Brad Feld

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Startup Visa Stories

Oct 21, 2009
Category Government

I’m getting three to five Startup Visa stories a week at this point.  A few are straightforward but most are complex and intellectually frightening, including one I read through yesterday that almost caused my head to explode.  When I was in Boston a few weeks ago I met with someone who told me their particular story very passionately and clearly.  He then followed up with a short essay that he asked if I’d post publicly.  While the story is a general one, it is short and sweet and nicely captures the sentiment that I’ve heard so many times since writing The Founders Visa Movement post.

Every night after I’ve checked off the task list for the startup I work on, followed-up with the people I’ve networked with, finished all my school work, I’ll stay up reading documentation on how I can stay in the country I have fallen in love with over the last nine months. I come from a culture in Sydney where my peers will become doctors, bankers and lawyers; where the idea of being a startup founder is correlated with merely being unemployed. Being familiar with the first generation immigrant story of my own parents escaping poverty in Communist China to Australia, where they’ve created wealth and jobs from their small grocery business, I was inspired to adopt my own journey to a foreign country. When I came to the United States, to take an opportunity to do a one year study abroad at Babson College, a school with a premier entrepreneurship program, I was optimistic.

Being in Boston, having visited both Silicon Valley and the Research Triangle, I mourn the fact my visa expires in December, the conclusion of my studies. Why is it so good here? How is it so different to back home? It’s not about the number of venture dollars, or the size of the business plan competitions, it’s not even the size of the market. It’s about an intangible in the ether. It’s about culture. For a first-time, young entrepreneur, environment is so fundamentally key. The couple of web tech, social media, or general startup networking events I go to every week act as shots in the arm. I always come back that much more energetic; that much more inspired. I speak with a serial entrepreneur who has seen the pattern many times before and provides me advice and encourages me to keep fighting. I meet another first-time entrepreneur suffering my pain, sharing that experience is motivating. I come across someone passionate about their vision, that energy is contagious. The startup journey is rarely a straight line and this keeps me going as a first-time entrepreneur.

And I’m one of the lucky ones. Currently I am looking at all options, but because I’m an Australian citizen, I’m most likely to immigrate to Toronto, as it’s the closest city with an entrepreneurial community to Boston. Many of my international peers at Babson, who hustle, who fight, who innovate and create, are forced home every year. Do they go and create wealth and jobs in their home country? This would be unfortunate for America not to capitalize on the investment in education. Worse still, because they no longer are tapped into the unique American culture of risk and creation; are we as a global society just entirely worst off?

As Stephen Colbert might say, “America, we are blowing it.”