Ready for new adventures in 2023

Rodrigo SEPÚLVEDA SCHULZ
11 min readJan 28, 2023
Frutillar, Chile — December 2022

According to French custom, I still have a few days until January 31st to wish everyone a great and prosperous New Year 2023!

And as is customary, also share a review of what happened in 2022! For me, it was a transition year full of joy and new discoveries!

Luxembourg — June 2021 (Expon Capital Investment Team)

A bit of context: in December 2021, we, the founding partners at Expon Capital, decided that I would not stay on to raise and manage future funds.

The investment periods for the first 3 seed and growth funds were almost over (27 of the 30 deals already closed) so my commitment to our LPs was quasi-fulfilled. The original idea had always been for me to move to Luxembourg (where everyone else on the team has always been located) once my children grew older. Hence I had to travel every month for a few days to Luxembourg from Paris during the first 5 years. That obviously came to a halt with COVID-19, and my last trip there was in late January 2020. I resumed my travels there only 18 months later.

In addition, after 50 years, I became a French citizen in August 2021, and it didn’t feel right to abandon my new country where I had spent 34 years to date, the country that gave me my education and children: too bad for the extra taxes…

So the year 2022 was decided to be a gardening leave while the team in Luxembourg finished the investment period and started to fundraise again; I stayed on as a Venture Partner for one year, on the board of the 3 portfolio companies we had left in Paris: Nannybag (which we quickly sold to a La Poste subsidiary), Smartrenting, and Ocus.

Earlier this month, I sold back my stake in the management company, so I have no link any more to Expon Capital besides my vested carried interest. You should all contact them directly for anything related to the firm I co-founded back in 2015. I am grateful to all the entrepreneurs and all the co-investors I had the chance to work with.

With a full year of free time ahead of me, I chose to focus on my kids, my friends and three hobbies I really enjoy: music, travel and wine.

Bora Bora, French Polynesia — Dec 31st 2021

I woke up to my New Year in Bora Bora, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic (lots of PCR tests!). I had always wanted to go to French Polynesia, and plane fares were so cheap that a friend and I just went for 10 days. I really enjoyed kayaking in Taha’a and in Rangiroa. Bora Bora in itself was bittersweet, with fancy hotels built on the atoll and the center island almost abandoned. Sailing around the volcano on December 31st was a highlight though. While on board the catamaran, we learned finally of the sale of our portfolio company Glovo to Delivery Hero for $2.6b: always be connected :)

Napa Valley, CA, USA —Sunrise, 9 January 2022 (shot from a hot air balloon)

Flying back via San Francisco, another friend joined me for a weekend in Sonoma and Napa Valley to celebrate my 51st birthday. I loved walking the Rutherford Bench again at Cathy Corison’ winery, tasting wine at Mayacamas, and discovering a new favourite restaurant in Sonoma. The highlight was a 06:30 am hot air balloon flight before sunrise on the morning of my 51st birthday. Dancing in front of the Napa sign, after lots of sparkling wine after landing was marvelous. And of course, driving back to LAX via Carmel and Big Sur on the California State Route 1.

Mainz, Germany — April 2022 (tasting with Christophe Heynen MW)

Later, watching online my friend Gabriele Gorelli become the 1st Master of Wine of Italy, and clapping so hard when his name got called, I got inspired to apply again, and put quite some time in preparing for the entrance exams (practical and theory), getting proper reference letters, writing my essays, and participating in a MW Introductory Course trip in Germany with Caro Maurer MW. I even passed my third module online at UC Davis for a Winemaking certificate (Chemistry for Winemakers, Viticulture, Winemaking; 2 left: Sensory analysis and Quality control). Alas, I knew I didn’t qualify for the last requirement (I have the required wine degree, DipWSET), which is at least a 3 years professional career in Wine (which was why they said no the first time); in spite of great exam scores I’m told and amazing references, I got dinged for a 2nd time… So maybe I should consider working in wine for 3 years now?

