From Small Town to Silicon Valley

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I grew up in a small town in Ontario Canada called Port Hope. With a whopping 16,214 residents, it’s the furthest thing from a bustling hub.

As each city has its own unique landmark or claim to fame, so does quaint and quiet Port Hope. It’s just so happens to be ….drumroll here… Uranium deposits.

Back in the day this kind of thing wasn’t completely abnormal or frowned upon, for that matter. Only in this case, the miscommunication lead to radioactive waste being given away freely for new housing construction. Waste was also buried in local parks, ravines, industrial sites, the harbour, streets and backyards.

The Toronto Star once heralded “Relocating the entire town of Port Hope is the only way to escape health risks.”

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An 1976 airborne gamma ray spectrometric survey by the Geological Survey of Canada

That was back in 2010 and Port Hope is still very much around. I go back every year for Christmas.

I have fond memories of hanging out at that harbour, climbing local trees in the park and drinking a cool glass of tap water after a long day. Realistically I should have superpowers.

Luckily Port Hope has some other redeeming factors. Thank goodness, right?

That’s so…
Once a year an outdoor community event becomes the buzz of the town. It’s no ordinary BBQ or festival. It’s called “Float your Fanny Down the Ganny” and it is as exactly as you’re picturing it in your head, and more.

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Alone or in a team, your goal is to build a raft made of whatever you can find at Home Depot that you think will float. Next, load it up and push it onto the Ganaraska River, and pray.

It’s no short journey either.

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Needless to say, people take it quite seriously.

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Something Port Hope folks also take quite seriously is antiques. There are more antique stores than pharmacy and grocery stores combined.

Made of 100% Geek
At the epicenter of all antiques stores is Primitive Design. They take nerding out quite seriously there, as per this handbuilt Optimus Prime.

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You can make truly can make something from anything — Primitive Design (photo by me)

The Good with the Bad
Some of my fondest memories are from Port Hope. Especially hanging out with my cousins outside, learning woodworking from my grandpa and going Barbie shopping with my Grandma.

My family has had a long history there. So much so, there’s an avenue named after my war hero uncle.

Why am I telling you all this?!?

This unique town bordering on a Black Mirror worthy story is a part of my history. My first steps were there. My heart is deeply rooted. Yet, it doesn’t define me.

Being from a small town like Port Hope doesn’t make me any more or less capable of achieving greatness.

From Port Hope as a foot fold, I found my way to Toronto, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Melbourne, New York and Silicon Valley.

Now, every morning on my drive to work I pass by a dozen Apple offices and Linkedin’s gorgeous main campuses. I’m also having the once and lifetime experience of seeing the construction of Apple’s UFO campus from the ground up.

If anything, the oddity of my small town starting point strengthens me and makes me stand out. Barefoot and all.

Although I may never actually float my own fanny down the ganny, I will take from it their same seriousness and joy in enjoying life along the journey.

Despite not having real superpowers from the Uranium, I will ninja any situation as if I’m an X-Men.

Continue? Yes or No.
No matter how strange or completely messed up your own hometown or past is, it’s just your story up to now.

Forget your shortcomings. Forgive your failures. Raise your chin up. Be as bold as your wildest dreams can fathom. Strive relentlessly. Only your actions and beliefs matter right now.

Dream big! Like this small town girl now in Silicon Valley.

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Me at Andreessen Horowitz office in Menlo Park #lifegoals ❤

Strategic alliances (haptics & magnetics) at Founding team @Nanodots. Writes about VR, tech, startups, and autocross.

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