I met Elena Mosko, CEO and Founder of Globiana, for lunch in Palo Alto, the heartland of California’s booming tech industry. Russian-entrepreneur Elena and her international team are transforming the world of global mobility through their online platform and coaching program for expat spouses. Relocating to a new country is a bold move for any family, but expat spouses face particular challenges. Globiana is the first to provide tech-enabled support for spouses, as part of a relocation package.
We discussed everything, from why expat spouses need support, to California’s start-up culture, and of course, cheesecake!
Why and when did you move to the USA?
I moved to the USA from Russia in 1990 as a graduate student. My plan was to stay for two years and then move to Europe or back home – I never had any plans to live here long term. But, love conquers all! I met my husband towards the end of my graduate program and before I knew it I was mother to three wonderful boys, living in Silicon Valley. So, I came for education and stayed for love.
What gave you the inspiration for Globiana?
When I arrived here I met a French woman called Mireille. She had been living in the US for 15 years but she remembered just how tough it is to move from another country. She was like a big sister – she explained how things work, showed me the ropes, and introduced me to people. I was so lucky to meet her – it would have been a much harder transition without her and I’ll always be grateful to her for that.
But it was pure chance that we met, and in the twenty-first century it’s not right that newcomers have to rely on the kindness of strangers to have a positive experience. Once I’d adapted to life in Silicon Valley I started small groups to support people moving here from other parts of the world. While their partners are at work expat spouses are expected to find schools, housing, childcare and a job of their own, all in a country where they don’t know the system and may not speak the language.
The support groups were great, but I wanted to do something bigger and use technology to reach expat spouses beyond Silicon Valley.
When did you decide it was time to quit your day-job and start Globiana?
I’m an idealist – I want to make a difference in peoples’ lives. And I realized that I had to make a decision: did I want to spend the rest of my career in corporate America, making money but not making a difference, or did I want to take a risk and do something that really matters?
I kept talking to expat spouses about their experiences and nothing was changing – they were still really struggling in their new lives. Eventually my frustration got to a tipping point. Something had to be done and I had to do it.
What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur?
My team. I am privileged to work with an incredible group of professionals who are all 110% behind the mission of Globiana. They have lived and travelled all over the world so they know what it’s like to be a newcomer and it’s often said that no one can support expat spouses like expat spouses.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give an expat spouse embarking on a new journey?
You can’t do this alone, so make an effort to go out and meet new people. But when you do make sure you discriminate between people who help you progress, make you stronger and empower you, and people who may perpetuate negativity and isolation. There’s a saying: misery loves company. So if people are being negative, or bringing you down, they’re not the people you need. Find the right people, connect with them and let them help you. And of course: insist that your spouse’s employer includes Globiana services in the relocation package!
What shocked you most when you moved to the United States?
I found peoples’ attitude to food really surprising. They were so wasteful. I had a privileged life in Russia, but my parents both experienced hunger as children so they had huge respect for food. At the end of a meal here, I would watch in shock, as people tossed bread in the trash, just because it wouldn’t be as fresh the next morning.
The portion sizes here were also unbelievable. I remember ordering a cheesecake in a restaurant. When it arrived I thought I’d be sharing it with other people, but there was just one spoon. This enormous slice of cheesecake was just for me!
What are your favorite things about living in the Bay Area?
Redwoods and start-ups: redwoods fascinate me: take me to Muir Woods and I’m in heaven. I have read so much about these trees – how they function and support each other is just incredible – I love that California is home to so many of them.
And I feel so lucky to be living in such an incredible entrepreneurial culture. I don’t know any other place where a foreign-born woman in her fifties could start and grow a company engaging with major players in the corporate HR and global mobility space. This is one huge incubator for business ideas and we all need to appreciate how unique that is.
Is there anything you still miss from home?
I miss the kitchen-table conversations in Russia. Family and friends used to talk until 2 or 3 in the morning, eating and drinking in someone’s home. By the time you got up from the table you’ve spoken and you’ve been heard and you’ve received advice and there’s no hourly rate! It’s like therapy without the leather couch.
Where do you see Globiana in two years?
My dream for Globiana is to be a go-to business solution for expat family support. With the growth we anticipate and the right partnerships in place, we hope to be able to make a difference for expat spouses, no matter where they are in the world.
The spouses are speaking up about their unmet needs, the right technology has arrived, the industry is ready for a change and the future is bright!