I was happy to see this post about Andy Kieffer in Pando Daily. He moved to Mexico after a successful exit in the Valley and started Agave Labs. I don’t know him, personally, but I love what he’s doing and I wanted to add my perspective since I’m from Ecuador, I’ve been running remote teams from South America, and I’ve lived in the Silicon Valley for over a decade.
You see, I did the reverse as most people do. Techies come to the Silicon Valley to chase their startup dreams just as actors go to Hollywood to be discovered. However, many do not make it and the pressure and cost of living can be extremely prohibitive. We have our own version of 50 year-old waitresses still hoping to be discovered.
There are a lot of techies in countries like Mexico, Argentina or Ecuador that do not want to move to the United States or to any developed country for that matter. For millions of techies, quality of life in these countries is just too good to give it up.
A lot of folks in the Valley would find this statement completely preposterous.
After all, the elite residing in the Valley has a completely skewed version of success– aiming to be the next Steve Jobs or follow in the footsteps of Elon Musk. Truly, when you have a magnificent intellect and off-the-charts drive to make things happen then the Valley is the place for you.
This wasn’t the case in South America fifteen years ago. The best professionals from South America would jump at the chance of coming to work in the US. There was no concept of remote work and you worked for whatever pay the government or the private monopolies would give you. The internet was slow and completely useless. For years, the internet cafes would only allow you to visit two websites: Yahoo! and Hotmail. Nothing else. There was political and economical instability to the point that your money was worthless from one day to the next.
A lot has changed since then in South America.
Internet connections are faster. You can sit at your house for hours and do video chat over GoToMeeting and work with someone remotely and actually build a personal relationship. You have options. People’s minds are also more open to new things. A gringo is not seen as clueless tourist wandering the streets of a city, but as a person with a different culture. Still a bit clueless, but a person none-the-less.
Thousands of technical graduates see themselves as the generation that will change everything. They see the US as a resource, not as a goal. They are learning from the mistakes made here and building better and more localized products and services.
Finally, they wouldn’t give up a quality of life that makes them happy.
Most of my team is in Argentina and when I go there to run Startup Houses, which we’ve been doing before startup accelerators were popular in the Silicon Valley, we rent a mansion for 15 people. We spend two weeks there, with copious food and drink for the entire crew, living in the best neighborhood in Buenos Aires. We go on outings to excellent restaurants. All of this for less than a third of your standard startup run rate.
We not only have a lot of fun, but we launch products.
When I ask them if they would move to the Silicon Valley, they answer, “but why?”
And I, too, understand them.