Victoria Ransom is being honored as a Champion of Change for her accomplishments as an immigrant entrepreneur and innovator.
Growing up on an asparagus farm in rural New Zealand, I never dreamt I’d one day come to the United States and build a company like Wildfire. I certainly never imagined I’d one day be honored by the White House.
My transformation into an entrepreneur started with my scholarship to attend an international school in New Mexico at the age of 17. This led to me staying in the U.S. for college and then taking a job where I was exposed to a number of entrepreneurs looking for financing. Thanks to this experience, I saw people around me taking chances, making mistakes and learning from them, and being respected for it! The U.S. culture of encouraging innovation, big thinking, and risk-taking, and respecting people for trying even if they fail, inspired me to embark on my own entrepreneurial journey.
I was joined in this entrepreneurial adventure by my then-partner (now husband), Alain Chuard, who had also come to the U.S. for college. Alain’s from a family of Swiss entrepreneurs, and we both saw a place where people with good ideas and a strong work ethic could win. We wanted to build a business here, but our visas did not allow for this, so we returned to New Zealand to start what turned out to be a successful adventure travel company, Access Trips.
In 2007, we returned to America to deepen our education. Alain enrolled at Stanford Business School and I set off for Harvard. During graduate school, we launched a marketing software company called Wildfire. You could say we were lucky to be in the right place at the right time, but we worked very hard to build relationships with Silicon Valley’s great network of innovative people. We met with venture capitalists, and we studied the great technological advancements happening at companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google. By the time we finished graduate school, Wildfire had enough success for us to stay in the U.S. on visas available to entrepreneurs.
Last summer, we celebrated the sale of Wildfire to Google. I’ll never forget the moment I looked around the room and shared the news with more than 400 employees, each of whom had worked tirelessly to make the sale possible. It was one of the most emotional moments of my life. Indeed, I think everyone, whatever their background, can relate to how incredible it feels working toward a common goal with a group of people you love. Building Wildfire was like being part of a great family, and the team was a huge part of what has made this whole process so gratifying.
When a company like Wildfire succeeds, the impact reaches far beyond the founders. We created jobs that 400 people loved. We gave new college graduates skills and inspiration they’ll take with them for the rest of their careers. We shared incredible moments, celebrating scores of marriages and welcoming numerous Wildfire babies. Then I think of all our employees’ families—the parents, partners, and children—who proudly watched their loved ones succeed.
Wildfire’s success gave back to the American people too. Aside from the jobs we created, our sale generated significant tax revenue. Wildfire’s success is also paying back the university endowments, pension funds, state entities, and church groups that were investors in the venture capital fund that supported Wildfire. I see what we’ve done to help our customers as well, tens of thousands of whom have used Wildfire’s software to build their own businesses and create jobs.
Finally, I think of the impact that successful companies like Wildfire have on those who watch from the outside—those who become inspired to tackle their dreams and to re-create this cycle all over again. Alain and I spend a lot of time sharing what we’ve learned with these people, including female business owners and youth and foreign entrepreneurs. We want to encourage more successful, innovative foreigners to come to the U.S., and we’re working to connect them with other foreigners who have already built businesses here.
In the end, my story is not so different from other modern-day achievers of the American Dream. We all ended up here and saw something special that made us believe we could take the leap and do something great. Let’s continue to make the U.S. a “can-do country” where innovators come to stay and change the world.
Victoria Ransom is a Founder of Wildfire.