Kuki & Laura – How To Start A New Life by Moving from Madrid to Austin

I am fascinated with startups since Gary and I started DilogR. When I found out that Kuki and Laura had moved from Madrid, Spain to Austin, TX to run their company here I was fascinated – and wanted to feature them immediately. So many people dream about living in Spain – and they moved to Texas.

Please introduce yourselves.

I’m Juan Luis Bastos but everybody calls me Kuki. I was born in Oegstgeest – a little town in Holland – but we moved to Madrid when I was 1 year old. I was raised in Madrid (Spain).

I’m Laura Megías, I was born and raised in Madrid as well. I studied Law and have Masters degree in Marketing and Commercial Management. I have always worked in marketing( business), the last few years focusing on the Internet.

When and why did you move to the USA and left Spain?

We moved from Madrid to Austin one year ago (2013). We did it for several reasons.
A family “challenge” was something we wanted to take on. We wanted to live in another country to experience how it is to live immersed in another culture. We have a daughter and a son (14 and 11 years old) whom we would like to grow up bilingual. We feel this is the best gift we can give them.
As entrepreneurs, we have to find the best business opportunities – and those opportunities carried us to Austin.

What do you enjoy most about the USA/Austin ? After a year you have a bit more experience, how’s the quality of life compared to other US cities, Spain or NL you may know?

USA is a huge country but in general what we enjoy the most, is the feeling that things are easier for people. There isn’t so many administrative steps to follow for everything and for example the companies don’t have to pay so many taxes when they are starting like in Spain.
Austin compered to Madrid is a small city – we like that. Everybody complains about the traffic, but it can be worse believe us! On the other hand, we have to say that the public transportation in Madrid is excellent, and you can move everywhere by Subway or bus.

Kuki: There is a huge problem with the new people moving to USA that I faced – Credit score. In our countries we are people with loans, credits, mortgages and a (good) reputation, but here in USA you don’t even exist until 1 or 1 year and a half. Your past does not matter – even if you bring a letter from your previous banks etc

Usually there are some negatives, what are the ones for Austin that really stand out for you personally

We are impressed with the music selection that Austin offers. Almost every week there are some nice concert/s. But we miss painting and sculpture exhibitions of relevance. If you want to see something very nice you usually have to take a trip to Dallas or Houston.

Austin is in the middle of Texas, so it’s far far away from other interesting cities/states we want to visit on short weekend trips.

Do you feel Austin is a good place for you as an entrepreneur right now? Are there any areas expats like you might like in the USA in your opinion better than Austin. WHY?

I only can say good things about Austin as an entrepreneur right now! We found the people and the funds to build a fantastic project. Obviously Silicon Valley is THE place for startups. However, it is expensive, the competition is huge and we discovered a lot of people from California and NY moving to Austin. Austin is a very hot place for startups right now.

Which are the best places/suburbs to live in Austin as an expat in your experience?

We chose Southwest Austin because we were looking for quality public schools, and we are happy there. It is a green area with many parks and sports area, and the neighbors are young and professional.

Do you go out a lot – hobbies? Or is everything about work/home right now?

Laura: I go to the gym – and I like to do Yoga and do some biking. Our son plays soccer with Lone Star and I drive him twice a week to practice. Our daughter Claudia loves drawing and photography.

We also like to visit new places like water holes, Wimberley etc….

Kuki: I’m trying to do some biking and swim at lunch time everyday. I love crafting, and Austin is also the city for crafting and recycling. I re-discovered working with wood: tables, coffee tables and also I love iPhone photography. I’m experimenting with some inventions I made as accessories for taking pictures, lens, etc

What’s the cost of living compared to other cities you are familiar with? What is cheap or expensive in particular?

Electricity and gas are cheaper here, restaurants are a little bit cheaper as well. In Spain you have buy the school books even if your children go to a public school, here the state pays for it. On the other hand the college it’s much more expensive than in Spain.

What it is really expensive here is health care. We don’t feel that health care is just business. That is what health care is for most companies here, business! You must be very careful if you don’t want to bankrupt yourselves if something goes wrong.

Did you think it is easy meeting people/other startups and making friends in Austin?

Kuki: For me Austin is a city for connecting people. I always find people that know people who are doing something related to my project. That’s how we started here.

Tell us about your company?

Wake App is a company that started focused is design and develop mobile apps for music, entertainment and Health. Sounds like Yamaha Corporation that make pianos and motorcycles 😉 We are not developers, we are designers, thinkers and creatives with a very special way of thinking. We developed some very successful apps in Spain. We were finalist at SXSW interactive 2014 with N by Jorge Drexler, a combinatory music app.

How about getting funding/banking?

