Or Kellentry? Usexit? I don’t know, I’m not very good at this. I do know that I at least outlasted the other John Kelly in DC, but after five and a half years in the DC area (the longest I’ve lived anywhere other than my childhood home in TN), we’ll be moving on in April. That is, assuming our destination doesn’t implode on March 29. Sorry, 29 March (gotta get used to that).
If you don’t care about the why, or any other details, here’s the important info:
- When are we moving? April
- Where? Somewhere near Bristol, England
- Is it permanent? No, temporary while I build out the development team at our company
- Where to next? Not sure, but hopefully finally to a “permanent” spot where we can settle down and our kids can grow up, likely somewhere in the VA / NC / TN area
- Are you going to run races in Europe? Dang sure better believe it
- Why are you moving? Well, that’s what the rest of this post is for
No, it’s not for the treacle pudding
Although that is a pretty big side benefit. And really, the simple answer is “it’s for work.” But like I do with most of my running goals, I thought I’d try to share some of our thought process for what definitely was not an easy decision.
For the past three years I’ve worked at a data analytics startup in DC (QxBranch), working on a variety of projects and getting to use some pretty exciting technologies, like quantum computing. One of those projects was to help provide protection against cyber risk by developing a system that could better quantify that risk and enable insurance that is actually effective and accurately priced.
A new company, Envelop Risk, formed around this technology. The company is located in London, where our insurance partners and most of our business relationships are and where the best opportunity aligned. The company has shown great initial success, and I’ve personally invested an enormous amount of effort, thought, and myself in general into getting it to that point and getting the technology to where it is. In early November, I moved over to Envelop with the understanding that when the timing was appropriate I would move over to the UK to build out our technical team and fully get things off the ground. With a good finish to 2018, we’re in the right position to do that.
We’re targeting the Bristol / Bath area for the technical team – attractive areas, reasonable costs of living, good sources of tech talent, and a reasonable distance to London. Jessi and I enjoyed our visit to the area about a month ago, and particularly liked a little town called Chipping Sodbury (yes, how very British sounding) as somewhere we might find a place. Also, as a sidenote, if you know of any good software engineers or data scientists in that area who might want to work for a startup (one that is quite understanding of endurance athletes), let me know.
Once the tech team is in a good, stable spot, we’ll move back to the US, probably sticking to somewhere close to our families in NC and TN.
Doing more to do less
Over the past few years I’ve had to travel quite a bit for work. I guess some people enjoy that. Me, I’d rather be at home with my family or traveling with them. Or at the least doing it for a race. I normally manage to slip a nice run or two in when I travel, but I can assure you, a laptop and the inside of a meeting room look pretty much the same anywhere in the world. One of the primary places I’ve had to travel has been the UK. So by actually making the move I’ll be able to travel less and be with my family more. Just like a meeting room is no better anywhere else, time with my kids is no worse anywhere else.
I’ve also had to play a number of roles and take on responsibilities that would normally be distributed across quite a few jobs. That’s kind of the nature of an early-stage startup: there simply aren’t enough people for a normal breakdown of roles. By putting some focus on building the team, there will actually be other people and I’ll only have to do one job, again freeing me up to actually have more time at home.
Unfortunately, money actually is a thang
A main driver behind this decision is, unabashedly, an enormous financial opportunity. For years I have worked far beyond the “forty hour week for a livin” with a single goal in mind: to gain financial freedom and be able to then work on whatever I want whenever I want. I don’t want a yacht, or a Manhattan penthouse. I just want to be able to live a financially secure life out in the mountains somewhere and to send my kids to college (ok and a ski boat… I’d really like a ski boat one day). And once I reach that threshold I’ll turn my focus to things that I truly want to work on and that I see large societal value in, or that best enable me to support things providing societal value.
Now, without this going into a deep philosophical and psychological discussion, I know that that’s not the best approach for everyone. Some people can truly find something they’re excited about doing every day, have it make enough to support their family, and be happy doing it the rest of their lives. That, is awesome. For me, anything that I have to do is something that eventually I stop enjoying. Maybe it’s a childish “you can’t tell me what to do!” attitude, and maybe it’s a character flaw, but for me even with the best things I still need the power to occasionally say “no I don’t want to do that right now I’d rather try this other thing,” lest I become resentful of that thing I once loved doing. What I’m currently doing at Envelop is truly an interesting, challenging problem, but if I did not have to consider money at all then no it is not what I would work on the rest of my life.
