ones that are feeling the problem the most and the most painful because the states or the countries that are lagging with crypto regulation, they are making it super painful for you to interact with the government.
And basically, Baseflow is this sort of operating system that abstracts all the complexity from sovereign individuals to interact with countries and make all of these decisions. And I think — for making these decisions it's also important to take into account the demand side.
For example, we started with Portugal because it was one of the most demanded solutions for remote workers or digital nomads to move their tax residency too. We also started with, for example, the Caribbean Islands because they are really popular. We already had the contacts there with the government agents and several agencies that are doing these legal structures.
And for example, right now we are researching also the Greece digital nomad visa because it's also one of the most demanded solutions. I believe it's the fastest growing citizenship-by-investment program in the world right now. You also have to take into account the demand side.
That's something that we are really focusing on. But like you were saying, also taking into account which countries are friendly for serving individuals is quite important because also we want to it sues countries that. We can keep working with in the long term. For example, in port things changed a bit this year.
It's not as crypto-friendly as it used to be. And something that we are really looking into is working with countries that have a clear strategy, a clear plan for the for where the world is heading. That I believe is towards multi polarization with authoritarian governments and sovereign individuals.
And we basically want to work with these countries that are open to doing business and that are willing to attract sovereign individuals.
Curtis Duggan: So let's say so you started Baseflow to help move these people who are sovereign sovereignty, curious, or very motivated to establish a more sovereign life or just a life as a digital nomad.
Maybe they don't think of themselves as "I'm a sovereign individual". Even if they are, they might just think, I would like to remote work in Portugal, or I'd like to move my assets and my crypto to Dubai. If someone's sitting — let's just say they're sitting in Chicago and they've never really left the United States.
They've never even really worked abroad. They've worked around the United States. Maybe they're an American and they have some NFTs and some Bitcoin in their wallet. They've got some. Savings and their 401k or whatever, they're, they got their American savings and they just wake up one day and they've been reading your content, maybe they've been listening to this podcast and they just decide, you know what I'm, I actually do want to go to Lisbon or Madeira or Dubai.
And they come to your website. From the moment they have that thought to some future where they're completely set up, sovereign, or, whatever you want to call it. The kind of the successfully there in Portugal or in the UAE, what happens. What are the steps and maybe also what are you thinking about in terms of them also just maybe thinking I should just go to a lawyer, why would I use it?
Like what is the tech startup or the platform of Baseflow do in terms of their experience to get them from A to B?
Alex Recouso: Yeah, that's a weird question and I think it's all about the experience. The experience that you currently have, if you want to go through one of these legal structures is that essentially you will need to find a lawyer or a law firm or an immigration agency that can help you with this setup that you want to build.
That's the first step. After that, you will probably, pay some thousands of dollars in consultancy fees because they will explain you, all the different options that you have. You will probably have es by analysis. That's something that I encounter very often when talking with my customers that they talked with a bunch of lawyers and they offer them like 15 options or 20 options, and they ended up not doing anything because they're like, oh, I have so many options.
What do I do? And then after that, it is super inconvenient to make all the bank transfers, bank wires many of them they're international then, sending all your documents tracking everything on Excel and all this experience that is quite outdated. And essentially what we're trying to do is to have, this sort of platform that provides a one-stop shop for you to either move your tax residency to another country.
Like we were saying, you want to move to Portugal and live there, or just want to set up your tax residency in Dubai and that's it. Essentially you would be able to just provide documents that are required and that's it. The same way you think about how you incorporate companies nowadays versus how you were incorporating companies like 10, 15 years ago that you needed to involve lawyers.
And it was, a really painful process. And right now you have all these platforms that help you streamline these processes and make it super easy. And so that's essentially what we're trying to do but for individuals. And also I think a really key component of it is the network effects in the sense that someone might move to another country, like you were saying, someone that is in Chicago sitting there.
The first step is of course, realizing that this is possible. And I think, many people don't even think about it nowadays because they're like this is not possible. They don't even think about it. I think that there's a big advantage in just making it possible for people like selling it as something that is possible.
Something that is not only for billionaires or millionaires that you know, Anyone that works remotely can make these kind of choices. And then after that, just make it easy. And like I was saying, half all this sort of network effects where people can not only, move their tax residency to another country, but also get another passport and get access to all these services that are useful for them as serving individuals.
And I think that's the main difference — versus for example, going to a law firm that is going to help you with illegal stuff, but then you will need to go to a different place for, the banking, for the housing, for the private mailbox and all of that. And then if you move countries, you will have to start from a scratch again.
So everything is super fragmented, both vertically in different industries and horizontally across different geographies.
Curtis Duggan: Got it. No, I'm listening to you, Alex, and I'm curious to learn why this particular idea, listening to you, I can tell, no matter what, you sound like an entrepreneur and you probably always will be an entrepreneur but why this particular problem at this time instead of, for instance, a ChatGPT app or any number of other things that are coming along that are really hot right now.