We found the partners and the funds to develop a super secret new product related to chid’s education. I can’t say more… just http://www.kidu.com

What are your favorite restaurants/bars in Austin – why?

Best pad thai: Tai Passion (unfortunately is closing soon)
Best carbonara: Congress and 3rd
Best Fish tacos: Turf N’ Surf Po Boy

Kuki at LindedIn
Kuki at Twitter
Kuki at Facebook

Laura at Facebook
EuroCircle Austin Facebook GROUP

Register FREE – and get invitations to EuroCircle events

Wednesday, Jan 20 2016

We are very saddened when we heard the news on Laura’s death yesterday. Our prayers and thoughts are with you. Please let us know anything we can do for you just to help you cope with this difficult situation.
Our love and sympathy to you and your family, Kaisa & Gary – EuroCircle Family

Chicago – Oct 31 2013

Eat, drink and be SCARY! Please join us Halloween night for a ghoulish gala at Tocco- with an Italian flair, of course! We’ll have lots more tricks than treats like COMPLIMENTARY PIZZA, cocktails (succo di strega anyone??) and more!

Costumes are definitely encouraged and appreciated!
Also featuring DJ John Grammatis on the decks…

All types of creatures of the night are welcome!

Camilla Rantsen – LA-Based Danish Writer/Producer/Actress

Camilla is a very interesting woman, we really wanted to feature her. She is Camilla – and she likes being herself, she knows who she is and she embraces that. I LOVE that. Being from Finland myself I felt like I know her even if I never met Camilla in person – YET!

Photos by Maurisun Hesse and make-up by Mitzi Druss.

Who is Camilla Rantsen – and what does Camilla do and where?

This is a good question. I ask myself the same thing every day. It’s true. And I usually come to the conclusion after careful consideration that I am this writer/producer/actress (from Denmark) who lives in Los Angeles. I am loyal to the city, but the last few years, not necessarily a neighborhood. I still consider Beachwood Canyon my home – that’s where I became a real Angelino. Last year you’d find me living in Downtown Los Angeles. Simply because it’s the only moment in my lifetime that I will probably see a city grow. DTLA is exploding. I don’t think I could live in Los Angeles if I didn’t have “feelings” about the city. I know a lot of people come out here for “the business”, but I think if you don’t commit to the city and sort of make friends with it, honestly it eats your soul. Or snorts it. And you might not even notice for a very long time. I know I’m talking about a city rather than acting and writing, but I think it’s important that people know that the business and the city are a package deal. In the eternal words of Don Henley – You can check out any time, but you can never leave. And so I didn’t and this is what happened:
I was in London for acting school. I started coming out here. Much to my sheer surprise there were a lot of actors out here. Yes, that’s right. It had never actually occurred to me that film and TV existed. In London, at that time, the only thing that counted for an actor was stage work.

I came out here and I just stayed. It took me a few years to realize that I was actually living here. And then I won my green card. In a green card lottery. Yes, you hate me now, but that’s how it worked for me. The universe conspired and I entered a lottery. I was basically a kid. I was a teenager with no fear and a green card. The worst kind of person.

Acting was first and foremost on my agenda. I did things I can only recommend. Get into an acting class. I took a ton of classes. I can deeply recommend Leigh Kilton Smith and Katt Shea. Katt also got me my SAG card as she was doing a movie for Roger Corman and cast me. Eternally grateful. And now I can go ahead and compare myself to Jack Nicholson who also got his SAG card on a Roger Corman Picture. Right?

Anyway – my career is at best non-linear and strange. I did well as an actor, but it turns out I was at one point a massive self-saboteur and when I got the big job and the magazines, I quit. I think it was a serious case of having no self-esteem. It was not sexy. So…..I started writing. I have always been a writer. Thank God. Steven Daldry optioned the first feature I wrote and that’s what I thought a writing career was. Ahahahahahahah. Cute. But I kept writing and amazing things happened and not so amazing things happened, but more amazing things than not and to sum that up: I have an actual writing career today. I have produced movies, TV, web. I feel so ridiculously grateful that I get to do this. And get paid. Hilarious. I feel so grateful, in fact, that I have recently gone back to acting. I said non-linear.

I am currently finishing the first season that I wrote HOARS – HOME OWNER ASSOCIATION – REGENCY SUPREME. It’s funny. I feel I can say that, as I have amazing producers, directors, actors, cinematographers etc. It’s one of those things that just came together effortlessly and has been such a joy. I have worked on other things and sometimes behind the scenes drama was the diet of the day and it just makes everything harder on everybody.

I’m working on a feature for hire at the moment and another series, as well. I have made friends with my career, I have made friends with city and, yet, I can’t train my dog to save my life. This is also known as a quality problem.

At what age did you know that you wanted to do what you do now ? What else do you do as it seems you are multitalented?

