Leaving San Francisco
It’s taken me a long time to be able to write this. As crazy time flies, it’s been close to a year since I left San Francisco, what had been my home on and off for 7 years. Leaving there officially October 17, 2017 in retrospect was the best thing I ever did. (If you don’t want to read the background skip down to “ripping off the bandaid”).
I first moved to San Francisco in March 2010, it was the next city on my “list” to try and the entrepreneurial capital of the country. I knew at some stage in my life I wanted to spend time there and learn. I had just gone through a painful breakup in Portland the December prior and felt it was time to go and expand my horizons in a new place. Portland had been my first city on the “list” after I left LA in 2008 after my divorce. I luckily had a job as a management consultant that didn’t care where I lived as long as I was near an airport.
The crazy years.... Climbing, Socializing, Exploring Single Life 2010-2011
My first year and a half in this city was a whirlwind. I only knew 2 people when I moved there and didn’t have an office to go to and so I made the most of my time when home to go explore all the city, surrounding nature, and people had to offer. I was training like crazy since I climbed Denali (highest peak in North America 2010), and had my first attempt on Everest 2011. My favorite training spot was the Lyon Street Stairs, which I would hit for hours at a time with my pack, many times after way too fun of a night out....added to the difficulty lol.
I got a real taste of single life and a city that I called “adult Disneyland,” or Never Never Land, full of Peter Pans not willing to grow up. I closed out my 20s and kicked off my 30s living this lifestyle, which in many ways was a blast, but in my heart I knew it was not forever, at least not for me. I saw a lot, experienced a lot, and opened myself up a lot to a new way of life.
Costume Parties- we all had a costume box for the next occasion
Training- running, hiking, stairs, tough mudder, and more
End of 2011-Summer of 2012, I left SF. I had had enough and it wasn’t home. I went back to Portland, got my heart smashed again upon arrival by someone else, got laid off from my consulting gig, tried to move to Australia and had a job offer fall through, so ended up in LA again. After 6 months, I was truly miserable and found work again in San Francisco. So back I went, quite reluctantly, but with an open mind to really jump into the world of Entrepreneurship. In my dream world, I wanted to move overseas-Australia preferably or Canada. At the time the visa situations were not cooperating with me.
The Hustle Was Real.
These years were the ones I learned what hustle and grit really meant. My heart was still recovering from my failed Everest attempt, I was trying to plan a way to go back in 2013, I had taken a consulting job that sucked my soul, but paid the bills and let me have time in the city to focus on launching my first company Altitude Seven (now closed and merged with She Ventures).
2012-2013 was spent training and trying to find investors. It felt hopeless so many times and I don’t remember how many meetings I took and had “NO” said to my face. I had a couple of “investors” say they were in at one point and then backed out, only to fund another company with a similar model/concept after looking at my deck. Thanks to two friends I was able to go back to Everest April 2013 for a second attempt and I summitted May 21, 2013.I am forever grateful for them believing in me, their patience with me, and their love and support.
Try. Fail. Get Up. Try. Fail. Get Up. ON REPEAT. Coming back from Everest was euphoric, but coming back to the life I was living was demoralizing to say the least. It’s not what I wanted to be doing with my life-I wanted to be an entrepreneur, I wanted to be of service to women, I wanted to get more people on adventures because I know it changes lives. Instead I came back to my meaningless consulting job looking around and knowing I had to find another way to live.
In retrospect, these feel like years of self destruction. I was going to “make shit happen” at all costs. Altitude Seven went through at least 3 pivots. I probably took at least 100 meetings a year trying to get investment, applied to every accelerator, went to every meetup event for founders you could think of. My last two years my average sleep time was 3-4 hours a night as I worked full time as a management consultant and ran Altitude Seven full time as well. I was getting nowhere, despite how hard I was working, pushing, and sacrificing my own wellbeing. I gained a ton of weight and felt my worst ever as a human, as a woman.
I mean, my face even made it to the center of Times Square! Ha, in the end that also delivered zero in terms of moving the company forward or having investors believe in what we were building.
