- The CEO of Bulletproof, Dave Asprey, moved to Canada about 10 years ago.
- The San Francisco Bay Area was Asprey’s home for two decades, but the out-of-control housing prices eventually led the entrepreneur to flee Silicon Valley.
- Asprey says he thinks it’s cheaper to commute from Canada – he charters a private plane for about $600 – than to live in the Bay Area.
After spending decades in the San Francisco Bay Area as an entrepreneur and tech executive, Dave Asprey moved to Canada.
Asprey, a cloud-computing executive turned biohacking guru, has built a $100 million empire around his DIY approach to performance enhancement, complete with two best-selling books, conferences, and stores that sell buttered coffee and supplements known as “smart drugs.”
Asprey runs his company, Bulletproof 360, remotely from a 32-acre farm on Vancouver Island, off Canada’s Pacific coast. Much of the island is protected parkland, though its beauty and proximity to Vancouver, a major city, has drawn artists, artisans, and even entrepreneurs.
In Silicon Valley, Asprey lived lower-middle-class on a 6-figure salary
Before he decamped for Canada, Asprey struggled to make ends meet in Silicon Valley.
His jobs as an IT administrator, a project manager, and a founder took him across the Bay Area in the 1990s and 2000s. Asprey said he rented in Palo Alto, Los Altos, and Fremont, and he bought his first home in Union City, an East Bay suburb where you can still buy homes for under $1 million.
While he spent most of his income on rent, the rest just barely covered the $44,000-per-child tuition for his two young children to attend a nearby Waldorf school. On weekends, the family escaped to Lake Tahoe because Asprey wanted his kids to grow up around nature.
Asprey said his quarter-million-dollar salary made him feel less than middle-class. The median price of a home in San Francisco is $1.5 million, and a person needs an annual household income of at least $303,000 to afford the 20% down payment on a home that expensive.
“I’ve never lived upper-class in the Bay Area,” Asprey told Business Insider. “Occasionally, I’d be in the worst house in the best neighborhood, but it is really expensive to do that.”
In 2010, Asprey decided that the Bay Area had become unlivable for his family.
Asprey found paradise in Canada
Asprey and his wife, Lana, a physician, began searching for new options. He was working at the time as chief technology officer of the wearables company Basis, which sold to Intel for $100 million in 2014. He wanted to work the same hours as his employees.
This Finn sheep belongs to my sister, but she clearly likes me. Her name is Zot (the sheep, not my sister). This species of sheep is popular because it is cold resistant and generally OK at everything, including wool, milk, and meat. Zot is seven years old and super social, so she holds the pack together and is not going to end up being eaten by my family or clients at the 40 Years of Zen executive neurofeedback training center. (yes, we have an executive chef and use the highest quality grass fed meat we can find because having clean food with undamaged fat makes for better mitochondrial function.) I really enjoy living on an organic farm and being closer to my food – both the vegetables and animal products. It turns out, you can't eat vegetables unless you have some poop to put into the soil. Sheep are great at making poop! ????????❤️
“I wanted to live somewhere beautiful with clean air, good food – lots of sockeye salmon – and needed to be in the West Coast” time zone, Asprey said.
They moved to Canada and rented for about four years.
On Vancouver Island, in the province of British Columbia, a 32-acre farm hidden in the trees offered his family a more permanent respite from the congestion and excitement of Silicon Valley. Asprey bought the property in 2014 for “less than the cost of a one-bedroom in Palo Alto,” he said. Today, the typical one-bedroom home in Palo Alto lists for $848,000.
Over the years, Asprey spent at least another $700,000 building a 2,600-square-foot home office outfitted with medical-therapy and wellness technologies.
Asprey said the process of moving to Canada was easy. He hired an immigration attorney for about $1,200, and after leaving Basis and launching Bulletproof in 2013, he created a Canadian company that could sponsor his work visa.
Now Asprey’s children play in the woods behind the house. At night, they look up and see stars. The family’s sheep and a newborn lamb named Blueberry graze in the yard.
“When I’m home, I drop my kids off at school in the morning. I eat dinner with them every night. And the garden grows our food,” Asprey said, adding: “That is the most luxurious lifestyle that I could ever imagine, and I could never pull that off in the Bay Area.”
The commute from Canada isn’t all that bad
Asprey says his commute may actually cost less than living in the Bay Area.
When Asprey needs to go to Bulletproof’s headquarters in Seattle, he arranges for a town car to bring him to and from a small airport that’s 12 minutes from his house.
He charters a single-engine plane that brings him to Seattle in 40 minutes. The round trip costs about $600, including the town car, Asprey said.
Asprey said that for the cost of a mid-range home in Sunnyvale, a ritzy city in Silicon Valley, he could “buy a 32-acre farm and a jet.”
“I’m not even kidding – a jet,” he said. “And the monthly payments are the same.”
A Cessna 172 is way faster than a commercial jet…at least on shorter flights if you count security checks, parking, waiting at the terminal, boarding, etc. at a big airport. Plus, you get to look like a pilot with a cool headset! For me, this brings up memories. This is the exact same plane my grandparents bought when I was about 10 years old. I remember when they first let me grab the copilot stick! My grandmother is 96 and still around, but not flying these days… Heading from Victoria BC to Seattle Bulletproof HQ and dinner with @blakemycoskie founder of @toms – hoping to learn more about growing a company with a big mission! #cessna172 #flying #commute
During his trips, Asprey focuses on spending quality time with the people he wants to see. The duration of these visits forces him to optimize for productivity.
Asprey prefers town cars to Ubers because he doesn’t like waiting to be picked up. He thinks it’s important to invest in making the commute more tolerable if you’re going to decide to give up proximity to the office, and fortunately for him, those rides are tax-deductible business expenses.
Asprey summed it up: “I just shifted my budget from housing to travel.”
Was it worth it?
Life on Vancouver Island comes with some perks. Asprey says he pays only $3,000 a year in property taxes. Everything he buys feels as if it’s “25% off” because of the exchange rate. And when he steps outside, he hears owls, even though he lives only 35 minutes from an airport.
There are downsides to living in Canada too. Asprey said he once paid $50 in import fees on a pair of boxer shorts he ordered from Amazon. And the weather on Vancouver Island is cold and wet.
But overall, the entrepreneur has found happiness in Canada.
“It hasn’t hurt my career – it’s probably helped it,” Asprey said.