This is one of those things where it seems like it seems from my experience in sort of the VC world and the entrepreneurship world, it seems like it's just on the edge of, some people might consider it, oh, this is like a services business. It's not really in the VC world, but it also, on the other hand is at the inflection point of a total change in the way we do things.
Post-covid, people are working remote. We see all these hot payroll companies that do like the Deel, the Remote, the Oyster, the Multiplier that do international payroll. And they've raised tons of money.
So on the other hand, you might be onto something that's just absolutely ready to explode from a VC point of view. Why did you choose this idea? And do you wanna raise money for it or is this is this just a really profitable, bootstrap able business that you can just run and make cash from?
What's your plan there?
Alex Recouso: First addressing your question regarding if it's VC funded or bootstrapped so, this is the idea is to build something really big. And that's why, when I got offered to join Pioneer that is this startup accelerator that Daniel Gross started, he was a former partner at Y Combinator.
And essentially, he went on to build this startup accelerator that is super early stage. From the moment I started working in base flow, I think two weeks after that, I got the offer to, to join Pioneer or something like that, and I accepted it. We raised the first check and actually right now we are in the middle of raising our Prese route.
Curtis Duggan: to explain these are you the only founder or do you have co-founders? Yeah. Yeah. I'm,
Alex Recouso: I'm a solo founder. Got it. I'm building also the core team right now. I have a couple people working with me already. But yeah, I. Explaining the reasoning behind that and that question behind if it is a service business or not.
I think it's really interesting what you said that, the world is changing and I think the world we're heading to, like I said before it's a world where increasingly more people want to be able to make these decisions around where they live, where they are citizens. They will start probably worrying about, the passports that they hold.
And for example, Ji puts it in a really cool way that is, that your allocation, meaning where you put your money might be important, but your location, meaning where you live or where you position yourself is. Or can be even more important in the next years. And I think there's no easy way for sobering individuals to make decisions around, all this kind of stuff, how to structure their finances globally.
And we are seeing that, the remote trend I think it's not going anywhere. And even if it's not remote per se, like it was during covid, I think people are increasing increasingly start to make decisions around this thing. Because, pre Covid, there was no question that the place to be was Silicon Valley, especially if you wanted to be, to build a tech startup.
But more people moved to Miami than more people moved to Portugal, to Singapore. Now we are seeing more people moving to Dubai and to smaller countries like Switzerland, Montenegro and whatnot. So I think this are trend and many trends are converging right now at this very special moment in time.
So going back in time, to, to the question about how did I decide to work on this? So essentially while I was 14 years old, I got into Flexx. Yuri I don't know. Are you familiar with the Flexx Yuri? No. Alright. It's essentially this theory that says that you should set up your flags in different countries to maximize your freedom and not depend on just one government, not having a single point of failure using, like a
Curtis Duggan: computer.
Okay. Yeah. I take it back. I take it back. I am, I have heard of this. Yeah, it's been a few years. I used to read about that. It's just a, it's a, it's like Obi One Kenobi. It's that's a name I've not heard in a long time, but I did read about that five or 10 years ago. But I've forgotten about it.
So flag theory is still a big thing, or flight theory is still a concept. I just remember it from forums maybe 10 years ago. Yeah, it's
Alex Recouso: still here. Yeah. Like I said, I wouldn't into it like 10 years ago. I was 13, 14 years old. And for the people listening like the flags are just your passport, your tax residency, your assets and all of that.
And you should, put them in different countries to not depend on just one government, maximize your freedom and all of that. So after that, I got into startups. I built my first company during my first year in college. I was, I allowed to find partners. After that. I done internship at San Francisco based startup which was building a marketplace for remote workers.
And that was the first time that I got into remote work and all of that trend. It was 2019. And then after that, I moved from Spain where I'm originally from to the US to study at U S C in college. And I experienced it. Pain of immigrating myself. I would I realized the importance of your passport and your nationality because, this is something that many people from wealthy countries like Vitalik said some weeks ago, don't even think about because you don't experience the pain of, not being able to access one country and whatnot.
But, going through the process of immigrating to an encounter myself, I experienced it. And then, I had to come back to Europe because essentially, I couldn't renew my visa in the us So I was researching what were the most attractive places to be. Also at the same time, with the pandemic and the rise of remote work and digital drives in trans communities the rise of the network state that Balaji coined and all of those trends kind of converts.
And like I was saying, I was researching places to move to in, in Europe. I found out that Port was really attractive with their digital nomad visa. They were making a lot of things or at least in the right direction. They were becoming super crypto friendly after the 2008 crisis and all of that.
So I was like, okay, I, I think, I will do this myself. So I did it for myself and I decided to streamline. The process.
Curtis Duggan: And Alex, I was Alex, when you say you were moving to Portugal, was that, were you researching that from California or is that from Europe? Yes. Okay. Yes.
So you were in the us I was. And so what just, I don't wanna make sure I didn't miss this crucial turn in the story. What was motivating you? California's a cool place. It's Silicon Valley, there's startup accelerators, there's pioneer, there's all this stuff going on.
