Thursday, July 23, 2009

Crystal Lagoons

Our fourth company visit took us back to the Pacific Coast to a Chilean vacation destination called San Alfonso del mar, home of--as of this writing-- the largest swimming pool on Earth. The pool, or more accurately man-made lagoon, is the dream of biochemist turned real-estate developer Fernando Fischmann. Fischmann's dream was to transform property on the cold, turbulent, Penguin-inhabited Chilean coast into a vacation hot-spot by replicating a tropical landscape complete with crystal water, white sand and palm trees.

Fischmann's first stab failed; the massive lagoon held dark, murky water. Fischmann hired consultants from around the world but none could solve his problem. So Fischmann dusted off his old textbooks, and despite being told it couldn't be done, he went to work. Five years later yielded a breakthrough, followed by five more years of fine-tuning and perfecting. And now--somehow--Fischmann holds the secret... the intellectual property that can turn low-value land into prime real estate... the ability to turn sea, river or swamp water into water that's crystal clear, filling massive man-made lagoons.

The visit to Crystal Lagoons created great enthusiasm amongst our class, commencing with roughly half of us waiting to speak to Fischmann, the humble, admired founder and entrepreneur. Unlike other visited companies, Crystal Lagoons had the vibe of a business about to take off. Our class can appreciate the simple genius of Fischmann's franchise-like business concept, whereby revenue is generated as percentage-based fees from the sale of real-estate on properties featuring Fischmann's creation. Fischmann's company sits in infancy. It will be interesting to watch his current Dubai project come to fruition, and to see how his business concepts and plans evolve.

Fischmann admitted he is overwhelmed by the immediate success of his creation. Ironically, he's grateful for the global economic downturn, as he feels it will allow him to keep up with demand until he's better positioned for growth. Fischmann believes he must move central operations out of Chile, which he considers too remote a location to run his global business. He will need to bolster his small staff. Additionally, he mentioned taking on a CEO--perhaps himself--to manage growth and development, and turn his cash cow into a global star.

We were happy to meet an entrepreneur from Chile, an individual with raw ambition who commands the concept of added value, who seems to have found the optimum revenue generating strategy through franchising, and who brings to market a low-cost, first-mover concept and experience.

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