Time to Say Goodbye Seattle, Hello San Francisco

Cross posted from Seattle 2.0 >>

A series of events yesterday convinced me that it’s time to write the blog post that I haven’t being willing to touch for over six months.  This is the blog post that says goodbye to Seattle and hello to San Francisco.
Seattle is a great place to start a company and, after traveling a ton this past year, I strongly feel it is also one of the best places on Earth to live.  I anticipate that you, Seattle 2.0 readers, might point out that it seems a little ridiculous to be editor of Seattle 2.0 and then to move away.  As numerous people can attest, I’m a huge fan of Seattle startups, entrepreneurs, and as someone who was born and raised in the Seattle area I’m homesick as hell.  But I don’t live for the scene, much as I enjoy being a part of it.  For awhile, I did feel like the startup community was an end in itself and I think that is one danger to be aware of as you’re starting your own companies.  Your fellow upstarts are not, for the most part, your customers.  Impressing them is optional – impressing (and making money from) your customers is required.

How Long Has This Being Going On

I’ve been avoiding talking about my move kind of like someone who’s in a new relationship but doesn’t want to call the guy her boyfriend.  But the truth is that Seattle and I had to break up, because I’m seeing someone else… and it’s very serious.  I wasn’t planning to fall in love with a startup in the Bay Area but it happened, and as one of our investors (who is partial to the New York tech community) said, “you have to go to the place where the startup you want to work on is”.  I think he’s right, and beyond that I think you have to take your business where it is most likely to be successful.  For Twilio, that’s San Francisco.
I saw Mikhail Seregine of Seattle-based startup Jambool (their San Francisco team shares an office with us at Pier 38) today, and we laughed at how much one chance meeting at a WTIA event could do.  One year ago Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson, Mikhail, and I were eating dinner together at an event where our respective startups were presenting and look how much has changed since then (Twilio took funding, ClayValet closed, and I left Pelago).

It’s a Choice, Not a Sacrifice

Right about now I’m missing everything from our weather to our (often crappy) sports teams, and for the record Seattle really does have the best Thai food no matter what these foodies tell you.  Most of all, I’m missing A LOT of people including my parents, my sister, my friends, and the majority of business contacts I’ve built up in the past five years since dropping out of college.  Case in point, I saw Dave Schappell today at our office here in SF and probably hugged him hello a little too tight (sorry Dave).
Why give all that up for a startup?  Why give it up for a company that, despite an impressive trajectory, still has statistically high odds of going nowhere like every startup?  Why risk messing up my marriage, going bankrupt trying to sell my real estate, etc. just to be constantly exhausted, have panic attacks, get sick, travel too much, sleep too little?  Why live like this?  My reason might surprise you.  It’s not that I love startups (although I do, for many reasons).
My reason for choosing this crazy life is simple, I want to give people back hours of their lives.  I want to take things that are hard, and make them easy.  I want to free people up to do higher value things with their time.  It is the common thread of everything I’ve ever worked on, and it is the motivation behind each company I’ve chosen to work for and each product I’ve worked to create or bring to market.

Tactics: On Becoming a Maker

One of the top reasons I took on the role of 1st non-founding multiple-hat-wearing something-or-other (we call is “Director of Marketing”) is because I need to become more technical to achieve my long term goals of founding successful startups of my own.  Startup Weekend taught me something important about startups in the earliest stages: he who writes the codes makes the rules.  As it turns out, I really like the freedom and immediate gratification of creating working prototypes.  One of my proudest moments was when an app I wrote made it to the #3 spot on Hacker News, and no one said anything nasty about my code.  Phew!

Tactics: On Becoming a Marketer

Although I hold the title “Director of Marketing” I am not a traditional marketer, meaning I didn’t study it in school and I didn’t even really intend to get into marketing.  In most startups, engineers are the rockstars and marketing plays second fiddle but its becoming increasingly obvious that startups with engineering gurus who never bring anything to market are not viable businesses, and ultimately a waste of time and money for investors.  What I’m doing now allows me to stretch my wings as a marketer, and become intimately familiar with marketing channels and how to bring a product to the public.

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You

It’s not like I’m disappearing or anything, I’m still going to post my ramblings on here until Marcelo or the commenters kick me out.  I wasn’t going to do this because it is a little cheesy but what the hell.  I really want to thank some people who have been helpful to me in the Seattle startup community, and who I think are part of what makes Seattle a great place to be in tech.  I apologize in advance for anyone I’ve forgotten, and I’m sure I’ll be updating this post.
my husband, Kevin – for putting up with my single-minded obsession with entrepreneurship, supporting me endlessly, and also kicking my ass when everyone is telling me what I want to hear
  • Marcelo Calbucci (Seattle 2.0)- for encouraging me to write for Seattle 2.0, live broadcast, and generally inspiring me to go after things I want in life, cooking yummy food and talking for hours
  • Michelle Goldberg (Ignition Partners) – for being a supportive mentor who believes in me, listens, and gets excited about the same things I do
  • Brian Westbrook – for being my better half when we cohost Seattle 2.0 TV, up for anything every time I call with something I want to film, teaching me to fake smile on camera for hours, and letting me play with his gear and toys
  • Rob Eickemann – for being the first person to say hi to me at the first tech event I ever went to, Six Hour Startup, as well as a friendly face at Saturday House and organizer of Startup Weekend
  • Cassie Wallender – for interviewing me at my first attempt to join a startup (I didn’t get it, maybe because I wore a suit to the interview hehe) at iLike
  • John Cook – for cofounding TechFlash, because it is helping keep Seattle startups on the map where they belong and helping them be taken seriously
  • Ksenia Oustiougova – for showing me how hard you have to dig in to get what you want, sharing your office space, and inspiring me to be less nice and more badass
  • Josh Maher & Nathan Kaiser – for hosting Lunch 2.0 and nPost events (respectively) that helped me meet tons of people, learn to pitch, and feel like I was a part of something special
  • STS mailing list – for letting me lurk, the entertainment, the wisdom, did I mention the entertainment?
  • numerous geeks like Brian Dorsey, Calvin Freitas, Colin Henry, Damon Cortesi and Aviel Ginzburg – for explaining things to me without making me feel stupid, encouraging me to keep getting better at coding, and answering my (often dumb) questions
  • Poker 2.0 – for your money 😉

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  • You’re so welcome – I will be missing you! I am thinking of moving too – in about 2 years, when my daughter goes to college. Keep in touch – I’m not on my personal Twitter @kseniaoust

  • You’re smart and kind, Danielle, and San Francisco is lucky to have you, as were we.

    Next time I’m down there, let’s find a chocolate shop. 🙂

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