When did you arrive in the United States, and why did you come?
I arrived in October 2008. Before moving to the United States, I was working for 21st Century Fox in London. It was a cold, rainy day; my soccer team, Watford, was losing; my terraced London house was cramped; and I received a phone call from my boss asking if I wanted to move to sunny Southern California to head up the studio’s mobile-business unit. It took me about three seconds to say yes. However, it did take a little longer to persuade my then-pregnant wife.
Title/Company: Chief executive and co-founder, Seriously, a mobile-game developer in Santa Monica
At the time, did you intend to eventually return to your home country?
I was thinking it might be a two- or four-year stay, per my initial contract with Fox. But I had started my own business in the United Kingdom when I was younger and I always wanted to have another go at that. California always appealed to me as a great place to build a company, so it was in the back of my mind that I might stay longer and eventually try to start a business again.
Why did you start your business in the United States instead of back home?
Los Angeles is the center of entertainment, and given the huge audience shift to mobile devices, I think what we’re doing challenges the traditional way Hollywood has been creating intellectual property over the last 50 years. I also think America has a great attitude toward entrepreneurs. The soul of this country is about building something amazing, and I have found that people here are very supportive of startups. In the United Kingdom, there has been a bit more skepticism toward people wanting to build new companies, although I think that attitude is changing now.
What’s the worst thing about starting a business here?
There’s a bit more paperwork and bureaucracy in setting up a business here than I imagined.
And the best?
The U.S. is set up to support fast-growing businesses. There is access to capital, great creative talent and people that really want to work at smaller companies and help build them.
Would you tell someone from your home country to start a business here or there?
I think there are advantages in both locations. London can be an expensive place to build a business and the United Kingdom is a smaller market than the U.S. That said, I think the U.K. will go through a startup renaissance over the next few years as London transitions into a technology hub.
What advice would you give someone from your home country about starting a business here?
I think the big difference is attitude. I find that in the U.S., people will support you and remain positive about your opportunity until proven otherwise. My experience in the United Kingdom was often the other way round: You have to prove yourself first.
Do you go back often?
I go back to London about three or four times a year, for both business and to visit family.
What did you know about the United States before coming here?
I had been here a lot before. I’ve worked for two American companies, and always loved the positivity that anything is possible.
How did that match with reality once you arrived here?
The funniest thing for me was actually translating American English into British English. There’s a definite difference. British-European communication tends to be pretty direct. In the U.S., you have to read between the lines a little bit more. But the attitude was always what I expected, with “Think big” and “Go for it” being at the core.
What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you as a foreign-born entrepreneur?
I guess I get some words wrong every now and again. I’ve always been used to wearing a sweater over my shirt, except in the U.K. we call a sweater a “jumper.” Different meaning over here, apparently.
– Howard Fine
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