Visiting a Startup City in Honduras

There is a prompt on Hinge (a dating app) that asks, “What is the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?” While the rest of my profile is underwhelming, I have a good answer for this one: “I flew to Honduras to visit a startup city one week after learning about it.” This is the story of that trip.

How did I end up in Honduras?

I enjoy learning about economics and economic development; I also love entrepreneurship and pitching business ideas to my friends. Over the last year I became interested in the idea of forming a startup country. I want an opportunity to compete for citizens in the same way Trader Joe’s competes against Safeway; i.e. let the best product (or country) win. While I was pitching this idea to one of my friends, he told me a similar idea was unfolding in Honduras — apparently the name for my idea was “charter cities” and there was a whole community of people interested in the concept.

What do you mean by “startup city?”

In 2013, the Honduran government passed a set of laws that legalized the creation of ZEDEs, or “Zone for Economic Development & Employment.” Wikipedia defines a ZEDE as the following:

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/proxy/0OR5Vv-6EpfXqx_udADZcipD9buR0rRUomHhhq-h4L1yTlIp5jtOmjrrOqA6Dq2y5Iwrb4GH8NlSkOg
Map of Honduras & Roatan
Map of Roatan

Arriving to Prospera…

I stayed at the west end of the island, while Prospera is at the north end. On Roatan, most of the security forces are private companies — similar to the privately hired guards you see in front of a bank or a Tiffany’s in the USA. There are actually more private security forces on Roatan than government police. You might think this sounds Mad Max-ish, but it works smoothly. I felt safe the entire time.

Prospera’s main office building and headquarters
One of the model homes
Two Prospera employees with your author in white
View from Prospera’s offices

Final Musings

I’m not sure what’s next for me and my interest in startup cities. I wrote this blog post because I wanted to share something wild and fascinating. I want to be involved in the charter cities movement, but I don’t know enough yet to understand where I could provide value. Maybe I’d like to start my own city, help promote someone else’s (like Prospera), or build a business “around” Prospera. Residents will want schools for their children, for example — and I love teaching. In the short-term, I simply want to learn more about the topic. As I learn more and follow my nose, I’m convinced an opportunity will present itself. Following your intuition will never lead you astray.

Land and coastline near Prospera

Further Reading

If you’d like to read more about Prospera, charter cities, and special economic zones, here are some links:

Davis Clute is the Co-Founder and CEO of Hiccapop and a member of Forbes 30u30