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My American Dream
Long live the American dream. Mine started in my childhood, vaned in my teens and is coming blazing back at the end of my 20s.
I had a dream. As a teenager, I always dreamed of living in the USA. I loved muscle cars, country music and the freedom to do whatever I wanted. Little did I know what it would be really like.
I had my first chance of living in the US when I was 16 and got an opportunity to represent Estonia at a student exchange program in North Carolina. That was my ticket to the US, I thought. Promised Land, at last. Thank God almighty I am free at last.
I headed over from Europe and landed right in the middle of nowhere in the US. Well, it’s North Carolina after all. I spent half of my time there on the university campus and then some in two host families. My first experience in the States was a colorful one - my host families tried to convert me, taught me how to shoot automatic rifles and lots more. It was fun. The whole experience of living and studying there made me less starry eyed about my childhood vision of moving there permanently. I took it as my next goal to go to college in the US. In reality, there were only two colleges that I was interested in, Stanford and MIT.
The next chapter in my adventures was less rosy. I took all the necessary tests and ended up applying to MIT early. I could not go to Stanford since they did not have full financial support for internationals… After a few months of waiting came my first childhood trauma - my application was not accepted. Thus also ended my dream of going to a US college.
My next chance of going to the US came when I started my first startup, Mirage, in Zurich, Switzerland. We wanted to move the company to California and decided to postpone taking VC funding in order to get into YC before any other external funding. We ended up applying and getting interviewed by YC three times. Three times flying to Mountain View for a ten minute interview just to get rejected each time and fly back empty-handed. Another time when the opportunity felt so close, yet so far.
The next few years made me feel much more settled in Europe and I developed a really good rhythm in Berlin. The idea of moving never came up during the covid years, especially since I was building a remote work company with both my co-founder and partner living in Berlin. After my last company, I had to ask myself the existential question of where to live again and the idea of moving over to the US came up again. Initially I was very happy with life in Berlin despite feeling like I had explored everything the city has to offer. After starting my latest company in the LLM infrastructure space, I initially started building the team and doing sales in Europe, but I was slowly frustrated. Frustrated by a lack of ambition and risk-taking.
That leads me to the current chapter. I submitted my visa application the moment I started Commonbase since I knew I might want to move the business to the US at some point. What I did not realize was that point came quicker than I expected. From a business perspective, American companies are much further ahead in their LLM adoption which moves my dream market there. Personally, I wanted to try living in a more intense and ambitious city than Berlin. It was clear that it was time for me to finally make the move. Here I am, writing this on the day my O-1A visa was stamped into my passport, giving me the ability to live and work in the US for the next three years. So what’s next?
I am moving permanently to NYC at the end of October in order to start the next chapter. I spent quite a bit of time this year in SF and realized it’s not for me. The city is expensive, dangerous, echochamber and despite catering well for super early-stage companies, not that great for later stage companies I am selling to. NYC on the other hand is closer to Europe, more international, diverse and just a hotspot for all kinds of people at the top of their field. Why move to the US at all after spending most of my life in Europe?
The US is by far the largest and most dynamic country for building global tech companies in the world. If you look at the most successful consumer products built in the last few decades, all but one have been built in the US (Spotify is the only counter-example). It is the country where the most impactful companies get built, where the most exciting research gets done (75% of 2023 STEM Nobel prizes live in the US) and where the most ambitious people move to if they want to reach the absolute top of their fields. I am excited to compete with the best and try to win in the big league. Being surrounded by the tops in their respective fields will be my personal gunpowder. Lots of adventures ahead - both personally and professionally.
To the next ten years chasing my American dream 🥂