Do You Need To Move To The Valley?

Do You Need To Move To The Valley?

Do you really need to move to the valley?  I get asked this question a lot.  The better question should be – Why should you move?  Two years ago, on this day (Sep 1st) I boarded a plane destined to San Francisco with nothing more than a suitcase and a mountain bike.  I had no plan. I didn’t know anyone.  All I knew is that I wanted to be where all the action was.

Here are the reasons why.

To Play a Bigger Game

This is powerful, so read it slow.

“Are your goals worthy of your life?”

That was the question that got stuck in my head the summer of 2008.  Essentially, was I thinking big enough? Was I playing a big enough game?  Even though I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next, I knew I would figure it out and go big.

The great thing about San Francisco is you’re ALLOWED to think big. HUGE. Be Crazy!???

Imagine that.

Actually, if you don’t – people will question you on it. Why aren’t you going after a huge market? It’s the same energy / time, isn’t it?

The reality is, people here are playing big games and if you want to belong, you need to do the same.

It’s been quite liberating actually.

Scare Yourself Every Once In A While

If you don’t do something everyday that scares you, then you’re probably not pushing yourself far enough.

Here’s a simple exercise: Every time you buy something today, ask for a discount. Yep, everytime.  How do you feel? Scary right? Well, after a while – it goes away and you’ve grown as a person.

When I moved, I made myself a promise that I would continue to do so.  It’s gotten to the point now, that if I’m asked to do something, or go somewhere’s where I’m like “???? What, How, What do I say, etc” – I say YES by default.

Eventually I figure it out.

Yes, sometimes I fall flat on my face .. but overall I’m way ahead and probably learned the most about myself and the situation in those moments.

Moving to San Francisco was scary, but it was also one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.

Getting Advice From The Right People

Here’s a real simple question.  “What % of your conversations (or friends) are related to your startup / passions?”.  Since I’ve move to San Francisco – I would say for me, it’s easily 85%.  When I was in Moncton, NB (Canada), more like 5-10%!?

It’s not only the conversations, it’s the people.

I have a belief that you should ONLY seek advice from someone who’s DONE what you’re trying to accomplish.

That’s a huge idea if you think about it.

The beauty of this city is there’s an endless list of people who’ve already paved the road for you. It’s like everyones paying it forward.  It’s a beautiful thing.

If you can drink from the fire hose, the information and experience is here.  It’s intense and fun all at the same time, so be sure to set some time aside to actually DO. 🙂

(I would’ve love to list everyone who’s given me advice and pushed me forward over the past 2 years, but it would be huge.  If you got my email – you’re one of them.  Just wanted to say thanks!!)

Feeling Alive Everyday

When people ask how I like San Francisco, I always say “… out of 10, it’s like an 11”.  Honestly, it’s like they created a city around all my passions (startups, running, great food and snowboarding).

This city is full of amazing opportunities to experience the most ridiculous things in the world.

I remember one day I came out of my apartment and there was a group of 50+ people standing there not wearing any pants?!  I guess I didn’t get the memo re: Don’t Wear Pants Day.  Everything from Facebook F8 event to Bay to Breakers, this city will make you feel alive!

So What’s Next?

With things moving quickly at Flowtown, I don’t see myself doing much else.  I’m the type of guy that once I bite into something, I don’t let go.  Will I travel, yes.  Will I continue to advise startups, of course.

All I know is that I feel absolutely fulfilled right now, and want to keep that feeling.

So, with that – thanks for being a reader, supporter and friend.

If were friends, met in person, or even exchanged tweets, please leave a comment .. would love to hear from you.

Thank you.

  • Mark MacLeod

    Hey Dan,

    Totally respect your decision to move. Happy you’re there. There is no question the Valley is the Mecca and I know I would benefit from being there. For a bunch of reasons though, I decided to hang back and do what I can to make Montreal and Canada happen. I have no illusions. We will never be the Valley. But we can do great things.

    You remind me though, that I do need to come out your way more often.