Lots of people, like in ev all around the world are like, my dream is to get to California. I'll get the H one B visa or what have you, et cetera, et cetera, to get to California and never leave and become a Silicon Valley person for the rest of my life and buy a big house in Palo Alto. What was prompting you to be like, I want to leave California for some, somewhere in Portugal.
What was there like a moment? Did you get a tax bill and you're like, or did you get a crypto tax bill and I'm outta here? Or what was the moment?
Alex Recouso: So basically I think it's A bunch of things not a single thing that made me want to move back to Europe.
So some of them, for example like when I first moved to the US I had the intention of staying there and doing like H one B or any other kind of visa that allowed me to stay there long term. But after leaving some months there, I realized that I didn't like it that much to basically, build my life there.
Then also I realized that, maybe I wasn't getting the best deal out of my money in the US and that essentially, for the same price in Europe I could live way better at the same time. I was realizing that, I was making way more connections and finding way more opportunities online than in the physical world.
I believe this might be a bit different in San Francisco, but especially in la I felt that way. And also at the same time, if I wanted to stay, I would have needed to spend a lot of time and a lot of money in lawyers and resources to basically, go through this super painful immigration process.
And I didn't feel like it, I thought that, I could allocate my time and my money in other things. And essentially, I had this feeling of this is not a place that wants me to be here because they are making it super hard to me, for me to stay here. And also I think, this goes back again to the concept of the serving individual that I think that you should go.
To a place where you feel loved or where you feel welcomed at least. And this is not anything against the us. I love the us I think it has great things, but I think immigration is not one of them. And honestly, if you think about the us there was a country that was benefits so much from immigration and it was essentially built by immigrants and making it so hard for people that want to go there and contribute to the country to actually go there and move there and not be worrying about, getting deported or getting a huge tax bill or paying thousands of dollars.
To lawyers. It's a huge problem. And we are seeing that, honestly, I'm seeing it with Baseload, like many people that would have chosen in the US some years ago. Now they're choosing other places because they are making a living online. They're finding their opportunities, they're their businesses online, and they're like, okay, I'm gonna move to a place that loves me.
Curtis Duggan: Yeah, this resonates with me. I'm Canadian and I've lived in New York and worked in New York on visas and gone through visa applications. And it's just one of those things where even for Canada, and I don't, I'm not saying, Canada's more special.
It is closer to the United States and there are some things that are streamlined, but I can sympathize with everyone around the world for many Canadians, even though it feels like it should be as easy as going from Spain to Portugal within the EU, it's not. And so I definitely have had that feeling like, wow, they really, in some cases it's like they really just don't want people here.
Even if those people are coming to contribute and pay taxes and commit no crimes and be totally, contributing to society they, they just barriers.
Alex Recouso: Yeah. No and especially I think in the world right now, we are increasingly starting to think from the perspective that governments are businesses and you are paying something in taxes so you get something back. And honestly like the US seems like one of the countries that has the, one of the worst, benefit from or benefit to cost ratio in the sense that in some places in the US you pay a lot of taxes.
I. What you get in return is not that much. Of course, like you get it in other ways from business opportunities, connections, networking, all of that. But from the standpoint of the government perspective as a business, as what you're getting versus what you're paying I think it's a pretty bad business.
Curtis Duggan: Yeah. It used to be worth it to deal with all the bullshit to get access to this unipolar, monolithic in-person opportunity to do business in anywhere in America. But, in New York, la, San Francisco, Silicon Valley. Yeah. And with everything that's happened in the last three or four years, I think that advantage is eroding.
There's so many more places where you can still build an amazing business. And you could do that before, but it's, the reality is no matter how much. We don't want to, no matter how anti-American someone can be, I'm not anti-American, but someone can be. The reality was 10 or 20 or 30 years ago, it was absolutely the best place in the world to start a successful growth business.
There's just no, there's no question about that. And I think nowadays there, there is a question but I wanted to chat about slu, but before we get to that, just maybe just one more question about base flow. This, and this email@example.com if anybody's listening and wants to look it up that's correct.
Baseflow.io. Yeah. I got pulled up here. If you want to navigate it to it on the web. So I'm just curious when you make a website, when you make a the marketing copy for something like this, you mean like anyone can use the platform, it's for everyone, and that's great. And I'm not saying that's what your copy is.
I'm just saying like often, you're marketing like that, but then what you find in reality is, I'm sure you're starting to see this. The target customer tends to start coming from some particular demographic or geography. And I guess what I'm trying to say is, I can imagine there's people in the EU that are like I'm an EU citizen.
I can, there's 30 countries or whatever it is. I don't know, 19 countries, I can't remember how many, but there's lots of a European countries I can go to with no platform. I just do it. It's part of my passport. Then you've got Americans and Canadians and Australians who are like, yeah I'm really just in my country and there's not really that many other places I can go.
I need a platform like this. And then of course there's also a history of, people in India are Very motivated or have been very motivated throughout the last decades to get an H one B visa and get to America or get somewhere else. That's a very well documented trend. So I guess what I'm trying to say, maybe not very concisely is, there's all these groups of people, there's different geographies.
Do you have a sense of who's gonna be the customer for base flow? Is it gonna be Americans or Europeans, or is it gonna be evenly distributed around a lot of different countries?
