Last summer @charliecallinan and I flew to Africa to figure out how to build a city.

We had no zero connections, but we networked our way into the upper echelons of multiple African governments, eventually meeting the Vice President of Ghana.

Here’s how:
In March ’19, we were working together at a hedge fund in NYC.

We’d both just left athletics & school to learn how to invest

I did surf contests and philosophy. Charlie played football at Boston College and was briefly signed to the @BuffaloBills
We both love public markets investing — savage research, quick turnaround times, and deep thought.

But we missed the physicality of sports and wanted an adventure. We wanted to build something on the frontier.

We wanted to do something heroic.
I had followed @paulmromer, @patrissimo, and the @Seasteading movement since high school, and was obsessed with the idea of building a new city.

Over beers, Charlie and I cooked up a plan.
We saw the opportunity cost of living in SF & NYC falling due to a loss of community, poor city management, broken infrastructure, and the rise of the cloud labor market.
But the timing wasn’t yet right for the city we wanted to build. The market for a @balajis -style exit was still small.

We decided to find existing new city projects and learn the nuts and bolts of the industry.
In April 2019, we left our jobs at the fund to build the next great city.
May - July was maniacal research mode: we read every book we could find on ancient, modern, and future cities.

We met with all the top master planned community developers (e.g. Howard Hughes, Tavistock, Brookfield, etc.)
Then we spoke to all the awesome people interested in cities in SV: @MarkLutter and @_TamaraWinter (formerly) at @CCIdotCity, @mwiyas, @iaboyeji, @patrissimo, @William_Blake, @micsolana, @ani_pai, @jasoncrawford, and many more.
In July, we became convinced that Nigeria was the best market in the world for a new city.

A couple projects like @EkoAtlantic were already being built, but given the population growth, there’s room for more ( @iaboyeji 👀).

Unfortunately, we couldn’t afford the flights.
That weekend, Charlie won $2,000 at a golf tournament, taking our bank balance to $2,047.
A few days later, @CCI gave us a small grant, so we bought tickets to Nigeria.

We packed our bags with a few sites in mind (thanks Google Earth) and no connections.
Before we left, two more amazing things happened:

1. After cold emailing hundred of people for intros to awesome people in Nigeria, a DC think tank connected me to @ThisisChale, and

2. I met @alex_dimcevski at a YC Summer School networking party (more on this later).
In August, we flew to Lagos.

It’s a wild place. Way more chaotic than anything you'll see in the US or EU. Nearly 3x the population of NYC buzzing around streets on motorbikes.
@ThisisChale was an amazing host. He took us to one of Nigeria’s private religious towns, Grailland, and to Ondo State.

We met with top developers in Lagos like @ronaldchagoury, thanks to an absurd number of cold calls, cold emails, and LinkedIn messages.
I can’t share too much here, but we had a compelling thesis for a new city near Charles’ university, Elizade. There, we met the crew: @SFAjayi, John, Ralph, and many others.
We scoped out potential new city sites while eating jollof and catfish.

Charles got us a meeting with the Ondo State Government. It went well.
Meanwhile, @alex_dimcevski from the party had told a few people about my project. One of them worked on construction projects in Ghana.

He heard we were meeting with the Nigerian govt about building a new city, and offered to connect us to his friends in the Ghanaian govt.
After a few weeks in Nigeria, Charlie had to go home.

I wanted to go to Ghana to see if Alex's friends' connections were real.
With our last thousand dollars, I flew to Ghana for a meeting with a friend of a friend of a person I’d met once over cocktails.

I was hoping I wouldn't be kidnapped.
When I landed in Ghana, I met Alex’s connection’s friends: Ed and Joyce.

They did in fact work for Ghana, and are both brilliant.

Ed, Joyce, and I drove around Ghana, touring sites and pitching their colleagues in government on the concept of building a charter city.
The trip yielded two interesting new city opportunities, so I flew home extremely energized and ready to dig in further.
Back in NYC, Charlie and I bounced around coffee shops and hotel lobbies (for free wifi) trying to figure out how to make our dream of city-building into a reality.

Charlie was crashing at his parents’ place and I was sleeping on my aunt’s couch.
In early September we spec’d out an initial plan for building and financing a new city in West Africa.

We needed to get back ASAP to meet with governments, but we were out of money again.
I cold DM’d @byrnehobart because I liked his posts (subscribe here: ).

We got coffee, I told him about our mission @bluebookcities, and he wrote us our first check.
Newly funded, we flew back to Africa. Based on the success of our previous meetings, we’d been offered a meeting with the Finance Minister.

We landed in Accra a few days before the meeting. The day of, he cancelled.
We called all of our new connections in the Ghanaian government and discovered that the President of South Africa had flown in for an urgent meeting, which took precedence over ours (what?!).
So we found ourselves walking around Accra in full suits, and nothing to do, unsure if we’d get another opportunity to meet the Minister.

An hour later, we got a call.
“Be in front of the Parliament building in 20 minutes. You are meeting with the Vice President.”

We jogged there and waited.

A few minutes later, we heard the sirens --

The motorcade was on the way.
We got picked up by the Presidential Motorcade, and sped to the Jubilee House (Ghana’s White House), swerving around cars that were slow to get out of our way.

When we got out of the sedan, we were still processing what had just happened and what was to come.
The Secret Service brought us into the building, and we waited in a clean, white room.

Eventually we were brought up to Vice President Bawumia’s office.
I can’t share much about our conversation with the Vice President, but he was enthusiastic about the benefits that charter cities could bring to Ghana, and about our plan.
After finding a site, meeting with developers, local community leaders, the relevant regulators, and potential partners in other financial centers (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Nairobi, Dar, etc.), we flew back to the US.
We raised a small round from @patrissimo, @tylercowen, @jwmares, @sbm367, @dfmerin and a few others to develop legislation that would enable the creation of a charter city in Ghana.
Then, COVID happened.

Ghana shut its borders in February, and we had no idea when we’d be allowed back in the country.

We had limited runway and hadn’t budgeted for a year-long delay in our timeline due to a global pandemic.

We weren’t sure what to do.
So we did what we thought made the most sense:

We booked a flight to Alaska.

We’d plan our next move from the mountains. But that’s a story for another day. 
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