Verona, Italy — March 2022

Nevertheless, on a whim, I had decided earlier to apply also for the Italian Wine Ambassador program, from Vinitaly International Academy in Verona. I had no idea of what I was getting into, having never seen an exam, or talked to anyone who had taken the exam. I spent most of March, 4–5 hours / day, studying for it, totaling easily 140–150 hours of preparation; I wish I had had 2 more weeks to prepare better. I passed on my first try (many candidates attempt it many times) to become one of the currently 307 IWAs, with a 75 points score (passing is at 65), with Best Essay award (full marks), and Best Presentation award (full marks — the faculty has to assess how well you talk about wine :), but failed many questions (100 multiple choices of 5, which is basically like 500 questions) and surprisingly didn’t do great in the 2 blind wines tasting (a Timorasso, and a Nebbiolo) [see Robert Joseph’s account of the training and exam]. It felt much harder than WSET Level 4, whereas all the Wine Scholar Guild courses (FWS, IWS, SWS) really feel like pre-level 4. As a side note, time with faculty Henry Davar IWE (a true living encyclopedia) and Sarah Heller MW (one of the world’s best tasters) was a-ma-zing, not to mention jaw-dropping lectures by Professore Attilio Scienza. This new role took me later to a week in Sicily in October on a Vinitaly Gita, to promote Sicilia DOC: amazing wines at Caruso & Minini for example. And I stayed a day extra to taste with Pietro Russo at Donnafugata, what a treat! And I was lucky to be again a wine judge at 5starswine and attend OperaWine. A big thank you to Andrea Lonardi MW from Bertani who always welcomes me like family in Valpolicella!

Sicily, Italy — October 2022

Of course, I kept on doing wine trips, like driving around Colli Euganei, like a fabulous whole day in August in Brda (Slovenia, home of amber wines with Georgia) tasting amazing wines with my pal Valentin Bufolin at Marjan Simčič, Edi Simčič, Movia and Ščurek. Or a weeklong trip to the Cape in South Africa with the Areni Live family. Too many wineries visited and wines tasted with Cathy van Zyl MW to list them all, but kudos to Creation wines and Lismore Estate Vineyards among others.

The Cape region, South Africa — July 2022 (driving to Lismore Estate Vineyards)

And of course, VinExpo in Paris in February, trips to Germany (the VDP.Weinbörse in Mainz was a must for Rieslings and Spätburgunders/Pinot Noirs), Bordeaux (did I mention my daughter ended up doing an intership at Ch. Rauzan-Segla?), Jura (got a carload of wine from Rolet), Burgundy (got lots of bottles from Bzikot in Puligny) and to a chapter dinner of my Chevaliers du Tastevin fraternity. And back to Verona for the third time last year for Wine2wine. The final wine visit of the year was to the one and only François Massoc in his new Massoc Frères winery in Chile (surreal and amazing).

Ibiza, Spain — August 2022 (Experimental Beach)

Friends who know me well, know I love Ibiza, the Mediterranean island known for its party scene. There actually is a much calmer and laid-back scene in the northern rural half of the island, where I feel grounded and peaceful. I was lucky to go back to the White Island three times during the summer, reconnecting with lots of friends who are moving there, and meeting new folks. Interestingly, a lot of the global tech scene entrepreneurs and investors show up there as well.

Black Rock City, NV, USA — August 2022 (Burning Man)

Of course, I also ended going back to Burning Man for the third time with a friend, staying with “A Transformation Station” for the second time. Techno music, friends, hard and minimal conditions, are always revigorating! Besides Carl Cox, Lemurian and other DJs like Jan Blomqvist, my highlight was 5 hours laying on the nets of Sonic Sphere at sunrise, to the sounds of The Dark Side of the Moon.

Arena di Verona, Italy — July 2022 (Nabucco representation)

As I love most genres of music, from electro to opera, I did go to the Arena di Verona in the summer, 4 nights in a row alone (it was so hot I was wearing shorts and flip flops), except for one night with a friend, to see: Carmen, La Traviata, Nabucco, & Aida (I managed to whisk away a couple of days later to Venice for the Biennale: it cleans your mind in my view to spend time with art). I also went to the Opera Bastille in Paris with friends, including attending Die Zauberflöte (premiere night in Tuxedo :) I think there were only 2 or 3 of us dressed appropriately) and Tosca!