I knew that I wanted to do before I even knew what it was. Three things pop into my mind when I think about it:
1. That scene in The Godfather when Michael sits by the lake as he hears the shot ringing out. The shot he ordered on his brother. Al Pacino does so little in that scene and you’re in no doubt what is going on with him. That kind of acting is why we care. Why we care about stories, broken people and love. It’s why we get up every day
2. Katherine Helmond as Jessica Tate in SOAP. Brilliant. Comedy is a bitch. It is not for the not funny or the faint at heart. But again. Here is someone who makes it look effortless. Playing someone either not very bright or seriously disturbed in a way so we feel that we know her.
3. Robert Redford. “The way we were”. The end. (Also movie written by Arthur Laurentz who I also worship)
On that note – I am one of those irritatingly creative people. I like to say I dapple, but what I really do is obsess things into existence. I design, I paint, I decorate, I will never not work. I will never not create.

What has been the most exciting “thing” or role that you’ve covered during your career or should we say careers?

Writing wise it might be working with certain producers that just from notes or feedback have taken my work to the next level. This is so exciting for me that I feel nerdy talking about it, but there are a couple of people I can thinking of who managed to say the right thing at the right time and honestly gave me both great feedback and made me fall in love with writing all over again. There is something very powerful and humbling about having someone read you and know what you’re capable of and that is what great producers know how to do.
Getting my comic book published. Being nominated for a HARVEY for my short story graphic novel. I like.
I have done so many things that I am proud of and that I love, but years ago I did a play called Agua Dulce directed by Leigh Kilton Smith where I got to work with the ridiculously talented actors. Best time ever.
I also really love the work I am doing in my new series and that is very much due to the people I get to work with. And I also genuinely really like the people who represent me. I like that.

Is there any particular story, moment, an award or an achievement throughout your career that you are particularly proud of?

Getting up when I fall. If you’ve had to do it, you know what I mean. And more power to you.

What would you say is the biggest misconception that people have about your profession/s?

MISCONCEPTIONS: I think that you have to have “made” it by a certain age. That “pretty” can’t be smart. That a “hot” is always dumb. That “kind” is “stupid” That writing is “easy”. That anyone who can speak can write. That if you don’t share the glory you get more for yourself. That success is a finish line. Those are serious misconceptions.

I think it’s very, very important surround yourself with people you love. To connect with your family, friends, great loves, good and bad boyfriends and pets as much as possible. It is, in the end, what inspires us. And I am not just talking about in Facebook. I am talking about in person. In a non-virtual world.

What do you enjoy most about being an actor vs. your previous life? What the worst about being an actor….

I don’t think I had a previous life. I don’t think artists do. I am currently finishing a show about a doctor. I did so much research that if I was just a smidge more delusional I would think I could practice medicine.

Worst thing about being an actor? Waiting. But there’s a cure for that. Writing.

What have you found to be the biggest difference between doing what you do in Denmark?? And Los Angeles? Just out of curiosity loved to hear something about your experiences anywhere else too.

I had never worked in Denmark until last year. There really isn’t that much of a difference, except Danes take vacations.

What kind of people survive and do well in this field of work in your opinion?

It depends on what you mean by survival. There are people who just do that – survive. And then there are people who thrive. Thriving takes a lot more generosity, humility, love, work and joy than surviving does.

Are there any roles that you would hate to cover?

No. Sure, there are things that would scare me. But that would not stop me. Being a writer or an actor and having to get on the “side” of a character shines a light on your own issues. And who wouldn’t want that? Issues are my best shoes.

What advice would you give to other aspiring European actors/producers/writers aiming for the stars in Hollywood? Or models…

I think it would be like any job you do. Have respect for the profession. Know that you have to be able to walk away from anything. Know that there is a huge difference between success and being a successful person. AND MOSTLY:


Write that in lipstick on your mirror. I prefer Dior. If you don’t have lipstick, use mustard.

What and who captivate you in the world of the celebrities – and why?

So many people – The Clintons. George Clooney. Jennifer Lawrence. Somaly Mam. Jane Fonda. Jenji Kohan. Oprah Winfrey. Deepak Chopra. Charlize Theron.
Camilla at Facebook




Houston – Oct 08 2014

The fall season is finally here, Houston, and we’re going to start cooling down at a very cool new wine + coffee bar in the Museum District: Bosta

Join us Wednesday, October 8th, for wine, beer and appetizers at Bosta. http://bostahouston.com/

A comfortable and classy setting, Bosta appeals to everyone. Come dressed up or dressed down and you’ll fit right in.

Parking is free in the garage, which is just to the right of Bosta’s entrance on Binz street.

Look forward to seeing you there,

Mary Beth & EuroCircle Houston Team