Dear Advisor Partners,
If you had told me 15 years ago that Big Five would be involved with deploying robots, I would have asked you what you were on and laughed off the notion. Well fast forward to late 2020, and that’s pretty much what happened. I was on a zoom call, as we all were during those early pandemic days, with one of our country managers in Peru. I was explaining to him about the needs of Peru in the underserved communities of Peru. We agreed to discuss the idea in detail when we were together in a few months.
May 2021, I was on the Pan American Highway heading from Chiclayo up to the Illescas Peninsula. We had three hours of driving to the edge of the Earth, or so it seemed. The discussion was focused on a gentleman named Walter, and Kipi. I didn’t know if it was the bumps on the dirt road, or the crisp Peruvian air, or maybe I was hallucinating. The conversation really got my attention as it centered around a school professor who had lost his income in one of the poorest parts of the Amazon when lockdowns began. Walter did something amazing in the midst of the pandemic. He taught himself robotics! Diego and I conversed in the car about Walter and I was able to see some footage of his work. Right on cue, I went from initially dismissing the idea as far fetched, and later that evening, as expected, the brain began rationalizing the idea as not so far fetched after all. In fact, the idea was downright awesome. You see the areas where Walter was sending these robots, delivering Kipi the robot in person by foot, mule or boat. The minute I met Walter, I could see his amazing work was going to impact so many, for whom, internet was a luxury they couldn’t afford.
When the first robot was deployed, it was a game changer. Primary school kids that were being pulled into darkness of crime and cartels were the target audience for Kipi. Little did we know that the robot deployment would serve as an actual resistance for these children, using the education Kipi provided as a means to remain engaged and grounded. A child who has no internet, can now learn from a robot carrying their entire school curriculum to replace a physical school. The best part? This robot speaks to these children through forms of AI Walter developed, that resemble early visions of Siri or Bixby. Who would have thought, a robot would save a child’s life in Peru. We at Big Five are so proud to partner with Walter and honored that his project was adopted by the Spirit of Big Five Foundation as an active project your journeys help support. Thanks to your support, Walter is now building mini robots to deploy in more villages in the Amazon Jungle.
You can hear the story of Walter and Kipi the Robot in more detail on our podcast – The Sustainable Voice and please enjoy a video Walter made just for this occasion, as he sends all of you a big hug and gratitude.
Dear Advisor Partners,
I am finally back from the 40th and most epic visit to Colombia where I was accompanied by a group of amazing advisors and industry professionals. With the momentum of Encanto fueling the momentum this country has seen, I found it special to see this country buzzing the way it is, singing every line to every song in the movie, and still not talking about Bruno. The hotels were full, new hotels were opening, new restaurants were serving delicious meals. It just seemed like Colombia was back in the groove, filled with pride. All this with a presidential election on the horizon, which as we know from our own politics, is a period of unease for some. Yet in Colombia, with two distantly opinionated candidates about to enter a runoff in what should be a close election, the country, and our group were fully engaged.
Then it happened. The question that always comes up about Colombia by anyone who either hasn’t been there or is seeing it for the first time. I was asked the question – “How do I get people past the negative stereotypes about Colombia?” It’s the question we all know we are going to get if we tell friends where we are going, the one I still get when I tell members of my own family. My answer has changed over the years, however the group last fall and this group helped solidify my answer. Without missing a beat, I felt my mouth start moving and words exiting, and the following answer came back, “wait until we get into the trip. You will get your answer in Cannua and in Barichara.” I’m still not sure why I said that, only that I fully believed it. The magic of Medellin had helped answer that question in part, however seeing the nature in Cannua and Barichara put a huge exclamation point on the answer.
There were a few new activities we tested out, which we normally do on any industry educational trip. In this case, we married graffiti and food in Bazurto market, which is a first for any company in Colombia as it took on a whole new meaning. We introduced a new mixology experience in Barichara with a local expert that cut her teeth at one of the top bars in Manhattan and came back to Colombia to finish her Masters. Think about that last sentence for a second. There is no better way to describe the progress in Colombia than a Medellin resident leaving for the US in a time of turmoil, and choosing to come back to further her education, and make the coolest passion fruit mojito this side of the ocean.
Additionally, there is the sustainability commitment in Colombia, something that deserves note. I remember back in 2016, I was with a similar group having lunch in Bogota with two ministers of sustainability, tasked with ushering in a new era of social responsibility for the country. Fast forward to today, and their plan is in action. There are no better examples of it then Cannua and my new favorite hotel in Medellin, one that has become my second home in Colombia, Quinta Ladera.
Venturing through Medellin and the social transformation of Comuna 13, I could see the faces in my group transform, the same way the group in 2021 and years before had. We get into the rural wilderness of Cannua and have a mixology experience that is just out of this world, and then we take our charter flight to San Gil, avoiding the four-hour drive from Bucaramanga getting into Barichara. The minute we get into this town, which if you haven’t been, can be best described as the small pueblo town in the old western movies. Everything from the cobblestone pathways to the cantinas to the city architecture takes you back in time. It didn’t hurt that one of the streets Encanto used was just outside our hotel, yet it wasn’t until we had our mixology experience with Sara at Casa Barichara that I started seeing the eyes light up. So, I leaned over to the advisor who asked me that excellent question and said, “do you have your answer now?” to which she emphatically replied, “yes!” as we sat in a Tuk Tuk exploring the old streets of Barichara. This was the Colombia I envisioned during my first visit in 2006, and still get excited returning to, all these visits later.