Slovak designer chases California dream

A 19-year-old student has drawn the attention of California startups through a provocative website and will soon leave his life in Prague to work at a new company in the United States.

From Berlin to Pristina, Europe is an active place where tech companies are trying to find their footing. Still, nearly all of these companies look to Silicon Valley for inspiration. That’s where some of the biggest names in the tech community come from. Perhaps it doesn't come as any surprise that a 19-year-old Slovak Web designer took a few days out of his final exams in January to create The site helped him pitch himself online to various tech companies and this spring will be headed to California.

To learn more, DW spoke with the site's creator, Filip Santa.

Digital Europe | 04.04.2012

Santa's site, got him a lot of attention online

DW: So why did you create this website?

Filip Santa: I was studying at university in Prague and then a couple of days before Christmas I saw an offer from a designer from Slovakia working in Silicon Valley. I applied, and he wrote back, saying that they already had a bunch of designers.
I thought I probably won't be the only designer and maybe I won't be the one with the best portfolio, so I decide to create something to make me different and make me stand out of the crowd. And it worked.

You said you've been daydreaming about Silicon Valley for three years, what do you imagine it will be like?

I guess it will be working on startups most of the time, like 24/7. Some open-minded company culture, not working 9 to 5, but more open than that - waking up at noon and staying up late. I guess I will like it. Just working on startups all the time.

As you know, there are lots of cities in Europe - especially Berlin - that have a startup culture. It would be easier for you to stay in Europe. What is it about Silicon Valley that's different than what you're leaving behind in Europe?

I guess it's history. It's history in the industry. A bunch of companies were created there. It has a huge history in innovation and technology. That's probably what makes Silicon Valley stand out in the crowd. Why America and why not Europe? America is a single market, of 300 million people...

But so is Europe. The European Union has 300 million people too.

Yeah, but you have different nationalities and different cultures. In America you have 300 million people who are the same people. You create something, and right after, you have 300 million people to sell it to. That's what I was fascinated by, when three years ago, when I was in America for half a year. There's a huge potential to create something successful.

Silicon Valley is the home of the world's hottest tech companies, including Apple, Google and Facebook

You said on your website: ‘I love my student and freelance life. However, I feel it's time to step the game up and become a part of something bigger. This could be the once-in-a-lifetime chance, so if you choose me, I'll drop out of university, leave my student life behind and fly to Cali to chase my dreams.' After your site launched in January, how long did it take you to get your first offer?

It took three days. For the first two days, it was seen just by five people a day, because I had sent it to one designer where I was applying for an internship, and then he tweeted it, and it spread around the world and the traffic started to grow, and I started to receive the first offers just three days after the launch. I got offers from all kinds of companies, big companies and also from small startups, very early stage companies.

Can you give us an example?

Twitter was the biggest name. Or, WhatsApp, the application for smartphones used by 50 million people, or The Next Web, or Sprint. I decided to join a startup from the 500 Startups Accelerator, run by Dave McClure.

What's the name of the company that you're going to work with and what will you be doing for them?

I'm a bit careful, and won't reveal the name of the company yet. But I can tell you the reason I chose them is because the guys who founded the company are college drop-outs, who left just to found the company. The average age in the company is 21, so they're in my age, so it will be fun working with them. They're doing some social media, and they have a product that works on Facebook.

Interview: Cyrus Farivar
Editor: Sean Sinico

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