Who's Behind Microfinance Surf Camp in Nicaragua? Meet Matt Wilson

We learned about Under30CEO Surf Camp for Entrepreneurs in Nicaragua when CATALYST Collaborator Carla Blumenthal posted her upcoming departure on Facebook. How amazing we thought?! Head to Nicaragua, hang out with other social innovators, learn about micro-finance and meet some local Nicaraguan entrepreneurs, learn to surf at the same time and come home with the inspiration to turn your dreams into reality? This sounded too good to be true. We had to learn more.

We caught up with Matt Wilson, co-founder of Under30CEO and Adventurer in Residence at Under30Experiences....

What is the story and inspiration behind this travel concept?

I was in Iceland last year working on a project on climate change, seeing how business in such an amazing place was being affected.  Standing on a glacier, feeling like I was actually making an impact on the world, I said "damn, I wish I could bring 20-30 other ambitious young people to experience this feeling."  Sure enough, we spun off a travel company Under30Experiences from our existing media company for young entrepreneurs at Under30CEO.

Can you tell us something personal that drew you to this?

I spent the next seven months abroad scouting locations and working from my laptop.  It was an unbelievable adventure, meeting with microfinance clients in the poorest parts of Nicaragua, surfing in Bali, riding camels on the Persian Gulf, and superjeeping across glaciers in the most remote places of Iceland.  Why wouldn't I want to bring people who want to change the world on these types of adventures?

Why a surf camp?

Nicaragua is home to some of the best surf and most amazing sunsets in the world.  Setting up a surf camp is the perfect laid back environment to be able to get to bond, brainstorm, and be creative.  Our trips aren't tours, and even though you'll learn a lot about being entrepreneurial, this is certainly not a conference.  We give you options during the day like playing soccer and teaching English to school kids, but if you'd rather be creating your next social impact venture on the beach, you are more than welcome.    

Can you explain how social innovation fits in?

Under30Experiences attract people from all different walks of life, who want to take on a project larger than themselves.  Our trips simply bring people together who believe if you are going to travel the world and build businesses, you should do it in a sustainable way.  

How and why did you choose Nicaragua?

Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and has a very "off the beaten path" feel. Opportunity for both entrepreneurship, microfinance, and tourism is extremely prevalent, and the people of Nicaragua are incredibly welcoming.  It is one of the most stunning places I've ever been. 

Can you tell us some entrepreneurial success stories that grew out of your program?

 Matt traveling through Nicaragua on a chicken bus, exploring locations.

Matt traveling through Nicaragua on a chicken bus, exploring locations.

When you are forced outside your comfort zone with other people like-minded people, your imagination runs wild.  In between heart to heart conversations during dinner, it's not uncommon for attendees to literally stop what their doing and start scribbling on the backs of napkins, coming up with their next big idea.

On our most recent trip, an attendee heard a story of a woman with a micro-loan who could finally afford to buy her child a uniform and attend school.  He came up with a pretty amazing social enterprise model where affluent families who buy school uniforms in the United States get one sent to a child in need.

Under30Experiences are designed to be a launching pad.  What you do after the trip is over is what really matters.

What happens if you are 31 and interested?

Under30Experiences is all about being young at heart.  We're about attitude not age, so there is no age restriction. 




Matt Wilson is co-founder of Under30Media. After using social media to land Under30CEO on MSNBC and BusinessWeek, he began building brands online including venture backed startups like Zaarly. Matt’s passion for entrepreneurship began after leading Bryant University to becoming the world’s #1 entrepreneurs’ organization. After seven months abroad, Matt's official title became Adventurer in Residence, heading up Under30Media's travel company Under30Experiences.