  • Francine hardaway

    I think it is more about the people than the place When I started coming to the Bay Area regularly, I got that “ah, these are my people” feeling. I think everyone should do some time in the Bay Area to meet everybody. That is the most important part, because we are place-independent now, but we will never be people-independent:-)

  • Andres Max

    Nice piece of advice, I remember we talked about this when you were visiting Colombia. I wish I could move to the Valley =(

  • Ken Seto

    Hi Dan,

    Great post but as a fellow Canadian, I’m just wondering how complicated it is to migrate a company down there.


  • dmartell

    @Mark – yes, you do need to visit more often .. would love to have you around, so many people you need to meet!

    @Andres – you can 🙂

    @Francine 100% .. it’s all about the people. If you took us all and dropped us in Alaska, the same things would happen. Ideas / Passion.

  • Scott Lewis

    Nice post. The big games do sound fun. One more piece of weight added to my need to move.

    Thanks for writing!

  • Saif Ajani (Visibli)

    Happy to see your success in SF, Dan.

    Even happier to read, “Will I continue to advise startups, of course.” Thanks for remaining a huge Canadian flag-bearer, and appreciate all the help you provide.

  • Donald DeSantis

    Great post. I love SF and came close to moving down there two years ago. It doesn’t work right now, but I know it’s in the cards at some point. Until that happens, I’ve decided to start heading down every 4 – 6 weeks. First trip is in October. See you in fog 😉

  • dmartell

    @Scott see you here soon then.

    @Saif Thx man .. will do what I can. I’m 110% Canadian .. very proud – will continue to help build bridges between both communities.

  • dmartell

    @Donald smart re: coming down every 4-6 weeks .. just be sure to schedule in advance and have it set. That way people will expect you back and you’ll slowly become part of the community, even from afar.

  • Fredrick Nijm

    I agree 100% Dan. I decided to head to the valley and will be making it full-time later this year/early next year. I have come there a few times for Addoway and each time I am shocked by the quality of people, the conversation, and the knowledge you gain by just being around others that are driven, energy fueled and a dreamer like yourself.

    If you are a startup, then you need to be in San Fran.

  • Thomas Knoll

    Love you brother, and proud to call you a friend and colleague. I really miss hanging around flowtown with you and Ethan 3-4 days a week. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I miss SF. I had to go through some of my own soul searching to determine that I *could* step out of the valley for a bit and achieve some of my own goals. (Similar journey, different paths.)

  • dmartell

    @Fredrick I’m not 100% sure I agree you “Need” to be here – it’s just different, some may say easier. That being said, if you succeed here or a far, that was always going to be your outcome – maybe the scale would’ve been different a far?

    @Thomas I miss you too man – and as I said in my email .. thanks! For the insight, ideas and support – it means a lot.

  • Marcus Nelson

    I love your heart Dan — You nailed it.

    I’m from a small town in Wisconsin. I would fly back and forth, make some “Internet” friends, but whatever it is that the Valley does (inspire, meld, provoke, whatever), well it never really materialized until I moved here.

    It’s a different place. You can do things elsewhere, no doubt about that. But, if you’re not married yet, no kids, do yourself a favor: come out here for a few months, make some friends, learn a few things, expand your network of ‘real-life’ friends – then, after you’ve had a taste, take it elsewhere and infect those around you… make your own dent in the universe. 😉


  • Andre Charoo

    My sentiments exactly! Awesome post dude. Very much needed for every aspiring startup entrepreneur in Canada. I’m sharing this everyone I know!

  • keith

    Hi Dan
    Great post! you are an inspiration to me and others back home. I think the key is to think really BIG and we don’t do it enough in NB. See you someday, first I have to conquer Vancouver.

  • Kevin Leversee

    Dan, I could not disagree with you more. I actually moved From SF and Nor-Cal to Sydney end 2002 begining 2003, wherein I started my first Social Software Company building social networks. For me the Valley has its head in its ASS. I grew up there- everyone has these great ideas and everyone is the next Facebook.

    Australia takes the Piss, and that was exactly what I needed at the time, fresh after the hype an BS that is so common in the tech industry.

