VC at Spark Capital where I invest in startups led by creative thinkers. Insatiably curious, strategy junkie, brand & design obsessive, art lover.


Travel Planning, Q&A & Costa Rica

I’m planning a surfing trip between Christmas and New Years and have been trying to gather intel on where is best to go.

I have very much been enjoying Quora lately, but largely for techie stuff where the velocity of questions and answers is amazing.  I haven’t found Quora that useful as of yet for other topics, so I decided to post my surfing question there and see how it did.

Unfortunately, after posting two questions (here and here) I am yet to get any responses on Quora.  This confirmed my suspicion that the site is very much operating as a techie platform today.

The challenge for Quora as I see it is in scaling a broad-based horizontal Q&A service across multiple verticals and consumer groups simultaneously. While they do offer some tools for prompting others to answer questions (Twitter and Facebook push, ask a friend, etc.), I’m not sure that will be sufficient to build robust vertical communities.

This is where vertical services like gdgt and StackOverflow are so powerful.  By engaging a very specific audience around a coherent vertical area, these services can gain natural velocity. And Stack is beginning the process of scaling their efforts to other verticals, but doing so on a vertical by vertical basis to ensure that natural communities form before fully wading in.

I remain bullish on Quora, but it will be interesting to see how they are able to scale into new verticals.  I don’t suspect this will be as easy as it may seem, and I’m very curious to see if they simply rely on virality or begin to employ more traditional marketplace tactics to get other verticals going.  I suspect they’ll have to and am interested to see how well they pull it off and for which verticals.

In terms of travel specifically, I believe there is a huge untapped Q&A opportunity. TripAdvisor doesn’t do it for me because the reviews are not personal and relatable. And horizontal service like Quora clearly aren’t there yet. I think there is a very interesting vertical play in travel that I’d love to see someone build. 

In the meanwhile, I got the answers to my travel question (at least for Costa Rica, which I ultimately decided not to visit on this trip) the old fashioned way – I emailed a friend.

If you’re into yoga, surfing, eating and chilling in a beautiful place, what follows is as good a guide to Costa Rica as you can get from .


I prefer the Pacific side over the Caribbean side. So I’m going to give you a biased report based on that. 

A couple of options:

1. Osa Peninsula:

a. Yoga: There is a yoga retreat run by Jillian. 4 hours of yoga a day.

b. Surfing: Good break - it’s not a beach break so the waves are pretty clean, but there’s only one break so you have to hope it’s on or else you’re just paddling (which isn’t bad given how beautiful the area is). 

c. Accommodations: It’s pretty sick as that area is basically undeveloped and you live in Xanadu-type houses built by a German rock band as their retreat from touring. 

d. Food: Delicious food served family-style with all the people on the yoga retreat.

e. Activities: rainforest hikes, toucans, macaws, and monkeys everywhere; you could probably hike to private waterfalls on your own; crazy bodyworkers; one bar that you walk a mile to or hop in the back of a truck. New Years Party (last year was DJ’d by Derek Ferguson)

f. Issues/Setbacks: Not very private (you have a private room as a couple, but you share the house with other couples. You’re on a schedule as it is a retreat. there is nothing else to do in that area other than walk around undeveloped wilderness (it’s really out there). Positive: you may find some property you want to buy in an area that is still untouched. 

2. Mal Pais  - my vote

a. Yoga: Tons - almost every hotel offers a class. You could also find someone who could give privates on the beach by having the hotel staff make one or two phone calls. Two great hotels w/ incredible yoga: Pranamar and Florblanca. 

b. Surfing: Gnarls Barkley - three breaks within a 15 minute walk. One beach perfect for beginners and intermediates, one wild one for experts. It’s really a blast. However all are beach breaks, so if you want to catch the big waves, you’ll be paddling. There’s also a pipeline that runs when the waves are overhead. 

c. Accommodations: Beautiful, world-class hotels w/ impeccable service and excellent food. My favorites are Pranamar and FlorBlanca. Both are truly beautiful w/ private bungalows. 

d. Food: The food at Pranamar is excellent (haven’t eaten at Florblanca) - you can also walk into town and eat at great local spots or at other hotels. tons of israelis w/ hummus/smoothie spots. 

e. Activities: Surfing, walking on the beach. You could find other stuff (i’m sure there are horses somewhere) and a trip to the hippie town of Montezuma. Good fishing. 

f. Issues/Setbacks: The two hotels I mentioned are awesome - very isolated and beautiful. However, one town over is Santa Teresa. The town isn’t touristy but it’s getting more developed (by costa rican standards) which brings out sketchy characters (some drug dealers, don’t want to walk by yourself down the dark roads at night). This is not a worry where you would be staying but it can be a concern. 

g. Last note: it’s cool here, you can be in pretty intense isolation and with a 10 minute walk you can party hard at some crazy spots. In my opinion, it’s a great place b/c you have a choice as to what you want (local food, israeli ex-pat smoothie, upsacle; quiet nights with a fire on the beach or burning it down until the sun comes up at an open-air club on the beach). 

3. Papagayo Peninsula

a. Yoga: Big, beautiful resorts: 4 seasons, St. Regis w/ great spas that offer classes

b. Surf: not good, you have to travel at least 1.5 hours for a good break (but those are very good breaks).

c. Accommodations: Very nice, but - like most resorts - a bit sterile.

d.  Food: Excellent but all contained within whatever resort you are visiting. 

e. activities: everything, these places have great activities (horseback riding, rainforest hikes, spas, insane golf)

f. Issues: It’s a resort area. The places are magnificent but they lack character. It’s very comfortable, very comfortable, but you’ll only meet other people visiting for the week. 

Tagged: #Q&A #Travel #Quora #gdgt #Stack Overflow


I’m thrilled to announce Spark’s investment in gdgt and welcome , and the entire gdgt team to the Spark family.  You can find me on gdgt .

The technology & gadget category has rightfully been core to the web from it’s inception. Naturally, the early web participants were tech enthusiasts and the web flourished with sites oriented around their needs.

CNet led the way on users reviews and price comparison. Engadget and Gizmodo led the way in content, which Peter and Ryan themselves helped pioneer.

Like in many of the early web verticals however, innovation has not always kept up. gdgt is attempting to bring the best of what the social, user-driven web is all about to this incredibly large category.

At the core of gdgt are real user profiles, gdgt lists and user contributed content. Connecting people with relevant user created content when they are looking to make a purchase or need help with gadgets they already own is where the power of gdgt lies. Ultimately it’s a place where the hard-core gdgt geeks and casual consumers can meet to share information, get advice and help make purchase decisions.

We at Spark are lucky enough to be in business with two of the web’s true gadget pioneers and a phenomenal group of investors. We’re just at the beginning of this journey and very excited for what lies ahead.

Tagged: #Technology #Gadgets #gdgt #Peter Rojas #Ryan Block #Spark Capital #Investment