And the approach I’ve taken is undoubtedly high-risk high-reward. There has always been a chance that things don’t work out, nothing ever takes off, and then I’m left looking back at a ton of work that was for naught and looking forward to at least a normal amount of work to continue making a living. But I view it somewhat similarly to setting my sights on something like Barkley, rather than a continual series of smaller more manageable goals. I’ve also been quite careful along the way to be sure that it’s only the outcome of that extra effort that’s unknown, though, without risking our day-to-day needs.
For the first time in this journey, I view this opportunity as having a high likelihood of success in getting us to that threshold of financial freedom in a good timeframe. This is the 5th loop. And this isn’t an opportunity that just falls out of the sky, or that can be found anywhere. It took a lot to get to this point: years of relentless work combined with being in some of the right places at some of the right times (I’ve been at this long enough to recognize that most of the time it does take that rare combination of effort + luck). So foregoing this opportunity would not only spit in the face of all the work I’ve done over the years, it would be passing over something that is highly unlikely to happen again.
Gotta see it through
As I mentioned earlier, there is a huge piece of me in this technology. At this point I feel more personally invested in it than I did in my dissertation. And I absolutely have got to see it through, if only for my own sense of responsibility and pride in my work. I wouldn’t want to sell someone a car that actually won’t run, and I certainly don’t want to pass off something I have built myself without personally ensuring that it’s in tip-top shape and can provide a stable foundation for the future.
A side-benefit is of course having a whole new continent to explore! We’d never uproot the whole family just for that and we do want to some day settle down somewhere for more than just 5 years, but we’ll definitely make the best of the move and look forward to new places, people, and cultures. I have some pretty exciting plans for races and other adventures out in brand new mountains, that we’ve aligned with family plans to explore the continent. And yes, I will still be returning to the US to race as well.
Our oldest kid is just old enough to appreciate and remember the experience. The twins aren’t quite there, but I believe that even just growing up knowing that they’ve had the experience will give them a broader perspective on the world. It will at least force them into the knowledge that there are places, people, and ways of life different than what they see in their immediately surrounding bubble, and I hope that it will lead to a curiosity to learn more.
Yes, we know about Brexit
This isn’t about venturing off to Europe or just up and leaving home. The prospect of moving across the ocean with 3 small kids to somewhere where we have no family or friends was honestly a bit terrifying. And while Jessi might think the thought of the kids developing British accents is cute, I plan on enforcing daily afternoon sessions of the Beverly Hillbillies and Hee Haw to ensure the kids don’t lose their cultural identity. 😉
In fact, there are many many reasons not to move: support systems, logistics, Brexit, driving on the left side of the road, learning those small differences in day to day life that can add up to big obstacles. We don’t even know yet if we’ll be able to bring our dog, who has been with us through Pittsburgh and DC since nearly day 1 of our marriage. If she can’t, she’ll be happy as can be staying with my parents on the farm, but it’s a pretty tough prospect for us.
There’s a common saying that when one door closes another opens, but the flip side of that is true as well. Once a door is chosen a lot of others likely close. The tradeoffs are something that Jessi and I have considered and discussed extensively, and we’ve come to the clear conclusion that this is the best decision for our family.
What about the Stanley Cup?!
The previous three places that I’ve lived (Raleigh, Pittsburgh, DC) have all won the Stanley Cup within a few years of my arrival. Unfortunately no NHL city put in a bid big enough for us to head there next, so we find ourselves going somewhere with no franchise (do they even play hockey in the UK?).
So what will happen to all of that hockey good luck? I’m not sure to be honest. A few years ago I attended my first ever professional soccer game, a match hosted by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. A year or two later Chelsea won the English Premier League. Like hockey, soccer (sorry, football) is a sport that I never cared about as a kid (I have horrible luck with the sports I actually cared about), so who knows… maybe there’s good fortune on the way for Bristol football fans? Or I guess there’s rugby too. Or cricket…