When did you arrive in the United States, and why did you come?
I’d been coming to Southern California for several years and fell in love with the area. Each time I visited Los Angeles I stayed longer and I knew one day I would live here and start something new and exciting. The big move eventually took place in 2012 after I had sold my last business and suddenly had the time and resources. In early 2013, I got involved in the crowdfunding space and co-founded Tubestart.com, the world’s first crowdfunding platform that focuses exclusively on film and video projects.
Title/Company: Chief executive, Tubestart.com, a crowdfunding platform for media projects in Santa Monica
At the time, did you intend to eventually return to your home country?
I have been an expat most of my adult life, having lived and worked in amazing places like Sydney, Berlin, Zurich, Panama and now Santa Monica. I may eventually go back one day, but for the foreseeable future Los Angeles is home.
Why did you start your business in the United States instead of back home?
The problem in Austria is that there’s no support for startups, entrepreneurship and innovation; no incubators, accelerators, angels or VCs of any meaningful magnitude. The talent’s there but if you think getting your innovative idea funded in the U.S. is tough, try Austria. Also, since my early days as an Internet entrepreneur, I had a strong U.S. focus, as it has always been the most lucrative market on the Internet and the source of all major innovations, usually from some California startup out of someone’s mom’s garage. What excites me about this place is how even the seemingly craziest idea can become a reality here and that it’s OK to dream big. As an entrepreneur, I feel much more understood here than I do back home.
What’s the worst thing about starting a business here?
Without a doubt, the visa process. It was insanely tedious and expensive. My application file was some 400 pages strong, and including lawyers, assessments, tests, flying back and forth, and the hoops they made us jump through, it cost the equivalent of an Italian sports car before we had written a single line of code for our new business.
And the best?
The best part was everything that followed: I found great co-founders, partners and advisers. We’re taking investors on board and we’re grinding away on our own version of the American dream every day.
What have been the biggest surprises?
How much bureaucracy exists here. I thought that was an Austrian phenomenon.
Would you tell someone from your home country to start a business here or there?
That’s tough. If a reported 90 percent of U.S. tech startups fail, imagine how much harder it is for a foreigner to come here, with no support network or business connections and maybe very limited funds. To stand a chance you have to be well funded, lightning fast at learning how things work in a new environment, quite risk tolerant and somewhat crazy.
What advice would you give someone from your home country about starting a business here?
Do it! Nothing is worse than not following your dreams. Make sure you are well funded though: This place is not cheap. Take your total budget and add another 50 percent for delays and unforeseen expenses.
Do you go back often?
Not often enough. We try to go back twice a year but startups tend to not respect holidays. So my beautiful wife, Dalara, has to go back way too often without me.
What did you know about the United States before coming here?
Before I ever came to the U.S., I dated a girl from L.A. in my hometown of Graz when I was 18 years old. So I guess I was more exposed than others to the American way of life early on.
What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you as a foreign-born entrepreneur?
How many times my name has been misspelled or simply changed. I always thought Josef Holm was fairly simple but I’ve been called everything from “José F” to “Mr. Holmes” to “Jeff.”
– Sandro Monetti
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.
Stories You May Also Be Interested In
- SPECIAL REPORT: Marc Mertens
- Immigrant Entrepreneurs: Andrew Stalbow
- Immigrant Entrepreneurs: Moving Up in World
- Immigrant Entrepreneurs: Winter Wong
- SPECIAL REPORT: Addison McCaleb
- Immigrant Entrepreneurs: Richard Koffler
- Twenty In Their 20s: JILLIENE HELMAN
- Online Video Producers Turn Focus on Super Fans