Announcing the Global EIR Coalition

Yesterday morning, over scrambled eggs and smoked salmon with Jeff Bussgang of Flybridge Capital (he had yogurt), we talked about immigration reform and our broken immigration system. Both Jeff and I have been working hard on making it much easier for immigrant entrepreneurs to get visa’s to start their companies in the US. Both of us have been unsuccessful in our efforts at a national level. At the end of the discussion, we decided to start the Global EIR Coalition to open source our approach and try to help every state in the US implement a similar program.

Last year Jeff and a bunch of his friends in Massachusetts created the Massachusetts Global Entrepreneur in Residence pilot program. The MA GEIR was a brilliant approach to a state level solution to this problem. The MA group did extensive legal work on this and the MA legislature passed a bill for it as part of their 2014 Jobs Act.

I watched from the sidelines with intrigue. I had become very discouraged at a federal level and have been spending mental cycles pondering state’s rights issues and state level approaches to things. I have deep respect and admiration for two our Colorado’s congressman – Michael Bennet (senate) and Jared Polis (house) – each which have worked very hard on immigration reform – and have learned a huge amount from them, including how hard it is to get things done in Washington. I also have enormous respect for Mark Udall who was Colorado’s senior senator and one of the original sponsors of the Startup Visa bill.

So when I started seeing what Jeff was doing in Massachusetts, I started working on a similar approach in Colorado with Craig Montuori, and Chris Nicholson of Venture Politics. This culminated in our recent launch of the Colorado EIR program.

One difference between the MA and the CO programs is funding. In MA, there was originally $3 million of state funding. I decided I wanted to try this in CO without any state funding, so I just funded the program myself for the first year to the tune of $150,000 (CU decided it was important to provide some funding directly as well, so they are contributing $50,000 to the program.) Unfortunately, after the election, the new MA governor defunded the program (although he has reinstated $100,000 of funding) so the group in MA is now working on a funding approach that does not rely heavily on the state.

As we iterate on this, we are learning an enormous amount about what works and what doesn’t work. Jeff and I agreed that we should amplify and expand our learning, so other states can build off of our experience as well as help us figure out a long-term, sustainable approach. We are clearly in experimentation mode, but with strong support intellectually from local leaders, such as Phil Weiser (Dean of CU Boulder Law School and head of Silicon Flatirons.)

While I’m not giving up on a federal solution, I plan to put my money and my energy into a state level solution. The dynamics around gay marriage and legalization of marijuana have intrigued me greatly, and as I read early American History, I understand (and remember) the original dynamic of the United States, where there are States that are United from the bottom up, rather than simply a federal government dictating policy top down.

As someone who loves networks and hates hierarchies, this is the right approach for my psyche. I’m ready to take another big swing at this from a different angle.

If you are working on something similar in your state, please reach out to join the Global EIR Coalition. Today is our first day in existence, so expect us to be chaotic, underfunded, and under-resourced just like every other raw startup. But, like Steve Blank and Eric Ries inspire us to do, we are just launching, aggressively doing customer developing, and iterating rapidly.

And, if you are a foreign entrepreneur who wants to build your company in Colorado, email me to apply to the Colorado GEIR program.

For Jeff’s perspective on what we are doing, take a look at his post Hacking Immigration – The Global EIR Coalition.

  • When you talk to the politicians, introduce them to Prof Gary Becker’s solution on immigration. Charge for it. Get rid of the bureaucracy and all the ins, outs, loopholes etc and simply charge for it. There is demand for immigration, and a supply of immigrants. Where supply and demand meet, there is a market clearing price. Here is the whole video where he talked about his theory. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXNPxFNWg9g It’s ingenious. Just like the all-volunteer Army.

  • Just out of interest did Jeff discuss when MA will open up their GEIR programme again? The website says early 2015 (I wonder if anyway to get notified?)

  • Fletcher Richman

    For anyone interested in learning more about the Colorado GEIR program, come to the Boulder Startup Week event in May: http://sched.co/32Kk

  • Yinka!

    Very interesting! Could you clarify participation criteria for international entrepreneurs? Seems open from your post but the program site’s first stated goal of “retain more grads” and outlined university involvement give the impression that this caters to graduating students of participating schools vs any foreign entrepreneur.

  • Vishal Joshi

    I am very intrigued and ready to help. I have personally suffered due to lack of progress on this issue politically and would want others to not go through the same. Good work you guys!

  • It just seems silly that’s it’s so hard for people abroad to come here and start companies – especially if they are being funded by US angels or VCs. Why isn’t it a “no brainer” to pass legislation to fix that. How many US jobs could that create?

    I had previously read about your activity around Startup Visa and it sounded like you had a hit a brick wall.

    I’m glad to find out that you are getting traction moving towards a solution in Colorado based off the progress in Massachusetts. Best of luck on this!

    • HistoryInAction

      It’s a no brainer, but few members of Congress feel it will benefit their district. So while there are few no’s, there are few yes’s. One benefit of this state level program is that it will massively broaden the awareness of the geographic scope of the startup community!

  • Steve Bennet

    I participated on an immigration advocacy trip to the White House and Capitol Hill a couple of years ago and has been an incredibly disappointing and frustrating process for reform – http://www.professorvc.com/2013/02/immigration-reform-now-or-never_11.html

    I love this approach and am looking to help get launched in Silicon Valley.

  • You’re in great company with Craig and Chris.

    Up the hill!