It’s time to say goodbye to Seattle, hello to London!

After coming from Sao Paulo to Seattle 18 years ago to work for Microsoft, now I’m moving with my family to London. A whole lot of newness to our lives. We couldn’t be more excited to move to a mega-metropolis, one of the handfuls of cities that are a cultural center on this planet, and with a booming tech and startup ecosystem. For someone that was once called “Mr. Seattle”, this might come as a shock to many Seattle entrepreneurs, investors, and friends who got used to me and my charming accent. :)


The answer is pretty simple and boils down to three reasons: 1) We want to know more about the world, and, you know, it’s Europe(!) — one train away from visiting another country with a 2,000-year history. 2) It’ll be an amazing life (and experience) for our kids, which are growing up in the most global economy of all times. 3) Because you get to see more colors (more on that later).

Why now?

Last year after some personal struggle I left EveryMove, a startup I founded 5 years ago. It was a time of reflection. The best way to make good choices in life is to put yourself five or ten years into the future, look back to today, and ask yourself what story you want to tell about the last five to ten years of your life. My wife and I had talked many times about moving to Europe, but that was mostly a thing we’d do when the kids went to college. After I left EveryMove we had this extra freedom, so we asked why not now? Turns out, that our kids are at the perfect age (7 and 10) for this adventure. Not too young that it will be a hassle for us, and not too old they will be “traumatized” by being uprooted.

Why London?

We settled in going to Europe and we had three cities in mind: Paris, London, and Berlin, in that order. After about a month of digging it was clear that London was the right choice for several reasons:

  1. No new language for us to learn, which makes a complex process one notch less complicated.
  2. A booming, I mean *booooming* tech and startup sector. From nowhere four or five years ago to surpassing many US cities and likely to become second only to Silicon Valley in the next 5 years.
  3. A very friendly community and Government welcoming foreigners to work in the tech sector.
  4. A handful of friends who moved from Seattle to London and many other friends and family who also live in London.

Tier-1 Visa

Talk about forward-thinking. The UK has a series of visas under the “Tier-1” umbrella that allows entrepreneurs, tech talent, and investors to live and work in the UK. As someone who moved to the US in the late 90s on an H1-B Visa, I can tell you the UK has a huge advantage here — even compared to other countries in the EU. I’ve got a Visa called “Exceptional Talent”, that allows me to live and work in the UK (including my family) for up to 5 years. The whole visa process wasn’t trivial, but from beginning to end it was less than 10 weeks and I didn’t even use a lawyer.

Mind Expansion (on seeing more colors)

The days before I moved from Brazil to the US my sister asked me if I was nervous about moving to a different country. I answered that I was looking forward to all the awkward moments I’d have in a new culture. What I didn’t realize is that my way of expressing the desire for awkwardness is really a different way of saying “I want to learn how a different culture does things”. Over the years, I came up with a better way to explain this mind expansion. And it goes as this…

If you live in a culture, you get to experience blue. All shades of blue. Some things are bluer, some things are whiter. You hear about Yellow and Red, but you don’t get to experience them.

Your brain on the blue culture:

If you live in culture B you get to experience yellow. All shades of yellow. You might even hear about Blue and Red, and sometimes you might travel to a different place and get a glimpse of those other colors, but it really doesn’t register strongly in your brain.

Here is your brain on the yellow culture:

However, when you move from one culture to another. You don’t get to experience just a new color and its shade, your mind is blown up with a color and shades that were neither blue nor yellow. It’s the proverbial 1 + 1 = 3.

This is not what you become when you experience a new culture.

This is what you experience. An explosion of possibilities.

Not only you’ve got to experience shades of blue and shades of yellow, but you’ve also extrapolated a whole new color and shades in your brain. It’s very hard to try to extrapolate that abstractly (by reading books, watching videos, or going on vacation).

Now, imagine what would happen if you added a third color and its shades by moving to a third culture. Holy shit! This becomes so much more intense and the experience is exponentially more valuable to expand your brain.

Don’t call it a Brave move

I have already heard it a few times, and sometimes we might even think we are being brave, but the reality is that we have incredible privilege by being able to go to another country, be welcomed, have careers, and have financial stability in the process. That’s for sure not available to 99% of the world’s population. So I have a hard time pinpointing anything brave that we are doing. It’s a lot of (hard) work, for sure. We have huge safety nets and the worst-case scenario is nothing more than moving back to the US if things fall apart. If you are confused, you should certainly stop by Geraldine’s post on the topic.

What about Seattle?

The reality is that this decision has nothing to do with what’s not great in Seattle. It didn’t matter to us if we lived in Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, or New York. We wanted to move to Europe because of Europe. I’m 100% of European descent, and, although I feel very little family connection with the European continent, I feel a strong affinity with its lifestyle (particularly food, travel, personal interactions, etc.).

On Pioneer Square Labs

Honestly, PSL is one sweet gig. You’ve got to work with some incredibly talented developers, designers, marketers, business analysts, investors, and entrepreneurs. You’ve got to explore startup ideas and projects up-and-down, left and right. I think I’ve learned more at PSL in the last 9-months than in two years of working at a startup (which is already about 3 times more than you learn at a big company). I’ll miss both the work and the team here.

So long Seattle. I’ll come to visit you someday.

Marcelo Calbucci

Marcelo Calbucci

I'm a technologist, founder, geek, author, and a runner.