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How to sell yourself in America: Russian woman on moving to San Francisco and the secrets of building a business

The co-founder of the language school search service Marina Moghilko moved to San Francisco from St. Petersburg in 2015 year at the invitation of the accelerator 500 startups. Now 50 is working in her company, she has five channels on Youtube and a total of 800 thousands of subscribers in social networks. Marina told Rusbase About her life and work in San Francisco, she identified three things that everyone who wants to transport business to the United States needs to know, and she also shared the secrets of the perfect pitch for investors.

Photos from the personal archive of Marina Mogilko

About moving

In psychological terms, the move I was given elementary. Since 2013, I've been in love with a country with sunny California, Silicon Valley, and Hollywood. I think it really helped to adapt. Because I had great pleasure in sorting out the filling out of tax forms and registering a company, which a normal person probably wouldn't want to do. And while I filled all these strange migration forms, it really seemed like I was fulfilling my dream.

In financial terms, the move was, of course, difficult - this is one of the most expensive places on the planet. When we arrived three of us with co-founders, we barely rented a one-room apartment for $ 2500. And it was really hard until the investments were transferred to us - it became easier with them.

Photo: @linguamarina

In everyday terms, there are plenty of opportunities for new arrivals. For example, you can go to the store where people rent out their old furniture, and furnish the whole apartment for 200 dollars. In this case, you will have a leather sofa, a carpet of fur, and more. A very large rotation - people come and go, but the furniture remains. Once we just walked down the street and saw: there is a table, in excellent condition. Returned by car and taken away.

We bought the same car for 2700 dollars - the old policeman Ford Police Interceptor. A normal person here will not take this. And for startups who need to ride something for at least the first six months, this is generally a great life hacking.

How to find accommodation

We just went to the houses where the delivery announcements hung. When owners give up apartments, they usually look for an American with a rich credit history and are not very fond of tourists. All of us then were still tours, so we entered the house, the owner of which rents the apartment himself, knowing that he can make concessions. We provided a letter from investors, and that was enough - we were given an apartment.

About bureaucracy

We used only the services of a lawyer to open a legal entity in the United States. This is a rather subtle point, and if you start it at the beginning, in a couple of years you can get 30-40 thousand dollars. Therefore, we have chosen a professional.

We got a bank account for the company using 500 Startups: they introduced us to the manager of Silicon Valley Bank, where we opened an account. In this case, we have never been in the bank - just met with a representative in our office.

And everything else - yourself. As I say, the best time to move with a technology company in the United States is to go through an accelerator. Because there they will answer absolutely all questions.

About assimilation

I think it happened literally 10 minutes after arrival. I had no problems. Initially, we communicated only with the guys from 500 Startups, and then met with [co-founder of the Chatfuel company] Dima Dumik. He had already accelerated and brought us together with the Russian guys in the valley. They turned out to be absolutely incredible entrepreneurs. We still communicate and make friends, because everyone at one moment moved to 2015, everyone got together visas and green cards.

About the main difficulties

The unpleasant moment is visas. We first received visas O1 (extraordinary talent), and then - green cards. Each time it is a red tape with documents, big expenses for a lawyer, translation of articles that have been written about us, into English, and so on. I would not call it complexity. It's just a process that you have to go through if you want to be here.

Photo: @linguamarina

The real difficulty is finance. At first it was not very comfortable to rent a one-room apartment for 2500 dollars and at the same time live in it together. We tried to save absolutely everything. Coming with Russian incomes to the valley, you face the fact that here the level of income is completely different.

About working day

Morning usually begins with a connection with a team from Russia. We communicate until noon, and after that I allot a couple more hours to consultations with clients. I tell you how to enroll in US universities, how to get funding and which program to choose. After lunch, I have time for myself. This could be a grocery hike, home chores and meetings here in San Francisco.

The golden hour starts from 3 to 6 in the evening, when the sunshine is the softest and most natural. Therefore, at this time I am shooting content for Youtube. In the evening I have dinner, I go to the sport. We have yoga in our house, stretching, there is a gym with a swimming pool.

Marina shows the house and pool. Source: Youtube

Somewhere after 8 in the evening it is time for Instagram. I choose the photo I took on the weekend, write a post to it and post it. It takes me an hour. And approximately at 9-10 of the evening, communication with our Russian-speaking team in Moscow begins again. In the afternoon, during the breaks, there is still communication with the team in America.


Photo: Youtube


About the Russian startup party

It so happened that we all have completely different businesses. Brothers Lieberman has the concept of an open world, an open bank (David and Daniel Lieberman are co-founders of the Brothers Ventures Foundation and the Frank.Money service - ed.). They make connections very well and can help with this. Dasha Shapovalova - cofounder of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Ukraine. She knows everything about fashion and now does great interviews with famous people in America. Nastya Sartan is also involved in fashion (Anastasia Sartan - the creator of the epytom bot, who gives advice to the stylist - ed.).

We all had the same problems at some point. We grow our companies, learn to optimize. It turns out such a cool hobby group.

Is it worth it to move?

This question everyone should ask himself. I am a blogger - I need constant content. I am an entrepreneur - I need to be in this crowd all the time. I have an international business - I need to be in a country from which it is easy to do business with the whole world. Therefore, for us, founders, the unequivocal answer is yes. For everything else, you have to decide for yourself.

3 plus life in San Francisco

  • The first - awesome climate.
  • The second is the concept of houses where everything is there. In the house where we live, there is a coworking, conference rooms, a place for receiving guests, a swimming pool, a gym, where yoga and stretching teachers come. In general, you can not go out at all.