Alex Recouso: Yeah so I would say that it's not so much about geography, but more about preferences. I would say that 90, 95% of our customers work in tech most of them work in crypto, and they are either founders or early employees of a startup.
This also tells you that, they are quite risk taking, which I believe is the profile or the typical person that right now is making these decisions because let's not lie, like this is not something mainstream right now. And it probably feels like Bitcoin in 2013, right?
That it feels like even a bit sketchy to get a passport from a different country. Or move abroad and stuff like that. And we essentially want to take it mainstream would want to make it super friendly. So I would say that's the typical person that is using us right now. Of course, across different geographies, there are different preferences too.
So for example the Europeans that we are working with, maybe they think more about, just optimizing taxes because they already have strong passports that if they don't live in their home countries, they're not paying taxes there. Then we have, many Americans that think about getting a second passport because they don't want to just depend on, on, on the us.
Then there are, many people from India that just think about living a better life and potentially, get a second passport from a country that allows them to have greater travel freedom and all of this stuff. There are like a bunch of different reasons, but the.
Buyer persona, I would say that is quite defined, at least right now.
Curtis Duggan: Got it. So it's more psychological and it's about their orientation towards risk. Yeah. And crypto and those kinds of things. Okay. That makes sense.
Alex Recouso: Yeah. Yeah. And also like I was saying in the beginning the ones that are feeling the problem the most right now are the ones who work at industries in the edge of technology.
So industries that are not yet or are heavily regulated because they haven't been regulated in a long time. So for example, crypto and ai. And those and the people working in those industries are the ones that are starting to think about these decisions because they are feeling it in their daily lives because they're like, oh yeah, I work in crypto.
Am I gonna go to jail if I work in crypto from this country? They really feel the pain. But I think, the trend is clear and eventually, Many people, if not everyone, will start to realize that they can make this, these kind of choices.
Curtis Duggan: Yeah. Yeah. I think it's, I think it's good that you're working with getting people to countries.
I, I've seen something and you can correct me if you've, if any of the facts seem wrong, but what I've been observing is, first of all, you've mentioned a few concepts. I don't know if we like stopped on them, but you've mentioned the network state and Balaji, and just for anyone that wonder what that is, the network state is a concept that has been that Balaji wrote a book about Balaji.
Avastin is a big thinker in this space in terms of sovereign individuals and the future of nation states and governance in crypto. I'm, there's so much to talk about. I can't summarize it in one sentence, but go look up Balaji. I think he's just at Balaji, B A L A J I on Twitter and other places.
But essentially the idea that, with. Cryptocurrencies and other technologies. The nation state, that was, we've had this concept of the nation state since 1648, since the Treaty of Westphalia in Europe when the 30 years war was over and the kind of modern European western nation became a thing, and they exported and colonized that around the world in a long, two or 300 year history.
And then there were democratic revolutions in France and America. But long story short, since those democratic revolutions in France and America and then around the world over the next couple hundred years, we haven't really had a fundamental change in how a nation works. So anyway, that was a quick sidebar on the idea that we haven't really changed the operating system of nations.
There's lots of people that are thinking about it. Alex, you're thinking about it, Balaji's thinking about it. So just a sidebar for listeners, if you want to go look up network state, you can check that out. But the other point I was gonna make was just around moving people to countries.
I've seen some of these sovereign cities or new. Let's say network state cities. And one example I find where it seems like it might be a bit of a risk of the model and in its very early days. Anyone who's doing this is taking a little bit of risk. But down in Honduras there was a place called either, I think it's Prospera or Prosper.
Prospera. Prospera, maybe on the accent, on the first syllable. And they got approval from the government to have a special economic zone. I think the acronym is Zee, Z e f E, in my Canadian English Z a f a, I dunno what it is in Spanish, but I think it's, I believe it's Z E F E. And the what happened is they know, they started building this.
I haven't been down there, but they've been building it out. And then I've seen recent, in more recent news articles, they're, it's Honduras is a democracy. They have an election, they change the government, and the current government is less friendly to the economic zone, to the point of threatening to shut it down or just saying you can't have this economic zone.
And so what does that mean? What is the economic zone? I don't know all the details, but suffice to say, it's like carving out this area where the regulations or the ability to do business or the zoning is different, more free, more libertarian than the rest of the country. And then it allows people to come from somewhere.
And, it's like the old model from China in Macau or Hong Kong where a certain part of a, civilization gets an economic status. And this goes all the way back to the, the Portuguese traders in China creating special economic zone in Macau, for instance. It's a concept with a lot of history.
But anyway, Alex, I was just thinking I think what you're doing is good with moving people to countries because when people go and start these cities, if you were to say, oh I'm pivoting base flow and we're gonna start a city, that there's just this huge risk that you get into as, as much as we all wanna move society forward and explore new explore new models.
There's just this huge risk that the country you're in is still look, we're the law of the land. We changed our mind. So I'm just curious if you've been following the cities and what you think about that where, whether it's Praxis, prospera pluma, all the peace, have you followed those?
