My year 2023 in review

Rodrigo SEPÚLVEDA SCHULZ
10 min readJan 30, 2024

Following the French tradition again, I have until January 31st to wish you all a very Happy New Year, and my best wishes of success in health, work, love, and any endeavor dear to you. For me, it’s also a good time to summarize what I did last year in 2023. I started publishing these summaries last year.

Trying to cut down on travel and my carbon footprint

Once a globe-trotter, always a globe-trotter I guess. I’ve loved traveling ever since I was a kid, and this year was no different, although I only discovered 2 new countries (Serbia and Indonesia), bringing my total count to 83 countries and territories visited so far. Nevertheless, I had promised myself last year to start worrying more about my carbon footprint, so I stopped traveling completely after the summer. So let’s review the year:

I started the year in Chile, my original home country to which I had not been in five years. I stayed a month for Christmas and New Year, extending on to celebrate my 53rd birthday with my mom, who turned 80 last year. The last time we did so was when I turned 39!

St-Andrews Old Course Links — Scotland

At the end of March, I went for a few days back to Scotland, a place I had not visited for about 20 years I believe. Quick trips to Edinburgh and Glasgow, but nice time on a boat on a Loch, visits to 2 beautifully furnished old castles, walking the links at the Old Course at St-Andrews, a distillery, and a few other entertaining things. Scotland has a very distinctive culture! I wish they would have stayed in the EU…

Chilling in Ibiza, Playa Niu Blau — Spain

No year would be a good year without a hop to the white island. I was lucky to spend 10 days again in Ibiza, visiting friends, and working remotely in the North of the island, well before the opening season. That place has a distinct charm to which I always feel like going home.

A citizen of la République libre du Saugeais — Jura, France

Living in Paris, I rarely go out on weekends to other parts of the country, although I should do so more. France has so much to offer. In February, I went back to Burgundy to celebrate a friend’s 60th birthday. Great house, great crowd, great weekend. At the end of May, I drove a friend to Jura to her dad’s house for the weekend, enjoying simple country life, cows, cheese, and her family.

Villa Ephrussi de Rotschild, St-Jean Cap Ferrat, France

Mid-June, I was invited to a black-tie party with another friend on the famed Côte d’Azur, at the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild. Chic and choc. The boat ride the next day during a lazy Sunday at the beach club was delightful. It did include a lunch on the Italian Riviera before flying back on Monday.

Great visiting at last at 67 Pall Mall — Singapore

In the summer, with no kids this year, I hopped over to Singapore to meet old friends, and they convinced me to stay another 2 days; I had a very fun Sunday for example playing very serious ping-pong with them for a few hours. And I had a lovely lunch at 67 Pall Mall Singapore. Roberto was not there but offered me and my guest some lovely bubbles. Thank you.

Bintang o’clock — Nusa Penida, Indonesia

After that, Bali and Lombok were a peaceful heaven, swimming with fish and turtles, playing chess on the beach with the locals while listening to reggae, and overall decompressing from our normal lives. I spent some real quality time with friends there and with my summer travel companion. And met happy new friends.

Sunrise at Robot Heat, bumping into old friends — Black Rock City, NV, USA

I was back in California in August for my fourth Burning Man and saw rain ruin our camps but not our spirits. We threw one of the more memorable parties at our “A Transformation Station” camp on Saturday night. I got to be the dirty muddy boots bouncer… Getting out of the Playa became a serious challenge, and we finally found a way to slide between RVs on Monday morning early.

No more private travels for the year, although I escaped one WE near Sancerre in November with a good friend for a proper catchup.

Researching new work opportunities

Of course, I should also count travels for work, but these trips usually involve flying in and out of the event, staying just the necessary night(s) with trade functions at night: DLD in Munich in January (I’ve been going since January 2007), DLD in Tel Aviv in February (coupled with the Cybertech conference just before), Kinnernet Costa Brava north of Barcelona in May, a trip to the Allianz accelerator for the day in Nice in May as well; in June, a day trip to Brussels for the Tech.eu conference, a couple of days judging startups in Madrid at South Summit, and Kinnernet Avallon in Burgundy. Vivatech in June happened in my hometown, so I just cycled there. With my self-imposed travel ban, there was no Websummit in Lisbon, and no Slush in Helsinki for me this year.

After my gardening leave that ended in late February, I started researching a few areas for future work opportunities. I spent considerable time assessing the growth venture market in Europe, the investor community, the track records, etc. I’ve attended meetings and met hundreds of people this year on Zoom, Google Meet, and over coffee…

You might remember I was an investor with my firm at Glovo, which raised 450m€ ($530m) in its latest round in Series F (we had invested in Series D, then followed in E and F), and eventually sold to Delivery Hero for 2.6b€. The issues and challenges you deal with at this stage are significantly different than those at Series pre-A and A, and remind me more of my consulting days, advising private and public multi-billion revenue companies on their digital growth strategies. This is the stage I’m most interested in now. But, there are about a dozen funds only in Europe operating in the growth venture space. Thereafter, you are in private equity territory. Not many opportunities to join the fun.

Participants at the College of Europe this summer — Bruges, Belgium

With my strong focus and interest in European digital sovereignty, I signed up for and attended a 3-week intensive course at the College of Europe in Bruges, learning all about European institutions. Shame that it was not taught at school (the EU has been a work in progress since I left high school), but the course was fascinating: 27 countries, 450 million citizens, and so much more to do to unite the region politically, socially, and economically. I stand firmly on the Federalist side, which is not a vision shared by many other more nationalist Europeans. I believe that at least in my tech industry, the only way to compete on a global scale with the two US and China giants is to stand united. Technology and the digital world however were not at the heart of this program (I kept bringing it up in each class…), although it is one of the 6 pillars of Ursula von der Leyen’s program as EU Commission President (“a Europe Fit for the Digital Age”). GPRD, DSA, DMA, AI Act are just not enough. InvestEU is a good start though.