The house in which Linguatrip co-founders Marina Moghilko and Dmitry Pistolako live. Photo: Youtube

  • The third plus of living in San Francisco is that here, in fact, is the center of a technological get-together. When you look at some company and you like it, it often turns out that its main office, its founder is across the road. And if you need to get to know him, then a couple of handshakes are enough for you to be introduced to each other.

Photo: @linguamarina

  • In addition, I like that there are no vacations here - everyone is constantly working. I do not know how it is correct. But from the point of view of running a business, this, of course, has a very positive effect on the development of the company.
  • I also like the fact that there is an understanding of a contractor here: for example, in Russia, if you want to pay a person, he must issue an IP. Here, if a person wants to become an entrepreneur, he just suddenly decides for himself that he is now an individual entrepreneur. And it can work under a contract, which is very convenient.


3 minus life in San Francisco

The first minus is the cost of living. The second - the homeless on the streets, especially in the center, and they are not relocated. The third minus - to Peter from here to fly hours 16, with transfers. This is very far.

What did you not know about the USA when you moved?

  • Entrepreneurs can get a visa for talented people.

I did not know that a visa for talented people is not only for those who have a Nobel Prize. In reality, half of Silicon Valley is sitting on this visa. At first, according to lawyers, the procedure seemed very complicated. But when you find the right lawyer, you understand that this is just a formality that can really be solved.

  • We were surprised that the Internet is slow in the valley.

There is a provider Comcast, he is a monopolist. Many homes simply do not change the wires and cables, everything in them is outdated and works very slowly. Fortunately, we now have a house in which there is an excellent Internet.

  • Rental prices.

Our move was swift - we got an offer from 500 Startups, and we flew out to San Francisco the next day. When we had literally a few hours before departure, I looked at the cost of rent. On Airbnb, it was possible to rent a small truck and live in it for 90 thousand rubles per month. I thought, “It’s probably just an Airbnb, and they have a wild markup. We will come - everything will be different. ” Arrived - it turned out, 2500 - this is a real minimum that you can count on.

Marina Mogilko in her apartment in San Francisco. Photo: Youtube

And we lived in a valley, that is, an hour from San Francisco. In the city itself a decent studio apartment will cost 4 thousands of dollars.

About the business habits of Americans

Americans can smile in your face, say that you are awesome, everything is cool, and you can never answer your email in general. That is, they can not always clearly and directly give feedback. Here, people are taught this way: you need to be careful, nice and kind.

When I was studying to be a director and had to lead a team, I communicated with them "in Russian". I said: “Listen, why are you walking so slowly? Let's get out of here faster… ”- well, just like we communicate in Russia. This is not acceptable in America. The teacher constantly came up to me and said: “Marin, if you want him to move, you need to say:“ Excuse me, please, I'm very sorry to disturb you, but could you just step back for a second? We'll shoot the scene now, and come back, otherwise you are in my frame. ”

This applies to everything. For example, an investor can tell you: “Listen, awesome project! Everything is so cool. Unfortunately, we don’t invest in this a little bit, because we like it better when the funder already has three businesses. ” Or start to carry some kind of nonsense. And you understand that the reason is most likely another. What business do you have - nothing at all. Or there is some thing that does not suit him, but he will never say that. And I don’t know what is better: on the one hand, when you are constantly told the hard truth, it is very demotivating. On the other hand, when all the time in the face just smiling and do not give any specifics - also hard.

Photo: @linguamarina

I also notice that in America business correspondence is always very short, clear and to the point. That is, in 500 Startups we were immediately taught: if you write to someone, write one line about what the company is doing, and three numbers - the three main metrics. The rest does not interest anyone, save the time of others. I often do business with the UK. There the letter can be on two pages, and the essence boils down to the same three words. In America, everything is super-simple, super-fast, super-short. In the email on the formalities of time do not spend.

The perfect pitch formula, or how to “sell” yourself in America

The formula for the perfect pitch depends on the person. Recently there was an awesome example: we met an investor in our house at a party that we organize once a week. I say: “We are engaged in LinguaTrip. This is a platform for booking study abroad. ” Zero reaction. Then: "We have such a revenue." He is already a little interested. Then I say: "I have 800000 subscribers in social networks." He immediately gives me his business card, like let's go.

Photo: @linguamarina

Sometimes they are absolutely indifferent to followers and more interested in revenue. As soon as they hear our numbers, they immediately become animated and want to talk more. Therefore, always prepare a description of your company for three seconds and the three best facts about yourself or your team. Throw them out at the investor one after another, be short and do not immediately try to sell them something.

Another very important formula: make contacts, be friends with everyone. Some investors talked with us for a year before investing. Do not demand money immediately. If he is interested, he will propose and call you to the meeting. There all and discuss.

3 things you need to know to anyone who wants to transport a business in the US

first - it is to come here with a product that makes money. Trying to survive here with a loss-making company is completely wrong.

Second - a startup that makes money and knows how to scale it - often a curiosity in the valley. Most startups in the valley, no matter how much money they raised, in the end it’s still unprofitable and invest everything in growth. If you come with a working product, you have strong numbers and you know how to make them even bigger, then many doors will be open for you here.

And the third: Of course, you need perfect English. You must understand that when you come to the USA you are already a foreigner - you have a different culture, you say a little bit wrong. I mean the things that you present are different from what Americans are taught to do. Cultural differences will be everywhere. If you also have an incomprehensible language that an investor will have to decipher in his head, there will be too many “buts”.

Read also on ForumDaily:

Moving to the USA: work, pitfalls and the American dream

“In the US, you are nobody, everything has to start all over again”: Russian woman about life in America

Why do immigrants return home

How the Russian inventor received $ 6 million from Apple and a call to Silicon Valley

Registration in the USA: is it possible to live in America without documents?

Why are our in the US always unhappy with everything

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