Resident Feature

Meet the Brands

From South Africa to Blackhawk

Karlien and Christiaan Brand both grew up in the Western Cape in South Africa. Karlien grew up on a farm about 200 miles from Cape Town, and Christiaan was raised in a suburb just north of Cape Town, called Bellville. Christiaan says they both happened to attend the same college, “We attended Stellenbosch University (SU) in the lovely wine region of South Africa. I studied engineering, and she studied accounting. We met through mutual friends in 2005 and have been inseparable ever since!” Karlien adds, “We got married in 2010. After dating for only two months, one of my aunts asked if Christiaan was the one. I laughed it off, but couldn’t get the question out of my head and after thinking about it, I couldn’t think of any reason why he was NOT the one, and that’s when I knew: this was it!” 

Christiaan completed his undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at Stellenbosch University in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. He says he initially planned to go into academia, but that changed when he dipped a toe in the world of tech. “I enrolled into a PhD program and accepted a lecturing position. Then, in 2008 I co-founded a cybersecurity startup called Entersekt. Our aim was to provide mobile security products for banks. We were pretty successful in the South African market. We then started branching out to Europe and the US. I led our initiatives here in the states, which is how we ended up in Blackhawk at the end of 2013.” 

The Brands said they described their perfect community to their realtor, and their realtor pointed them to Blackhawk. “The Bay Area was the natural choice to move to because of its proximity to venture capital, partners and target customers. We stumbled upon Blackhawk totally by chance: we had a great realtor who had extensive knowledge of the area and immediately understood what we were looking for. We’ve been very happy in the same house in Blackhawk ever since we came to the states.”

At the end of 2015 an opportunity at Google lured Christiaan to join the team. “I joined Google to lead their effort into the new strong authentication, ‘beyond passwords’ field. It was an opportunity to work on problems at a totally unique scale, and since I’ve never worked at a big company before, I thought it about time to give that a shot! The 680 commute can be a bit of a downer, but thankfully I don’t have to be at HQ every day,” says Christiaan. 

Karlien studied to be an accountant and completed her Master’s degree in accounting. “At that stage I didn’t know that a couple of years later I’d end up in my most rewarding role yet: teaching accounting practices to students at the college where I studied. After my master’s degree I worked at a local accounting firm, left to help out at my husband’s start-up as they were growing like crazy, and then went back to the university to teach for two years before relocating to the states. Now I’m a full time mom of two kids, and it really is a full time job,” says Karlien. 

The Brands have two children, three-year-old Emma and six-month-old Chloe, which keeps them very busy. They love taking trips together and creating family memories. Christiaan says Emma has already been to many countries. “We love taking trips as a family. Emma’s been in South Africa twice and has been to more countries than I can count on my two hands. A trip that stands out was a two month stint we did traveling to Singapore, Bali, Lyon, Cape Town, Munich and Stockholm last October. Emma definitely has her plane-legs! We also love going to Tahoe for skiing, and just before Chloe’s arrival last year we went to Maui for a week, which was probably one of the best, most relaxing trips ever.” 

Christiaan is pursuing his private pilot’s license. “With all the time he has spent on planes as a passenger over the last decade they should just make him an honorary pilot,” jokes Karlien. 

When they need to escape from the world, Christiaan says there is no place they would rather be than the ranch Karlien grew up on. “One thing that’s fairly unique about our family is that Karlien’s dad has an active cattle and sheep ranch in South Africa, and we just love to go there for a couple of weeks a year and get away from everything. There is no cell service and it’s heaven!” 

While they have never gotten into American football, the Brand family loves following rugby and cricket and are big fans.

After seven years of living in Blackhawk, the Brands say they cherish the privacy that the community offers, “We love the secludedness back here. Our backyard opens up into the mountains. We really enjoy outdoor living, cooking and swimming in our backyard. The location of our house is uniquely suited for that. We also love the quiet, tree-lined streets and get along great with all the neighbors.”
 

If they had to pick a family motto it would be to seize the day, there’s no better time than now! 

 

By Megan Scott, Resident since 2010 

Photographer: Indigo Moments Photography