Month: August 2016
As an investor, I’m always looking for the next great American company. Who will create tomorrow’s Twitter, Facebook, or Google?
Today it is just as likely to be someone born in Beijing or Jaipur as it is to be someone from Boston or Boulder. In 2016, you no longer have to be in Silicon Valley to launch a successful startup. Colorado is home to many.
However, national borders do still matter and our current immigration system unfortunately isn’t designed to allow anyone looking to create the next Fitbit the ability to easily do so in America. As a result, we lose out to other countries as non-US founders start their ventures to countries like Canada, Chile, or Singapore instead of the US, often because it’s impossible for them to get appropriate visas to create their companies while living in the US.
That’s why I’m spreading the word about the Partnership for a New American Economy’s Reason for Reform campaign, which calls on business leaders, entrepreneurs, students, and others from across the US to tell Congress why America needs immigration reform by recording a short video clip from their cell phones or computers, giving their “reason for reform.”
Coinciding with the launch of this campaign, Partnership for a New American Economy has marked today as a National Day of Action and is holding events in all 50 states and in Washington, DC to call attention to the economic contributions of immigrants in America. The day will also include the release of new state-specific research. You can check out your state’s report here.
Immigrants have historically been an entrepreneurial bunch. Today, immigrants represent more than 10 percent of Colorado’s entrepreneurs. In 2014, their businesses contributed more than $560 million in revenue to Colorado’s economy. Of the nine Colorado-based companies that appear on the Fortune 500 list, a third of them were founded by immigrants or their children. These three firms alone provide 53,000 jobs and generate more than $20 billion in revenue each year.
Providing sufficient staffing for these companies is another hurdle. Today in Colorado, there are 15 unfilled jobs for every one unemployed STEM worker. While we should certainly be investing in our own STEM education, we should take advantage of the thousands of international students who come here to study and are ready to fill these gaps immediately upon graduation. A new Colorado report released today by the Partnership for a New American Economy (PNAE) calculates that 27.5 percent of all students earning STEM-related PhDs in Colorado are from other countries. Many of these students want to stay to further the research they started in their programs and build companies from their findings. Almost 1,000 jobs could be created for American workers if even half of the 740 graduate students on temporary visas in Colorado were allowed to stay upon completion of their programs.
America’s future as the global leader in innovation remains in the balance until our immigration system is fixed. A large portion of a reform package should focus on updating our system to better reflect the business landscape and market realities of the 21st Century.
When we led a $9 million financing in Glowforge a little over a year ago, we were excited about the potential to do to the subtractive 3D printing world what we did with MakerBot in the additive / FDM 3D printing world. We were also fired up by the beautiful and practical stuff that the team made us to show what the product could do.
In June 2015, Glowforge had a prototype and a plan. A few months later, Glowforge ran a 30-day crowdfunding campaign, which ended up raising $27.9 million and is still the #1 30-day crowdfunding campaign ever.
By the time the 30 days were over, it was unambiguous that we had found the ever-elusive product market fit. We knew that all kinds of designers, crafters, artists, and makers wanted a 3D laser printer in their home. The feedback around what we were doing was incredible and awesome. Oh – and lasers are super cool.
It has been less than nine months since the pre-order campaign and I’ve seen the product and the company move at a lightning quick pace. In Q2 they brought a full beta unit to our office in Boulder and it blew our mind.
My partner Ryan’s son Quinn (who is 12) was in the office so we sat him down in front of the Glowforge, gave him an iPad with the Glowforge software on it, and he went to town making stuff in our conference room. After 30 minutes the grin on my face was so huge I had to go sit quietly in my office for a few minutes to calm down.
Units are now coming off our US manufacturing lines and we are starting to get them into beta user’s hands each week. We are trickling them out slowly to make sure that we’ve got the manufacturing process nailed for the hardware. The software is continually improving, so a short passage of time as we dial in the manufacturing before scaling just results in an even better end product.
Dan Shapiro (the CEO) and his team is obsessed about having the highest quality possible product. While they didn’t need any additional money at this point, they were willing to let us do a financing to have major cash on the balance sheet that would allow them to weather any challenges. Given the extreme demand we had from the pre-order campaign, we are expecting this to accelerate once we start shipping, so it made sense to raise more money right now to support growth so the company could focus 100% of it’s energy on customers and product.
We proactively offered to lead a financing rather than have Dan and team run around few a few months. As part of our overall strategy, we have long described ourselves as syndication agnostic. We are happy to invest with others, but we are also happy to lead rounds ourselves in companies we’ve already invested in. At Glowforge, we already had a great partner with True Ventures and were able to agree on terms with Dan and his team that allowed us to quickly do a round.
As Glowforge printers make their way out into the world, I’m super excited to see what people do with them. Oh, and lasers are super cool.