Ripping off the Bandaid
I gave myself 2017 to “make or break it.” I was SO done with the city and lifestyle, but I owed it to myself to give it my all one last go before throwing in the towel. I got featured in Intel that year, got accepted to the NASDAQ Milestone Makers Program, brought on a new board of advisors, and so I was better equipped than ever before. I also had an independent consulting role that would help support me through summer, after that I would be all out of resources (savings included).
The Last Straw
May-September were the final months of personal destruction. NO that is not an exaggeration. The universe was now starting to SCREAM at me leave, choose a new path, this is done. Me being me though, I wasn’t going down without a fight.
I met a lot of real investors claiming to be pro “diversity” and “women” , but it was a bunch of BS. They basically needed to show that they had met with enough people that met this category. AKA wasted my time.
A great example was when A16 (Andreessen Horowitz) hosted a “diversity” pitch event and NONE OF THEIR PARTNERS SHOWED UP! Yup, they just hosted us in their fancy office and served wine and nibbles to “support” us but they did NOT SHOW UP. What does that say about the integrity of this firm? Also, the last meeting I had there I got to witness 3 “bros” chest bumping each other on their way out celebrating how they “killed it” and landed funding. Quality, I mean Quality, future leaders of the world right there.
You don’t have the ‘pedigree’. - This was apparently the main reason we didn’t get funding. I admit I was a bit shocked when I first heard the term, was I fucking Dog? Pedigree, WTF. So when I asked for clarification, here is what I got:
Have an MBA, but not from Harvard, Stanford, you know?
You are not married to anyone in the ‘pedigree;
Your parents are not associated with the ‘pedigree’
You have not worked for Google, Facebook, or Twitter.
So here a self made woman, who had put herself through undergrad and business school at University of San Diego and Loyola Marymount University was not enough. A woman born to immigrant parents form Nicaragua and El Salvador who did the best they could to give me a better life, was not enough. A woman who had consulted senior executives at Walmart, Bacardi, McKesson, HBO, The Gap, Gruppo Ferrar, and the list goes on around the world...was not enough. A woman that had been the founding team member of a previous real estate start up in LA and been the critical point to raise 20 million, was not enough. A woman who has climbed some of the highest peaks in the world, was not enough. A woman building a company to help elevate the presence of other women around the world, was not enough. So basically, no matter what I did or built or created, I was not going to be “enough” or worth “funding” because I did not have some frankly ridiculous “pedigree”.
Liars and Cheaters
In April I started talking to Quintype, which then started Higher Order VC. These guys lead me on for 4 months, knowing I was on my last bit of personal funds. They threw out a verbal term sheet saying their lawyer would have it to me in a week. In the meantime they had me working with their team and designers as they would be coming in as an investor and “technology partner”. 2 months later I had enough and asked them to come clean. I got this email, that to this day shocks me at the lack of ethics some people can have. It said that they had actually already been working on a similar concept as to my company and that they had a new proposal.
Here is the proposal:
Option I: Equity Swap
Awayra (Their New Company)
Option II: Single Entity
ESOP Pool: 18%
Their closing words, “Our recommendation is option II as it gives us a single platform to put all our energies into. Let us discuss both these options - close the deal - and get to the next steps of raising money + putting a team together + getting work done.”
So basically, they had nothing but my platform and roadmap and they wanted me to come in and do it for them and lose my company in the process. To this day, they have done nothing with this new company.
That did me in, as I was out of funds to survive and the thought of going through this process with another “investor” was unthinkable at this time.
Giving Up The Rent Controlled Apartment.
To top things off, 2 weeks later my 2006 Acura TL almost blew up with me in it due to a defect with the radiator and power steering pump. I luckily had gotten over the Bay Bridge and was able to pull off the road and get a ride to make it to my meeting. YES, I still made it to my meeting after almost blowing up in my car. On the tow ride to my mechanic, I told the driver I had to take a call and apologized for being rude in any way. I got off the call and he was like, “damn girl, you a hustler, you could have died in your car today and your are still carrying on and making shit happen like nothing!” At that moment, I decided to put notice on my SF Apartment. I would have to be out end of September, where to, who knew, but it was time. Universe, I get it! Who was I anymore? This wasn't living.
