Today is the first anniversary of settling my family in San Francisco, after making the jump from a lifetime in Paris.
For some people, this seems like a brave move. It is not. Crazy perhaps, but not brave. I was just following my heart.
When I got into the Air France plane with my two daughters, Lisa (then 14) and Blanche (then 9), we were all very excited. Lisa was thrilled to launch a new adventure. Blanche was sad to leave Paris. But we were flying towards the "American Dream". I was feeling that I was leaving behind me things I would never long for nor need again. Strangely I was sad that it was so easy to turn my back on my past.
It has been a year, and I have never regretted my decision.
Leaving an old world and arriving in a new one; that is very much what I felt when I emigrated from Paris to San Francisco. The former is lacking energy, ambition, spontaneity, risk-taking, optimism, creativity. The latter has all of those. It is overwhelming for people that are not used to it. It made me dizzy sometimes.
I still feel so excited when I pass by people in the street, whom French would call "eccentric". Eccentric! Homeless? Creative? Different? At least, not the same as all the others. And do you know what is the most amazing thing: nobody pays attention! In France, everybody would look at the different people; frowning, holding back their kids, acting afraid.
It seems like everybody here wants to be an entrepreneur. Dreaming is allowed; encouraged! How many people have I met who quit a well-paid job to give it a try. Some of them succeed, most fail; but either is ok. The ones who fail find a new job until they believe in a new idea and try again! Nobody here considers the fact that you failed means that you are not good. That's the exact opposite in France. If you fail once trying to develop a business, you're doomed.
Afraid. That is probably the key word to describe France. Afraid of the future, afraid of change, afraid of difference, afraid of trying, afraid of LIVING.
When I used to commute between SF and Paris, every time I was going back in Paris, I could feel the sadness and pessimism. I couldn't bare any more people criticizing, complaining all day long, but doing nothing, just contemplating their navel.
Thank you, San Francisco! Thank you, tech industry! Only one year after moving, I feel I belong here. And I have so much to be thankful for. I have developed my venture in a way I could not have done anywhere else on Planet Earth. I’ve got a world-class team trusting me and helping me, an amazing advisory board supporting all of us, and truly angelic angel investors are writing checks to buy a share of the company and provide the cash we need to accelerate the business.
We launched an alpha version of the app last summer. We learned from it. With advice from those advisors, we threw away most of the code and focused on the core function of the product. Now we are developing a new version with the goal of beta testing in April.
Thank you as well to these amazing and smart people who have already become my friends. May be not old friend, but good friends. I can ask them about important things and depend on them to help me with both business and personal tasks. I can share my doubts and be sure to have their attention and support. They are here for me.
One of the main criticisms that French people have about Americans is that you are shallow people. You exaggerate your behavior to make us believe that you are happy to see us, you like us, and act as a friend. But the cynics think it’s an act and that you don't really care. That is partially true, because you can’t be friends instantly. But I learned quickly to decipher the real from the false. Personally, I think it is much nicer to have someone welcoming you with an overplayed attitude, than someone who barely says hello.
I will have a party at my home to celebrate this first anniversary. I have invited the people I love the best here: 50 people on the list in only one year. Wow! It would have taken me 20 years in France. That is the force of America, everything goes faster and bigger.
You have probably figured out that I have no plan to go back to France.
Guest author and entrepreneur Valerie Grison is the Founder, CEO and Creative Director of StoraLab, a company creating exciting, engaging online & mobile experiences for kids age 7-14. You can also find her @VGrison on Twitter
Skydiving Image courtesy of Shutterstock