AHL Insider:

Matt Dickinson

Founding Partner, Maderas Village

  • What do you do and how did you get here?

    I wake up everyday and do what I love to do: work with an incredible team of people, drive projects forward that I’m passionate about and share conversations with great friends and interesting characters.

  • What drew you to Nicaragua?

    It spoke to me like no other place ever has. There’s a creative energy that’s present in Maderas like none other I’ve ever encountered. It was less about me finding Maderas and more about Maderas finding me.

  • What was the idea behind Maderas Village?

    To be able to wake up everyday and work passionately on projects I love, and sit down every night over conversations with good friends and the most interesting minds of our generation.

  • What or who inspires you most?

    Whoever is sitting around the dinner table at the Village tonight. Although, Chris Blackwell & Richard Branson are always on the invite list.

  • What did you want to be when you were growing up?

    Myself.

  • What is the future of Maderas Village? Any new projects in the pipeline?

    To continue being able to live happily, surrounded by friends that inspire ideas and laughter. We’re always discussing new potential projects, although Colombia, Havana, and Brooklyn are all coming up regularly in conversations lately.

  • You are working on developing new hotel management software, can you tell us more?

    The system we’re building was born out of our frustration with the POS & booking systems currently available for small to medium sized hotels. Too many hotels allow their systems to set the tone for their culture; we built our own system because we refused to fit our culture into the constraints established by inadequate systems, and our assumption is that other hoteliers share this belief. We designed our system from the ground up to integrate reservations, bar/restaurant sales, and CRM seamlessly. This industry is full of archaic systems and out-dated mechanisms for dealing with today’s clientele. Our system isn’t revolutionary in terms of the technology, we’ve simply created a better system for organizing clients & managing reservations, with a simpler interface that we can offer at a lower price point than anything else available on the market today. Most basically put, it’s just Maderas’ contribution to the app revolution.

  • What challenges did you face developing Maderas Village and what advice would you give to aspiring hotel developers?

    The single biggest challenge was dealing with partners & team members that lost focus or commitment along the way, creating internal roadblocks to our progress. While living in paradise sounds great, it can be distracting and lead to people confusing priorities. We now have an unstoppable team of incredibly talented people that are all committed to the vision and the hard-work culture of Maderas. We all live here so we can achieve great things while living in paradise, but it’s important to remember that paradise is just the backdrop to the story of Maderas. Advice: Start your first project in a location where you love to live so you’re able to grow slowly and organically, while having patience with delays, internal conflicts, and determining which clientele is right for the culture you’re trying to cultivate.

  • Did you always have a passion for hotels and hospitality or was it something you fell into by chance?

    I’ve never really liked hotels. They’ve always felt sterile and full of people that don’t feel at home; people’s excitement is always dwarfed by their nervousness. My passion is conversation. I just want to be able to sit down every night to a dinner party of friends and interesting people sharing ideas and meaningful conversations. We started with this, then worked backwards to integrate this culture into every aspect of the hospitality experience.

  • What would your dream project look like?

    We just kicked off our new recording studio with a collaboration between MGMT, Ariel Pink, and Connan Mockasin. We’re rolling out Maderas Radio in the New Year. We just did a permanent art installation of 15 Stalagmites around our gardens with Tofer Chin. We’re building a new 35 person yoga studio and performance space. We’re planning out Maderas Music Fest, designing 16 new units and 2 Villas. We’re 80% booked for 2015. I surf 4-5 times a week at sunset. I have a girlfriend I love, a business partner that I trust with my life and I’m surrounded by friends, babes, interesting characters, and a team of people more talented than me. I can’t imagine a project that could be more of a dream than this is right now.

  • What’s the biggest change you have seen in the industry in the last five to ten years?

    There’s been an increase in demand for a hotel to have a personality; to feel like a place where you can put your feet up and have a real conversation with someone you care about listening to. Members of Gen Y grew up backpacking and now want nicer accommodations, great amenities, and quality, healthy food but refuse to give up that comfortable atmosphere where making new relationships with interesting people is easy. This has created more demand for curation of clientele than ever before; it’s no longer just about providing a clean room and a warm meal, it’s about facilitating a meaningful conversation between like-minded people.

  • Who do you admire in the world of hospitality? Who’s pushing the boundaries?

    Virgin does service and hospitality better than anyone. Hands down.

  • What’s the next big thing/idea in hospitality?

    The ability to provide a more seamless & individually tailored experience for people through deeper integration of technology into every interaction a client has with the systems of a hotel.

  • Career anecdote you’d like to share?

    Up until I took over a room last year, I slept on hammocks and couches around the property 37 different nights because I’d always rather be uncomfortable than turn a client away. It makes it feel more real that way, like you’re earning it. And sets a great tone for the culture.

  • Do you have a favorite hotel in the world?

    The Urban Cowboy B&B in Brooklyn. There’s always at least 2-3 friends I already know, babes, or interesting characters sitting on the couch or on the kitchen island sipping on wine and waiting to share some conversations with me.