Alex Recouso: Yeah, actually that I'm good friends with Dryden. He was from Praxis for the ones who don't know they're building a city in the Mediterranean. And I think, something really good from the network state concept is the idea of being able to, if the host government is not that friendly.
Okay. So we will just move. To a different place. And I think that might be one of the biggest issues with prosperity that they can't really move somewhere else because they started with the land first. First they developed all that all that land. And after that they started looking for people to move there.
And they in incurred in this super high setup cost that now, they are locked in that land. And if the host government wants to make their lives super hard, they can so easily move to a different place. I think that's one of the most important ideas of the state.
And actually like I'm really interested, really bullish on special economic songs. That was one of the purposes behind Create or obtain a special economic song or a special song in order to have, more autonomy for longevity experiments and stuff like that. And I think that's super important because like you were saying, the nation state hasn't been updated in so many centuries, and it's important to just experiment to new governance models, to find one that works better than what we have.
I think there's room for me for improvement. And honestly going back to base flow, the longer vision is that. Since we allow sovereign individuals and digital nomads and all of these kind of internet communities to interact with NA Nation states, at some point we will have, enough leverage to work directly with governments and may maybe tell them, Hey why don't make this special permit or this special economic zone for our people that are moving to this country that are so much, that are so relevant for your country that are bringing so much income that are increasing the G D p by this percentage.
And, that's my take to do it. But there, there are like many other ways to do it. And I think, eventually the ones that work best will probably work out. But I think, like I was saying, that it's important to just experiment with these things.
Curtis Duggan: I think it's a, it is a good segue into and I'm gonna try and say it like you did SLU is was very recent.
We're recording at the end of May. And SLU was a, I almost don't know how to describe it. It was a collection of people. It's not a Dao but it, it was a gathering of people, a popup, almost a city popup, a crypto popup, a web three popup, a sovereign individual popup event, but not just an event.
Something that it seemed to last for weeks and weeks. But let me just back up and I'll kick it over to you. First of all, it was in Montenegro and Montenegro was a place I I first traveled to right at, recently, a year and a half ago, whenever it was at the end of the pandemic or as the pandemic was trailing off.
I took a trip to the Mediterranean. I hadn't really been to the Adriatic, I hadn't really been to the Mediterranean ever, and I'm trying to think now. But yeah I had not been to the Mediterranean ever, and I went down the Adriatic coast, and so I was in Dubrovnik in Croatia with a famous old city.
And there was an opportunity to just keep going. And so I took I actually took a it's kinda like an Uber it was longer than an Uber, but it was kinda like an Uber where the Uber would stop and let me see a few things. And then eventually it would get to, it would actually cross a border. And so we crossed the border.
I believe we, we left the EU went into Montenegro. So all of this, for anyone who's listening, doesn't know where Croation Montenegro are. If you think about Italy and the Mediterranean, Italy's the boot. There's the Adriatic Sea to the east of Italy, and then there's this beautiful coastline. East of Italy.
If you just took a boat and just traveled east in a straight line, you would hit this Adriatic coast. So you've got Croatia, Montenegro, further down, Albania, Greece, and eventually Greece. You get to that Greek peninsula that's a little further down. Anyway, beautiful area, and I took this trip I think visitors were still a little bit subdued because the pandemic had just happened.
It was not like it was very busy with people and I didn't consider it a nomad destination. I was almost solo and alone. But the car It went around this winding almost to me, it felt like a James Bond adventure through this winding bay and came around to this place called Cottor or the Bay of Cottor, which is beautiful.
It looked like I'm from British Columbia in Western Canada, and it looked like the kind of beautiful mountains of Vancouver or even Norway, except it was hot and in the Mediterranean, so you have these mountains coming down to the bay. And so that was my introduction to the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro.
An Adriatic country that's small in terms of population. I think it's less than a million people. But I just wanted to set the scene that you've got this location in the Adriatic. It's beautiful, maybe a little bit lesser known. And then all of a sudden, recent, very recently in the last few months I think I saw a couple things.
One, Dowan the crypto fugitive was arrested at the capital city, the pod Goza airport, which is the capital city. I can't remember if this was before or after Zalo, but I saw Doko got arrested and I also saw Zalo was happening and they, and the organizers, if I can use that word, organizers, I don't know if it was decentralized or if there was an organizing team.
They chose Montenegro for this. So I wanted to give my little, background of Montenegro to set the scene. But then I, Alex I wanted to kick it over to you to just describe to me, 'cause I still don't think I fully understand, although I was watching some of the content what was zalo, what happened.
Alex Recouso: Yeah that's a great introduction, man. Actually like. I'm a Mediterranean maximalist and I loved the description so that's awesome. Did, you mentioned that it felt like James Bond and like actually in one of the James Bond movies I don't know if it's CA Royal they put it on the setup of Montenegro, I think in tva, but they actually recorded it in Lisbon, in the c in the casting of Cash Guys.