    For the past (almost 5 years now) I have lived in Manila, Philippines, focusing on technologies (built some cool stuff) and growing the Technology community here. (see Devcon)

    Manila has taught me Flat World- which is the opposite of like say moving to the Valley.

    While I am glad you are there- my Silicon Valley is Tweetdeck, Skype, Gtalk and WordPress.

    My business partner (Rajeev Kistoo) has an office in Mauritius and together we serve clients in UK, OZ, Asia and States.

    With our spare change- we throw out new brands and ideas.

    Living in Manila- has offered me this- think about how much restriction I would have if I still had to pay SF rent. My focus would be off of my innovation game and on my better make rent.

    Granted its been tough as hell here, Granted after 8 years abroad I am returning to SF.

    And I am open to the benefits that gives me- but seriously you’d have way more ‘Cred’ with me if this was about moving to India or Asia to innovate.

    The Valley is so Web Two Point Oh!


    See you guys soon

    Kevin Leversee

  • Arfan

    As Ken commented above wondering as well how complicated is it to move to San Francisco from Canada? What type of Visa’s are required? etc. Costly? I am thinking of moving there early next year but still have to start doing my research.

  • Pete Mauro

    I have thought about moving from LA to SF a lot in the past few years so it was interesting to hear your take on it. It’s a much harder decision with a family but still, I think that could be chalked out to doing someone scary.

    Starting Lean LA has been a great way to ensure that I am connected to smart entrepreneurs.

    I am going to start making regular trips staring this month so I will look ya up.

  • Mona Nomura


    I think we’ve (sorta) known each other for almost two years now and can’t believe I only met you in person -briefly- at Sx. It’s such a bummer to keep missing you but whatever. One of these days we WILL have sushi. Pinky promise, ok?

    Congratulations on your two year mark. You and SF are both better to have you there. Love seeing you grow as a person and an entrepreneur. Keep on hustlin’!

  • Elaine Shannon

    Thanks for sharing your story…I love the success that comes from bold dreams and tenacity. When you live your dream it gives the small fish that can’t move connections with the big fish.
    FYI…the Kennebecasis is also an awesome Valley and I love it here just as much!

  • Whit Scott

    I remember when we met by twitter through a friend, then at TC50, then lots of hanging out, which turned into you coming to my wedding and a last friendship.

    We’re so happy to have you out here, and I cant thank you enough for the support and encouragement you’ve given me over the past couple of years.


  • dmartell

    @Whit dido man .. glad to have you in my life – miss you!!! This weekends open – brunch in your hood?

    @Elaine you’re 100% right, the Kennebecasis is a beautiful Valley. Glad you enjoyed the post.

    @Mona we may have met once, but we’ve got a 2 year relationship going on. Twitter FTW! Can’t wait for meeting #2 (over sushi hopefully!)

    @Pete 🙂 “chalked out to doing someone scary” – someone? sure you meant “something” .. still mad me laugh (I know, I’m not one to talk – type / grammar issues galor). You should def come up more often .. just let me know and I’ll intro you to some of the people who’ve helped me along the way – all amazing people / entrepreneurs / friends.

    @Kevin I’m glad we disagree or this post would’ve turned into a love fest :-). However, you can’t argue that in person (not tweetdeck / skype) is were real relationships are formed.

    @Arfun @Ken hit me up via email – will make intro’s w/ suggestions.

  • Nathan Hangen

    I’ve got a friend that just moved to the area and he won’t stop telling me how great it is. I’ve been contemplating a move out there, but can’t seem to convince my wife 🙂

    Being around like minded people is a big deal though. Here in NC…most people aren’t too concerned with startups.

  • Scott Allison

    Love this post. You’ve captured beautifully why anyone building a startup should at the very least visit SF.

    I can’t wait for my next trip back to the bay area in the next few weeks!! 🙂


  • Jason Richard

    I am glad to hear that you feeling so fulfilled, not a lot of people can say that. Sometimes people just need to take the plunge. You make it sound so great in San Francisco; I am thinking about taking a trip there for a few weeks and see how things go. I love the start up mentality and passion. Nice Post.

  • Chris Advansun

    I needed to hear this today. Thanks, Dan.