Did you know that only 3 companies in the top 50 global tech companies are from Europe? We use our phones mainly to access the Internet (95+% of users), but the devices are not from Europe, the operating system is not from Europe, the chipset is not from Europe, and only 1 of the top 15 most downloaded apps is European (Spotify)! The bottom line here is that there is a need for more ambition in Europe and for more growth funds to finance them at the European level to create global players with HQ and innovation in Europe! Our European values are different, and the current models in AI for example are not trained with them. We need bargaining power using our own indispensable global tools so that we as Europeans have a say in the global tech conversation. It’s too late to catch up with what the Magnificent Seven are doing, but there are many new opportunities ahead in deep tech and more (Decarbonization, SpaceTech, Quantum, AI & Data, Semiconductors — just to quote President Macron at Davos this year).

Also, during the whole year, I kept reviewing early-stage and LP opportunities at Sepulveda Capital, processing decks from over 600 companies and funds. After explaining over and over again some key points, I started writing public answers to those questions at AskaVC.fr. Richard at Frenchweb was kind enough to start translating and sharing my thoughts with his audience of over 400,000 members. I’m now also processing a new inbound deal flow of questions from readers. I hope to turn it more into a podcast in 2024 (we did a pilot in December 2023).

Cutting back on wine

After applying unsuccessfully twice to the Master of Wine and again last year, I’ve decided to spend very little energy on this industry from now on. Nevertheless, I’m keeping it as a hobby. Therefore I attended the Vinexpo Paris expo (great tastings) in February, the Raw wine tasting (great tasting too of the macerated wines from Georgia) the same month, a trip to Wiesbaden in Germany in June for the Master of Wine Symposium (it’s every 4 years, and because of COVID, had been postponed one more year). Wine trips are also fun for me, as I have been doing them for 25 years; so I went on a quick trip one long weekend to former Yougoslavia, starting in Belgrade, over to Croatia, tasting heavily with my good friend Marjan Simčič in Brda, Slovenia, via the North of Italy, stopping in Chablis again at William Fèvre.…

Fantastic tasting with my friend, the great Marjan Simčič — Brda, Slovenia

I also managed one weekend in July to attend the inauguration of the new 67 Pall Mall club in Beaune, Burgundy, (and stop by twice at 67 Pall Mall in Singapore later). What a nice and hot summer party! My friend Marcy had insisted I come!

Health issues but all under control

At the young age of 52 last year, life wouldn’t be life without health scares. I had been having chest pains for a few weeks. One night at the restaurant, I had a stronger pain than before with my left arm also hurting. A friend I was having dinner with immediately called his sister-in-law who is a cardiologist. After a few questions on the phone, she ordered us to call an ambulance immediately and there I went for 6 hours to ER. Blood tests, X-rays, ECGs… I was discharged at 3 am as not having had a heart attack, and my friend unexpectedly was still waiting for me there. Super grateful for his care! I saw 4 cardiologists: a heart MRI, an effort stress test, more ECGs, and more exams decided that my heart was one of a young adult man, less than 35 years old! The best candidate for my pain seems to be Tietze syndrome. Not much to do besides painkillers. I sometimes still feel annoyance in my chest; so I’ve cut down on coffee since and went on a 5-month alcohol-free (no wine!) diet from January to the end of June during all my tests.

Another possible cause for my heart pains was that I suffer from severe sleep apnea: 45 times/hour… I had never wanted to address the issue. Without going into detail, I now have a CPAP machine and feel sometimes like Tom Cruise in Maverick when I go to sleep. With it, I have barely 0–2 apneas/hour, much more deep sleep (over 2 hours !!!), and feel somehow less sleepy in the afternoon. Everything is linked in our body!

I’m sharing these details because they are not taboo, and hopefully will benefit anyone reading: go see your doctor and treat correctly whatever you have.

Cycling along the Seine River — Seine-et-Marne, France. Love the waterways!

I cut back completely on my cycling also during those 5 months of tests. I was using too much my TACX bike home trainer and my Concept2 indoor rowing machine. I need now to get back on a different slower but longer cardio program. So when I was cleared for the heart, I happily jumped back on my VanMoof bike (that stopped to work unfortunately later in the year, so I now ride every day a less than perfect dance.co bike). One Sunday, I went from Paris south to Fontainebleau following the river. It took me 4 hours (with a break in the middle for coffee at a very smoky cafe) to cycle the 88 km. I had lunch on arrival and rode the train back to Paris for a mere 5 euros. I also went for a BBQ at a friend's north of Paris near Chantilly (about 42km each way = 84 km). While in Bruges, I cycled one Sunday to the Dutch frontier and the seaside; very windy, but it was a beautiful 60km ride by the canals.

We’re now at the end of January 2024. Let’s see what this year brings!

I’ve been consulting a bit with startups, and with new fund managers , also talking with a few scale-ups and corporations. As my LinkedIn profile says, I’m open to work ASAP, and for the right opportunity, will even consider relocating for something fascinating to do: Dubai, Singapore, Australia, or South Africa come to mind! Unless growth ventures and the European Union decide otherwise!

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Rodrigo SEPÚLVEDA SCHULZ

Senior Technology Executive with global experience as an Investor, Board Member, 5x Founder, Consultant.