at Sea, arriving to Les Saintes, French Antilles — August 2022

Another long-held dream of mine was to go sailing in the Caribbean. I had never been to the area besides the Keys in Florida and two trips in the past to Cuba. Using the pretext that my son was visiting with a friend of his in Guadeloupe, I rented a catamaran and hired a skipper in Le Marin (south of Martinique), and we sailed North, passing Dominica, and picked up my son in beautiful Les Saintes (short ferry trip for him from the main island of Guadeloupe). We sailed to Marie-Galante and went swimming with turtles, baby sharks, and small manta rays in Petite Terre, before sailing back. Our skipper dropped us north of Dominica, which we explored by car during the day, swimming in waterfalls and taking in the beautiful scenery. We boarded back south of the island. I had never spent a night on board a ship, and just loved these 10 days. A very close friend of mine also joined us for a few days. What a pleasure to share time with friends and family! (Did I mention my 20 years reunion in Fontainebleau with my INSEAD MBAs, in September?) In the Carribean, we just bathed in the sun and in the sea, went kayaking (remember I love rowing?), cooked meals, drank too much beer and rum, and played musical blind tests by night when we didn’t try the local bars ashore. Of course, as a quasi-pro in wine & spirits, I had to go visit a couple of distilleries: I tasted everything at HSE and enjoyed the visit to Clément. Next on my bucket list, definitively: sail South past St-Lucie, to St-Vincent & the Grenadines and back!

View on the Chilean Andes from Chiloé — December 2022 (sunrise)

My last trip of the year 2022 was a 4000km return roadtrip to the South of Chile (I had not been back to the country in over 5 years) from Santiago with my mother and children to another island I had always wanted to visit: Chiloé. One of the few UNESCO World Heritage sites of the country, it is home to over 70 wooden churches mixing colonial and native heritage (16 are listed as WHS). The landscape is beautiful, reminding us of many places including the rolling hills of Tuscany. We even took a boat ride to see penguins. Visiting the beautiful South of Chile was fantastic for the kids, seeing their other homeland, the lakes and volcanoes, forests and cascades, national parks, reminding us of Swiss landscapes and of the fjords of Norway.

Riga, Latvia — April 2022

Of course, at heart, I have always been a tech guy, fiddling with computers since my early teens. Can’t stay away from tech, digital, and this world for too long. I was delighted to be invited to speak at TechChill in Riga (the chat is on youtube: “Planet-positive: Can VCs, Save the Planet ?”): I had never been to the Baltics, and I loved my time there, the old Hanseatic capital of Riga (UNESCO WHS), and our night camping in the forest. I was also invited to speak at South Summit in Madrid (on the panel “Investing in Triple Bottom Line”), and attended tech events in Barcelona, in Burgundy (Kinnernet Avallon), in Paris (France Digitale Day), Munich (DLD), in Lisbon (WebSummit). In December, I hopped over to New York for the IPO of Getaround, a company I had invested in as an angel back in 2011 in their first seed round! So cool to see the insides of ringing the bell for the first time, and a company grow from seed round to unicorn status and IPO. I also spent time with long-time friends in NYC and Woodstock :) In 2022, I also restructured my holding company Sepulveda Capital as a family office and reviewed hundreds of tech deals.

Riga, Latvia — April 2022

Last week, I was back at DLD Munich reconnecting with many tech & finance industry friends. I was often asked, “What are you going to do next?”: “Are you starting a new fund?”, “Are you joining a fund?”, “Are you starting a new business?”, “Are you going into wine?”. As a matter of fact, I have barely had the time to land back home, after a full year of travel, reconnecting with friends and family, and trying out new activities. And after the MW setback, I currently think of wine as just a serious hobby.

So, I don’t have a proper answer yet, but I am definitively back at work! Please catch me on stage next Thursday, Feb 2nd at 12:15 at DLD Tel Aviv where I’ll be participating on a great panel about “Maximizing Returns: Navigating Investment and Funding Options”. And I’m attending the Cybertech conference there just before.

I also need to think a bit more about my travel carbon footprint in 2023 …

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Rodrigo SEPÚLVEDA SCHULZ

Expert in digital growth strategies. Investor in 50+ startups and scale-ups, Board Member, 5x Founder, Consultant, Podcaster.