Curtis Duggan: But yeah and so
Alex Recouso: the thing is Zuzalu was defined as a pop-up city. It lasted for two months. I was there the entire time I came back from it last week actually. And yeah, there was like an organizing team. Some people from the foundation and whatnot. I think they, they just chose Montenegro because like you were saying, it's a really special country that has a lot of upside.
Right now, it's in conversations, I think, to join the eu. They just switched the government after so many years. And the new government has great plans, honestly. Like they're, they will try to make it more crypto friendly with a new crypto regulation, also with some talent visas that will make it easier for, talented people that work, in tech or in biotech or longevity and stuff like that on the edge to move there and work from there.
I think Monte is a really special place and it has so many potential and so many opportunities. And I think that's probably one of the reasons why it was chosen for
Curtis Duggan: I totally agree. Can I just jump back to one thing? Yeah please. Just before I lose the thread, you mentioned a popup city for two months.
What does that actually look like? I, is that essentially just saying to people, We're all gonna be here, buy your ticket, you get your accommodation, Airbnb, hotel, stay with a friend, get a co-living space, and just we're all gonna hang out. Or is there something more to it than what is the pop and is it like a secret?
There's a few different cities, there's more than a few. There's lots of cities. But is, it's you're not saying I don't know. I don't know. What am I trying to say? It's like I didn't hear the name of the act. Like normally you would say something. In Lisbon or Orlando or, the conference is in Las Vegas or whatever it is.
And people kept saying come to Suso. Come to Suso. And I'm like I would read like 20 tweets and I know some of the cities and towns in Montenegro and I would read 20 tweets and I'd be like, I still don't know which town this is in. Was it distributed across a bunch of different cities?
Like what does that mean for the two month pop-up city?
Alex Recouso: It was, yeah, it was just one place. I think they tried to keep it, more or less secret. I see. Okay. So random people didn't show up, but it was essentially like, like a resort in, in Montenegro.
Curtis Duggan: Got it. And so it was being a bit discreet. Being a bit discreet to just to not call out the city and have randos show up there. Exactly.
Alex Recouso: Exactly. Okay. But it was. It was none of the main cities. It was like, some kilometer drive from one of the main cities. I dunno, they just tried to keep it low key.
Especially like after it started, after the first three, four weeks it got hyped on Twitter and all of that. They tried to keep it low key, so random people were not showing up and whatnot. But yeah, it was very interesting because, especially in the beginning, we didn't have a lot of information about what was going on.
It was essentially like, like you described Hey we're gonna be in Montenegro for two months. We're gonna be, we are just people that are interested in these topics in the topics that they send us. Where the topics About which they made like thematic weekends after that.
So there were, network states crypto x, ai, longevity Symbio and all of these kind of topics. It was like, if you're interested in this and you want to spend two months living in montero with like-minded people that are also interested in this came join and people could apply.
There were some organizations that had some invites for people. It, it was ki Spontaneous, I would say. And yeah, it was you know how Vitalic explained it, it was like okay hacker houses last for some months, but it's a small number of people.
Conferences last for some days, but it's a big number of people. So let's make something in the middle that is, two months and a couple hundred people, and let's see how that goes.
Curtis Duggan: And so did Vitalik organize this? Is it from, was he part of the sort of decentralized organizing team or Yeah,
Alex Recouso: yeah.
I would say that, he's The Mastermind or at least one, one of them behind this because like he's really interested. I believe in, network states and all of this stuff that is happening, and he just wanted to, gather a group of people in real life and actually do something in the real world and learn from that.
So I think, it was a really cool experiment. There were like many people involved in the organization that did a great job. Also I think they, they tried to keep it low key so people were not just coming, for the hype or to network and like to be completely transparent, that was one of my main criticisms that is that, after some weeks and after it got so hyped, it just stopped being or feeling Authentic or intimate, because I got this feeling that people were coming more like as they go to a conference to network and all of that instead of just going there because you are interested in these topics and just, living in a certain way with a certain group of people.
Curtis Duggan: That was actually giving my next question, which is just do you see this model, so Zalo happened, Zulo happened in Montenegro, it was quite long, two months. That's a long ti it's not a long time if you're gonna relocate somewhere, but compared to a three day conference that's a much longer time.
And w do you see this model working? Let's say someone wanted to do a pop-up city on sovereign individualism in Dubai or Abu Dhabi or Singapore or the Central America, would you. Would you be excited about that? Would you go for a month? And what did you learn from Zulu? It sounds like you've got some minor criticisms or just what happened?
Certain things evolve and you learn from it. But is this something where you're like, wow, this model, it's gonna take off, there's gonna be pop-up cities happening all year round, anytime you wake up in the morning, you can decide next month I'm going to a pop-up city and it's gonna happen.
Or was it more this is an interesting experiment, I don't know if it'll take off as a concept.
Alex Recouso: Yeah I think, I think it's an interesting experiment for sure. I don't know if the pop-up city model, per se is the right one, especially because you would need to relocate every couple months.
And I think that's not for everyone, especially, as you have kids and all of that. For example, there were many people that couldn't come for the entire two months because they have families and they have kids and all of that. They couldn't commit to move to a new place for two months.