  • Andrew Skotzko

    Slow getting to this post, but love it. Just one more reason why I know my next big move will be to SF…in the meantime, thankful to Pete Mauro & the Lean LA crew for what’s going on down here.

    Keep crushing it!


  • Neha Gupta

    Hi Dan,

    I am literally at that cross roads right now. I am interested in moving to San Francisco, and have loved the city for the past few months that I have been visiting.

    I love social media and the power that it has to call people to action. I hope a successful entrepreneur like yourself can give me advice, as I have been an entrepreneur and am interested in working on a team of like-minded people who love to work hard, roll up their sleeves, and aren’t afraid to try new things.

    I agree – it is important to scare yourself once in a while. If you don’t do it now, when will you do it? I constantly do a check every few months to re-evaluate my needs, and what I want out of my life. Sometimes, it is hard to do that as an entrepreneur.

    Hope you received my information, as I am interested in joining your team as a coach. I may have been on the sidelines in college for the football games on dance team, but I am ready to be your social media coach anytime!

    Hope all is well – and absolutely love your site, your passion, and interests. It would be an honor to be mentored by you!

    Neha Gupta

  • Jennifer Lum

    Dan – It was great meeting you last night. I agree with your post 100%….as a fellow Canadian who has been working with startups in the US since 2005.

    Good luck in growing Flowtown into a huge success. Canada represent!

  • Brandon Middleton

    Hey Dan,

    Great post!


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  • Chris Brisson

    It’s been at the forefront of my mind for 10 months now for my startup. Getting closer to making the move and the final decision to go…

    My company presented at Venture Beat’s, MobileBeat and wow I met some amazing people, great entrepreneurs, investor’s, and more.

    Great post Dan.


  • Sharon McIntyre

    Of course you’re Canadian!! 🙂 How could there have been any doubt. I’m a big fan and retweeter of your amazing infographics … but didn’t know you were a fellow canuck who’s also passionate about entrepreneurship. Twitter just suggested you as someone to follow today -indeed.
    Dan, I’m researching how location and surroundings influence the creativity and innovation of entrepreneurs – about to turn it into a doctorate study. Would love to interview you sometime. Your statement about valley vs. not-valley and “scale” perhaps being different is bang-on.

    Anyway – Go Flowtown! Go Canada! 😉
    hope to talk soon,
    Sharon aka Shazz

  • Rick Strohm

    Thanks for the inspiration Dan. Have wanted to move to SF for 30 years—the energy vibe, weather, progressive quality of thought all inspire. I am afraid. Stuck. At the moment ra and without resources from a devastating divorce. Have avery humble law practice in Phoenix, but I dislike it here.

    Tempted to put my few remaining things in storage and just show up. Maybe work the counter at Walgreens until I get a break, Afraid of taking and failing the California Bar. Right brain left brain turmoil.

    Suggestions? Stuff to read to help me? Maybe I could be somebody’s personal assistant? Lawyers solve problems and efficently get things done. Do that and work on my fiction writing?

  • dmartell


    Thanks for the comment, sorry to hear about the divorce.

    Here’s a few thoughts.
    1) Don’t sell yourself short .. you’re a lawyer and from your website, you seem sharp. I would try and get a job at a startup – it’s fun!
    2) Do it. If you think it’s a good idea, move.

    In regards to books, etc .. I do love to read but I also know you can’t learn how to surf by reading books.

    So, biggest feedback is to just do it and see what happens.

  • Daniele Calabrese

    Dan, really cool. Thinking exactly about this this morning while walking the dog in Washington DC. Tried San Francisco for over 1 year but did not get the right attitude. Ready to re-engage. Coming soon… Thanks for the food for thoughts. Meet you soon and congrats for FlowTown I met Ethan in January. I really liked the guys. I knew he would make it


  • Arfan

    Hi Dan,

    Sorry for such a late response! Just noticed now that you replied to my comment. I am trying to look for your Email but can’t seem to find it at all. I am actually following you on Twitter so you can probably just DM me your email @ArfanChaudhry Thanks!


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