The day has finally come, and as expected it’s filled with contrasting emotions. After 11 years, I’m leaving London.
I still vividly remember the day I first arrived with my rucksack at High Holborn LSE student hall, on a warm late August afternoon in 2006. I knew no one and nothing, I was 21.
Fast forward 11 years and we’ve just shipped a truck full of boxes, handed over the keys of our house and with Veronica and our two young kids we are heading over to the airport. We’ve done this trip so many times over the last years, but this time feels different. It’s a one way trip.
I’ve spent a third of my life and almost half of my adult life in London. It’s a part of me that I will cherish for the rest of my days. Our kids were born here, here I’ve met my life partner and my some of my best friends, here I got my first pay cheque, here I’ve met the smartest people I know and most of what I know I’ve learnt here. I pretty much owe everything to London.
But there’s something special about a one way trip, it marks the start of a new chapter. Despite feeling a little heavy-hearted as we walk towards our gate, we are super excited to start afresh in a stunning part of Italy, the country where Veronica and I are originally from. We look forward to showing our kids more of its wonders.
So why the move?
As always, it’s a combination of factors that made the stars align:
- We’ve found large cities to be over rated. There, I said it. Most people will disagree, since data suggests metropolis are only growing in size. I’ll qualify that statement better though, they are overrated as a place to live with and grow young children. This probably deserves a post of its own, so I‘ll just leave it at that and maybe come back to it some other time.
- I’m hugely excited about the pace of innovation across the rest of continental Europe. There are so many vibrant tech scenes maturing in multiple corners of Europe. I won’t necessarily be based in one of the obvious ones (although there’s quite a lot going on where I’m moving to), but I’ll be strategically positioned to spend an equal amount of time in each European ecosystem. Some more travelling will be required for sure.
- More generally, I’m fascinated by how decentralised technologies like the blockchain are making physical location mostly irrelevant, transforming the way people work. Since I have been spending more and more time thinking about this topic lately, it became increasingly obvious to me that it was time to live and breathe it.
- I’m also very keen to be based outside of any major tech hub as a noise filter. It’s way too easy to be totally sucked into a whirlpool of meetups, conferences, coffees, catch-ups, demo days, launch parties, etc. In my years in London I’ve struggled a lot with that. One can be as diligent and maniacal about calendar management as humanly possible, but the distractions are just overwhelming. And as a side effect one ends up developing biases: not only is early stage tech a niche, London itself lives in a bit of a bubble (as demonstrated by Brexit). I’m hopeful that by being based outside, I’ll be able to focus on clear bias-free signals.
- Last, but not least, the B word. I believe Brexit is reckless and overall an irreversible net-negative for the British economy and for its early stage tech sector in general. As most expats we know in the UK, we have also felt a hard-to-shake-off emotional backdrop since the Brexit vote, almost as a realization that we didn’t really know the country that we had been living in for 10+ years. We would have ultimately taken the same decision regardless of the political landscape, but inside us Brexit gave us more conviction that it was the right time.
As to what I’ll be doing next, some may have noticed that I’ve been spending more and more time thinking through the Token Economy with my friend Stefano lately. That exercise has opened a number of doors for us that we are actively exploring. We’ll be unveiling more about what’s coming over the course of the next few months. One thing is certain, London will see me often and will continue to be home to me.
To wrap up, I’m forever grateful for all the people I’ve crossed path with over the past 11 years here, particularly those who taught me something. If you know me and I didn’t say bye before leaving, it was deliberate. It’s not a good bye, it’s just an arrivederci.
See you very soon, London. ❤️
In the meantime, you’ll find me in the interwebs at @yanroux.