And especially if you are moving it around, you make it harder for people to right, to go there unless they are digital nomads. Sure you can make like a popup seat in different locations for digital nomads, but for, other topics I would see that as some increased complexity versus a feature.
And honestly, like one of the things I'm most excited about is s being somewhere long-term. And basically full-time and you can just, betting that out as you see feed because I'm one of these people that say that, I would be down to, to live in SLU full-time, or at least spend, no, maybe three, six months per year there.
And that would be cool. Like we found a great community. I think we were happy, interacting with each other and whatnot. So yeah, I don't know about the future. I don't know if you know they're gonna make a another popup city in a different place, or if they're looking for a permanent place to, to start again.
I don't know. I think it was a good experiment. And like I said, also like I feel with all of the hype and all of that, it gets a bit, Overhyped in the sense that people start thinking about second intentions and what is behind this and all of that. And I think, the reality is much simpler than that.
It's just, like you said in the beginning, it's actually, some people that are interested in a set of topics and they decide to go spend some time together living together and discussing those topics like, the hugger house example. I think it's a great one.
It's just, people that are interested in something decide to go live together, but this is on a bigger scale from the number of people and a smaller scale from the amount
Curtis Duggan: of time. Yeah. I'm in my thirties now and I've gone through that. I'm well through the cycle of there was a time, last decade and when I was a bit younger, where any opportunity to network.
Or any opportunity to build a network, I could take it at a drop of a hat, and now I just feel a little bit more selective or it's, I'm not gonna travel all the time for everything just to meet people or build a network. And especially with so many things can be done from home, fundraising, working, almost everything can be done from a laptop now.
But I think that that, that's a bit of a trap in the sense that it's still, it like wizard with all kinds of things, with conferences. It's still, there's nothing beats, sitting with someone at dinner and talking about ideas and it's not the same as sending them a discord message.
I find as, as much as you can do so much over discord, over over just network communication. When did Zoo, when did Zalo end? When was that over? Did you stay the whole two
Alex Recouso: months? Yeah. I left like a couple days before it officially ended just because, flight connections and all of that.
But it officially ended on May 25th and it started on March 25th.
Curtis Duggan: Got it. And so did you come away, did you learn anything? Were you sitting somewhere where you're like, oh my God, I learned something about Layer-2 Ethereum, or I learned something about how AI is gonna affect this.
That was almost like a nugget of wisdom or was it not? Was it more just about meeting people where they're I don't know, not secret talks, but where they're like privileged very interesting talks where it's almost like you could only get it there and you learn something that's almost like a new knowledge that the rest of the world doesn't know.
Did it feel like that?
Alex Recouso: I would say in some way it felt like that, but just because every week there were like, thematic weekends. So for example, on the Longevity weekend Brian Johnson gave a talk, and then on the network state weekend Balaji gave a talk.
So you had, all these experts in their fields talking about what they know best. So in some way it felt like that, and, you basically had access to all of this knowledge as you wanted. But then also, I think that the biggest value was essentially being able to go-live with other like-minded people.
And like you were saying, go have dinner and have an interesting conversation. And I think, even if I'm very bullish on remote work and all of that, I think there's a lot of value in, in real life and living in an environment that. Makes you flourish. And that's how I felt during those two months.
And I think many people felt the same way, so I think it was great.
Curtis Duggan: Do you do you consider yourself a digital nomad? Do you follow the digital nomad movement and listen to digital nomad thought leaders on LinkedIn and Twitter and listen to remote work podcasts? And do you, what do you consider that?
I think that's slightly different than there's a sovereign individual and I almost see that there's these worlds that they overlap. But on the one hand, there's like libertarians, people that are in the nomad capitalist crypto world, and then there's digital nomads who are interested in, but they're not, they overlap, but they're not totally the same.
They have different values and many of the same values. So I'm just curious if you consider yourself that way. Yeah,
Alex Recouso: I I think one of the biggest problems of the sovereign individual concept is that it's very tied with politics and ideology, but, If you ask me I think all digital noss are sobering individuals.
Maybe this a bit of a hot take, but in the end, sobering individuals are just individuals that are choosing and making decisions. And, digital nos are deciding to spend some weeks or some months in, in different countries. If you ask me if I consider myself a digital nomad, I wouldn't say that I don't because I like to have a base or have multiple bases and then, move across, across those and not travel permanently.
I think, the, maybe I'm wrong, but the concept of digital noad is essentially, not having a base and just nomad being around. So I don't consider myself an nomad maybe a slow mat. Because I spent, some months, like I spent two months in Montenegro. Then three months in Portugal, then maybe one month in, in Turkey or whatnot.
I consider myself like a Noma per se. But yeah I would consider myself as a individual because I think I'm consciously making decisions around, where I live and where I pay taxes, where I'm a citizen, all that kind of, of stuff. That I think also, digital nomads do.
Curtis Duggan: We're coming up on, on the hour. I wanted to ask one kind of open-ended fun question as we get to the end of this frankly, this has been an amazing interview. I'm I learned things about SLU and base flow. I think I knew some of it intellectually, but it's been really great to hear some of the nuance and color from you.
