07 Sep 2016 11:57 by Jan Andersen, CEO of StoreGecko
Almost every entrepreneur ponders relocation at one time or another in the early days of their startup. You know how the saying goes “the grass always looks greener on the other side” and if it is not the promised land of gold and riches in Silicon Valley, then it is when you read yet another blog post taunting the opportunities of any startup hub somewhere around the globe.
And so, the grass did look greener on the other side to me, too - but for another reason.
I launched my new startup - StoreGecko - in London at the start of 2014. But I had figured out that if I had to stay there my burn rate would simply kill me, I simply wouldn’t have been able to hire the group of developers required to build the complex system I had as an idea in my head.
Seeing that I had been part of the outsourcing craze of the zeros, working and living in Ukraine, Pakistan and India over several years, I knew that there was talent to be had at a more “affordable” rate than in cool London.
So, I set eyes on new horizons. I asked around in my shared London office space, situated around the famous Shoreditch roundabout, if anybody knew anyone in Eastern Europe, specifically Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary, because I knew that staying inside the borders of the EU would afford me less paperwork and a closeness to my investors and also friends and family.
A good friend of mine, Michael Simeon from VoguePay, told me that he was acquainted with the lovely daughter of the deputy prime minister of Bulgaria - and after saying “yeah, yeah” to him he actually produced the goods and I met first the daughter and afterwards the mother - Mrs Bobeva - who turned out to be a very cool lady who said she would love to help a young startup like mine to relocate to Bulgaria.
She then told me that she knew just the right person for me in Sofia to help me get my startup off the ground and this is the story of how I met my co-founder, Ivelina - pure luck, but who cares about that afterwards.
When I relocated my startup, I quickly realized that one thing is to spend £10-20K in London on a monthly burn rate and only have a handful of okay developers. Another thing is what I could get in Sofia, Bulgaria with this kind of money.
I could have better developers (at least I could reach out/up for those), I could afford a personal assistant, a part time bookkeeper (we all know as entrepreneurs how much we love doing the admin stuff) and even start building a team of communications and marketing people.
This is what is called stretching the dollar. I have more cash left to spend on my business and I have enough for myself to live a decent life.
I only pay local price thanks to Ivelina helping me navigate the pitfalls of being an expat and with the money I paid in London for an old, dusky room, here I pay the same amount for a very nice and big apartment in the centre of the city. This is why I decided against offshoring and for complete relocating of my startup to a more affordable country.
But when it comes to moving your whole life to a foreign land, there are a few sacrifices that you make. Not to mention that people are not always just people, they are different in every country. I thought it was going to be easier to work in Bulgaria than it was in Pakistan because it’s Europe, Europe is supposed to not be different. But it is.
The people I meet here are still weirder than what I’m used to in Denmark and even the UK. And what draws the line of separation between me and Bulgarians is their language. This is the thing that isolates me the most because their alphabet is in cyrillic and yes, they do know English and they speak it pretty well but everything around me in Sofia is in Bulgarian. I’ve been here for two years and I still feel like a foreigner amongst others. And sometimes this is what you sacrifice - you sacrifice the feeling of home.
But I have found amazing people to work with and I have made family out of my friends. I’ve met people whom I trust completely and perhaps this is why I feel so secure about my startup being in Sofia.
And with these people by my side, I know I’ve made the right decision to come to Sofia and make my startup a reality here. I have young and bright developers who are building my product tirelessly and I have treasured friends and colleagues.
I can focus on my business 24/7 here. I am not interested in sightseeing, my family is in Denmark and my company is NUMERO UNO priority right now. I know where my focus is and this is what hopefully will bring me success.
I was already 49 when I moved to Sofia, but I didn’t leave behind wife and children so this was an easy part for me. Now I think about if I were two young British entrepreneurs, twenty-year old with eyes set to the stars, I would move straightforward to somewhere like Bulgaria, make my business a reality and get an experience out of it to boot.
This is my advice to young businessmen. Search for small countries like Bulgaria, sacrifice a little but gain a lot to create great success.
StoreGecko has an interesting pocket of people up its sleeve. From a Magento guru, a guy who worked for Google, a girl who excites about everything and is the heart of our team to a CEO with a huge experience. Here we’ll store their opinion on matters.Show all posts