After being confined within masks and borders for the first year or two of the decade, there’s a renewed spirit of exploration and a desire for new frontiers among many people around the world. For the first time, remote work, unshackled work from a physical location, adds to the sense of new possibilities. And in some cases economic or political dysfunction has people open to new models of governance. They’re ready to see which locales best support their ambitions, civil liberties, and philosophical ideals.
St. John’s Bay, the most established “next gen” city in the Western Hemisphere, wants to make its case to attract these entrepreneurs, working professionals, investors, and digital nomads into a win-win situation for all parties. With effective tax rates in the single digits for personal and business income, Próspera believes their formula will unleash economic growth in the city while also delivering extensive international investments and benefits to their host nation of Honduras.
Unlike some other aspirational models for cities of the future, Prospera’s project in St. John’s Bay is tangible and progressing at a brisk pace. There are several buildings already in place, and Duna, the tallest building in Roatan, will be complete in early 2023.
Some components of the city really do feel like a glimpse into the future. Their Beyabu project with architects Zaha Hadid certainly has a utopian Caribbean flavor. And there’s a project called the Circular Factory which follows a philosophy of responsible design. Geometric principles and layering, built with robots, and 3D printing techniques combine to create beautiful and durable buildings with 70% less concrete and 90% less steel.
While these buildings will surely make it aesthetically appealing, the people drawn to this city have other motivations. Entrepreneurs seem particularly enthusiastic about bringing their ideas to life in St. John’s Bay. This is partly attributable to the light touch taxes and regulations which they say enables them to build responsibly, but with less burdensome costs and delays. A recent Fintech summit hosted on the property brought a global audience, from the neighboring Honduran island of Utila to as far as Taiwan, to network and pitch their business concepts for this city.
Meanwhile, future-oriented companies and concepts are already active here. There’s a biotech startup focused on genetic therapies. There’s a drone delivery company that flies products from one side of the island to another. And the city has a prominent Bitcoin Center to teach residents and tourists about sound money principles and how to effectively use and store what the academy deems “the future of money”. This makes sense since St. John’s Bay passed a resolution making Bitcoin and other top tier crypto currencies legal tender. They want to facilitate an economy where everyone in the city can transact in digital currency.
The city has also attracted interest from investors, including investments from Silicon Valley’s most notable angel investors. For these investors, Próspera offers a unique opportunity for them to fund the creation of a next-generation city, and potentially realize exponential gains as that city grows. Próspera’s approach to digital governance for a physical city is a unique value proposition outside of traditional software or real real estate investments. Próspera describes governance as an industry, and views their services as an alternative option for individuals seeking alternatives. For investors, this paradigm shift presents a huge opportunity – if governance is a market, it’s one of the largest markets in the world, and ripe for disruption. This is one reason investors are flocking to the city, with Próspera raising upwards of $50 million to support the growth of St. John’s Bay.
There are of course still challenges to be overcome in such an ambitious endeavor. Prospera has 50 years of legal stability assured by constitutional law, but they still want to maintain a constructive relationship with the new government which had concerns about the special economic zones established by the previous administration. And when building a private city there’s plenty of heavy lifting when it comes to infrastructure and attracting all the necessary businesses for a flourishing ecosystem.
We are in a time when creators of the world are thinking about new paradigms for finance (Bitcoin & cryptocurrencies), governance (DAOs), and society (social media). But many of these modern explorations are currently confined to the digital world. Prospera’s flagship city in St. John’s Bay is a real world manifestation of this quest. It’s a place where this century’s pioneers are congregating to contribute to a new model of economic and human prosperity for the physical world. If it proves successful, it could be one of the more compelling business stories of this decade.