I think I understand zalo a lot better now, having talked to you. But the thing I was gonna ask is, let's say someone comes in, let's say someone's been very fortunate, They've got three to $5 million. They, some, they sold their startup or they, their crypto did well, and they can choose three or four places.
I don't wanna make it too strict, but three or four places around the world, or one or two. What's your version? Let's say you got a couple million to buy some condos and set up your bases. What's in a year, what's your optimal places to go where you have bases, is it three months, three months, three months?
Do you have a base, one base or three bases? What would you do? Five years, you sell base flow for $400 million? No, that's too much money. I need to give you a constraint. You sell it, you're gonna do way better than this. But let's say you sell it for $4 million, but you're gonna sell it for more.
But let's say you, you sell it for $4 million. So you can you can buy a couple condos, but you can't like buy 10 mansions. Where would you set up your life? What's your, do you have a dream there?
Alex Recouso: Yeah, I would say that definitely Portugal I think it's a great place also, like in terms of culture, lifestyle is very similar to where I grew up in Spain.
So Portugal will definitely be one, one of them. Then, I had a really specific experience in Montenegro, but I really like Eastern Europe and especially, Montenegro being near the ocean. I think if things go well, especially on the regulatory side it can have a really good future and become, maybe the Singapore of Europe.
So I would say Montenegro as the second one. And then probably, I would like to go to Southeast Asia. I haven't been able to visit Singapore and all of those cool places around there. I. I'm not gonna choose any of those because I haven't been able to visit them, so I don't know yet.
And then, in the US I really like Southern California not la, but I really like north of San Diego, Encinitas. I don't know if you're familiar with it, IFF and all of that. I really like surfing. I think weather is great and maybe, spending like a couple months per year there would be nice.
So yeah, I'm gonna, I'm gonna stick to those.
Curtis Duggan: That's great. That sounds like an awesome combo. Yeah I'm in the same boat in the sense of, I have a lot of opinions and experience around North America, Canada, and the US. Also Mexico not as much Mexico, Central America, Europe.
But I, to my, except for maybe one, one Layover or like a, literally just a day in Hong Kong when I was traveling somewhere. And also, except for Dubai I haven't been to East Asia or Asia or India or anywhere in south or southeast or East Asia for any amount of time. So that's a huge blank spot in my my travel knowledge and my kind of base knowledge.
So I, in 2024, I wanna spend some time there. I hope, but same boat where I can't really have an opinion on Asia, but I agree with what you're saying. Maybe one last question, just because I've been thinking about it this whole hour as I've been talking to you, and I just wanted to clarify it.
So you're from Spain, but you say, and you say Portugal is a great place, you would want to go there because it's like Spain. Why not just Spain? Is there something specific about Portugal? Is it the tax laws? Is it just the culture? Is it the cost of living? Why not, just Spain it's, and I'm saying this I'm pretending to be ignorant.
Hey, I'm just stupid. I'm from North America, aren't they Right beside each other? Doesn't Spain have beautiful weather and beaches and food and culture and people what's the the thing that Portugal has maybe that's attractive compared to Spain? It,
Alex Recouso: It does all of those things are rated in Spain.
Don't get me wrong. But I think that Portugal is a bit more international. Like in the sense, for example, like all my friends that work in crypto they moved to Portugal. They moved to Lisbon. Besides San Francisco, Lisbon is the place where I felt like I could live. Near all of these people that have the same interests as I do, especially, that work intake work in crypto and all of that.
And yeah and then of course, you have the tax financial side of things that as a foreigner you are way of living in Portugal, dying in Spain. Again, if you're Portuguese you are not that good living in Portugal tax wise. But you are better off, moving to Spain.
And the same in Spain. If you're Spanish, you are not that good tax wise living in Spain, but if you're a foreigner it's a bit better. So yeah, I would say that's mainly it. And also, regarding lifestyle, I really like surfing. And waves are greater great in Lisbon.
They're also great in northern Spain, but the weather is not that good. Lisbon is warm year round la so I really like it.
Curtis Duggan: Yeah, and I hear that more and more, I'll ask, talk to someone about a country and what it comes down to is often, Hey, we're talking, not talking about countries, we're talking about cities, and there's neighborhoods, special neighborhoods in Lisbon, people are doing things.
So it's not so much like, why did you move to America? It's like, why did you move to New York? It's New York. And I hear that about Lisbon. It's like, why Portugal? Hey, let me tell you about Lisbon and in some cases Madeira as well. So that's good. It's a great way to end.
Lisbon is a hub for this growing movement, the remote work movement, the digital nomad movement, and the sovereign individual movement. All of these movements are going to generate people that are likely. Present and future customers of base flow, knock on wood. Hundreds of thousands of them. Millions of them.
So you can buy all these places in San Diego, sell base flow or, keep i p o base flow, whatever you want to do. And and live in all these places around the world. And we can meet up and in person sometime and I'd can't wait till my next trip to to Lisbon. So I will see you around the bend.
And Alex, it's just been awesome having you on the podcast. Awesome.