There are certain situations that require entrepreneurs to uproot their business and move it across the globe. Everything from expansion to better product-market fit and disrupting a new area can cause this sort of transition. And while this move can be both intimidating, the hard part isn't necessarily choosing where you want to go, it’s everything else.
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Recently, my co-founders and I made the decision to move our tech startup Codeship – a developer-tool company -- from the comforts of Vienna to a brief stint in Berlin and then most recently to Boston. Let's just say, I realize as entrepreneurs, we take risks every day, but our move across the world was trying at times. That said, looking back on what I’ve accomplished, I know we made the right choice.
One thing I realized was important right off the bat was to make sure my personal vision aligned with the vision of my co-founders and the rest of my team. If you own a business -- whether it’s a startup, small business or large corporation -- remaining true to the entire team’s vision is essential.
Also, if you don’t think you can handle the stress of moving to a new environment, having to build new social circles and revamping your entire life, a big change might not be the right path for you. But when you decide you’re ready, here are a few concrete tips to help you out as you start your journey:
Plan ahead. Think about a visa plan far in advance of your first trip to the new country you will call home. Do your research and make sure you hire an exceptional immigration lawyer. Check their references, ask other founders about their past experiences and find someone who has specific knowledge about your niche situation.
Take care of the logistics. Before you make the big move, make sure you figure out your living situation, have a prepaid phone lined up, and you have nailed down an insurance plan. Complete these tasks as early and as quickly as possible. You won’t want to deal with those things once you arrive. (Trust me.)
Create your network ASAP. Hopefully, you know people in your new location. If you do, reach out to them and don’t be afraid to dip into their network. People love to give back – especially in the startup community. They want to help people that are in a similar position that they once were. They already did the move. They already know all of the problems and want to help you avoid the same mistakes they did. If possible, find investors with great local networks or check out accelerator programs.
Keep your options open. Often entrepreneurs look for the most plugged in startup city in the country to move (i.e Silicon Valley). Keep in mind, there are other great startup hubs out there, and you have to pick the city that makes the most sense for your company, your industry and your phase.
Don’t get me wrong, places like San Francisco provide many perks for entrepreneurs, but these dense startup cities also have a lot of disadvantages (expensive, monoculture, etc.). Again, keep in mind that you’ll need to stay in the city of your choice for quite a while, so make sure you’d be happy living there.
Perhaps think of doing a trial run somewhere. My team and I moved to Berlin for two months before moving to Boston. We already knew what we were doing the second time around. It was easy for our team internally, the logistics went smoothly and we were already prepared for the uncertainty of not knowing where we would stay the next day, how we would get from point A to point B and whom we would call in case of X, Y and Z.
Just do it. Be naïve. Take the risk -- especially if you are young and a first-time founder. You will grow personally, you will excel at what you do, and you’ll be immersed in amazing experiences.
In the end, it’s worth all of the problems, the sleepless nights, the stress and the tiffs with your co-founders, family and friends. Take it from me. You won’t grow personally and professionally if you constantly stay inside your comfort zone. Hit the ground running without looking back and before you know it, something amazing could happen.
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