Other Reasons To Leave:
Cost of Living- Let’s face it, it was outrageous and getting me nowhere in terms of financial stability
Soulless- The city changed a lot since I arrived in 2010. It’s lost its artsy, bohemian vibe, and turned into tech nerd central. Focus shifted to money and power as a measuring stick for success sprinkled with loads of “find yourself” and “transformational” events and festivals, when really, finding yourself is a daily job driven by love and compassion. Things that lacked here as a whole on the day to day. Go “find yourself” everyday and live your life fully with love in your heart, please don’t wait for an event or festival to do that.
Dating- WORST PLACE ON EARTH. I will leave it at that.
A Warped Bubble- SF is its own bubble. It’s removed from reality in terms of how most people live. The city is gentrified, homogeneous, unconcerned with solving real problems of the world and focused more on building meaningless apps. Homelessness is a real problem, but highly ignored, despite how much wealth is generated there.
This is not Entrepreneurship- SF is not teaching and grooming entrepreneurs to grow meaningful businesses. It is breeding an incestuous pool of pedigree people to build things at scale to cash out. This is not sustainable. This is not what it means to be an entrepreneur.
It’s not Home- I could say a lot of things, but at the end of the day my heart was not at home there. Never was.
I Lost My True Essence- By the time I left, I was completely burnt out. I was sleep deprived, nutritionally deprived, soul deprived. My adventure life was minimal, my body unrecognizable to me, and I would tear up on a moments notice from flat out feeling distressed. Georgina's essence had been lost in the "hustle". That enough was reason to go. She was there, just buried and waiting to be awakened again.
The Good Parts-Leaving with Love and Compassion
I wrote a lot of negative things, but I have to say I left SF feeling loved by some of the amazing humans that had entered my life. You know who your friends are when you are on the ground and losing everything you had worked so hard for. They look to you with love and compassion and no judgement.
So Thank You to these amazing humans and communities! I know I will have missed people, but if you have ever shown me love and kindness, know in my heart I will always be thankful.
Covo- My coworking space that kept me sane and became my family. I am so thankful for you always in my heart forever. Covo offered me a scholarship to work from their space, their founders and community were there to dry tears and help me come up with solutions to keep going, I continue to be connected to them no matter where in the world I am. They helped me keep going when I really didn’t think I could. If you need a coworking space in SF, Check them out! So much love to you!
Latino Startup Alliance- Jesse Martinez. You’re belief in Latinos’ ability to change the world and do everything in your power to support them is like no other. You were one of my biggest cheerleaders and I am so grateful for you and for encouraging me not to give up and still supporting me whenever you can. I owe you amigo for life!
My friends, for being there for fun times and remind me there was life outside of my “startup.” Too many to list but: Sara, Jenny, Alyson, Jackie, Craig, Jessica, Candice, Jake, Nikki, Robin, Sandra, Rupy, Rachel, Eline, Michael, Nilofer, Silvia, Marisela, Martha, Andrea, Covo Peeps, and so many more. THANK YOU for helping me sprinkle in fun and craziness when I needed it most. Thank you for showing compassion and love when my soul needed it most too.
Nature- SF has wonderful nature all around and I was grateful to hike, run, bike so many trails and ski in Tahoe and visit Yosemite and more. I loved having the mountains and ocean so close by. I miss that no doubt.
SO SF Goodbye. You were a teacher. I know in my heart our time was through. I will take your lessons with me where I go next in the world. I am excited for a new chapter and new beginnings, living life more aligned to my true essence- Love, Social Impact, Real Entrepreneurship, Seeing The World, Working with Different Cultures, Enjoying Life and Not Making Everything About the Hustle. Choosing adventure and wellness as a way of life. I also know I am enough, although your f'd up systems tried to make be believe I wasn't. In a way you helped me reclaim my self-worth by trying to crush it.
Oh and Tim Ferriss left SF too. Learn why here.
This is a part of a 3 part series. Stay tuned to the next part: The Road to Healing.