Category: Government

Jan 29 2017

Unsettled and Disgusted

I arrived home from Australia yesterday. David Cohen and I spent the week there together to learn more about the various startup communities in Australia, to spend some time with the team that is leading Techstars Defence in Adelaide, and to watch an amazing Federer / Wawrinka semi-final.

I didn’t find out about Trump’s Executive Order on Refugees and Visas (the nicest thing I could come up with calling it) until arriving home Saturday mid-day and hearing about it from Amy. I was so jet-lagged that I took a shower and crawled into bed as I couldn’t process any new information. I was on a digital sabbath so I figured I’d read about it today.

When I woke up for dinner, Amy filled me in. I listened in a state of disbelief. At some intellectual level I knew this was coming, but I couldn’t believe that it was an executive order issued on Holocaust Remembrance Day. I’m glad the ACLU (which Amy and I strongly support) and the US judicial system is doing its job while the ban appears to be generating predictable chaos.

I’m always a little anxious when I travel internationally because of the rough experience I had getting back into the US from Canada four years ago. I know it’s an irrational emotional response on my part to be anxious since I’m US born, have a Global Entry card, and have plenty of resources. However, it always gives me a tiny flavor of how one might feel when entering the country, even without the recent executive order.

The executive orders the White House released on Friday disgust me. By directly targeting productive American residents, children, and the elderly in the name of national security, they are cynical, illogical, immoral, and extremely insensitive. Under the executive order dual citizens are at risk of being unable to return if they so much as take a vacation or visit their extended family. The whole thing is antithetical to the values my parents brought me up with, and what I think it means to be an American.

Friends, such as Fred Wilson (Make America Hate Again) and Albert Wenger (Misleading the World on Immigration) have already spoken out. Many tech companies are making statements and, like Lyft giving $1 million to the ACLU, are taking action. Chris Sacca leads and gives $150,000 to the ACLU. Techstars has sent a message to the Techstars Worldwide Network with an offer of help to anyone in our worldwide network who is impacted.

Whatever intentions the White House had, these new rules will not protect American security, will not make us safer, and will cost us, both morally and economically. I recognize the need for border protection but this order goes too far and does more harm than good. I stand with tech leaders, like Reed Hastings and Drew Houston, in calling these restrictions unAmerican and immoral.

It’s time for us – our American tech and startup community from places like Boulder, Boise, Chattanooga, Omaha, and Anchorage – to stand up and call for the White House to change course. This is not ok.

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Nov 5 2016

My Last Post About This Election – Don’t Waste Your Vote

Please vote. Just so you know my bias before reading further, I’m voting for Hillary Clinton.

This post is not aimed at you if you have already decided to vote for Clinton or for Trump. It is aimed at you if you haven’t voted, are considering not voting, or are voting for someone other than Clinton or Trump.

At this point, especially in states like Colorado where it appears the election will be close, action other than a vote for Clinton is essentially supporting Trump. Regardless of your perspective about the candidates, the election process, our current system, or anything that needs to be changed going forward, either Clinton or Trump is going to be elected president by Wednesday.

I’ve been deeply upset about many things during this election. However, at this point, I feel extremely strongly that Trump is not a suitable candidate for president. I’m appalled that things have gotten to this point and that he’s been able to get away with things he’s said and done, but I’ve struggled with how to articulate my feelings in a direct and factual way.

Fortunately, Mark Suster did it for me last week in a post titled And Then They Came for Me … I’ve read Mark’s post once a day as I pondered what I wanted to write. As Amy and I finished Episode 5 of Goliath last night, my thoughts around this finally came into focus.

You should go read Mark’s post, but the rest of this post builds off of things he wrote.

“You don’t get to pretend for 5 years that the first African American president in US history wasn’t born in the United States and then get a free pass on running for the presidency.” (Suster)

On top of this clear racism, Trump had the audacity to both claim that Clinton started this and then he finished it. This was absurd beyond comprehension. It’s a classic example of extreme misdirection, something that is woven through many of Trump’s mistakes and misdeeds. It’s the opposite of a leader who takes responsibility for his actions.

“You don’t get to launch your campaign saying illegal Mexicans are “rapists and murderers and some, I assume, are good people.” That is racist and fear mongering and stoking the flames of those who want to vilify “the other” which has been done throughout our country to the Irish, the Polish, the Jews, Italians and yes — the Germans — and every other immigrant population throughout history. Racism is disqualifying. Immigration and assimilation are two of the unique features that have made America so great over its centuries.” (Suster)

I’m Jewish. My grandparents came here from Russia and Germany in the early 1900’s. Deep in my bones, I worry the Cossacks are coming to take me away and kill me. This is a recurring theme in my discussions with my therapist and my wife who is not afraid of this, but at least empathic to my concerns.

“You don’t get to call for a religious test to enter our country, potentially denying access to more than 1 billion Muslim people in the world including very large populations in Indonesia, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.” (Suster)

In addition to being deeply offensive to me, it violates the basic tenets on which our country was founded. As a child growing up in Texas, I learned this in eighth grade American history.

“You don’t get to say out loud that you would kiss women against their will or grab them against their will. That isn’t “locker-room talk” it is sexual assault and you don’t get to normalize that talk and then be president of our country. ” (Suster)

I’ve been extraordinarily upset by this aspect of the election, an emotion I share with literally millions of women (and many men.) Sexual assault is a real thing, not locker-room talk.

“You don’t get to pretend that you “just don’t know anything about” David Duke especially when there is this pesky fact of public record that you do know about David Duke.”

Let’s go back to that Jewish and immigrant thing.

“But on issues of racism, race-baiting, religious intolerance, misogyny, sexual assault, white supremacy and demagoguery — there can be no gray area, …. These are disqualifying issues …  If we accept leaders who embrace demagoguery, intolerance and groups of citizens who would turn on each other and vilify “the other” then eventually they will turn on us, … I am the straight son of an immigrant father from South America whose parents on both sides are Jewish and who proudly thinks of myself as an American first and foremost and everything else second.” (Suster)

I am a son of immigrant grandparents from Germany and Russia. I probably would not exist if my grandparents hadn’t managed to get to America – there is a significant chance they would have been exterminated in World War I (Russia) or World War II (Germany). I love this country and while we have many issues, I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

I encourage you to be deliberate about everything you do. You get to choose who you are and what your values are. On November 9th, either Clinton or Trump will have been elected president.

Please don’t waste your vote by not voting.

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Nov 1 2016

Why Gateway Accelerate Is A Great Choice For International Entrepreneurs

On September 15, 2016, UMSL Accelerate joined the Global EIR network and began taking applications for its international accelerator program, Gateway Accelerate. Today is the last day to apply, so if you are considering it, don’t wait.

The goal of this program is to contribute to St. Louis’s local economy and UMSL’s curricular and non-curricular offerings to its students by attracting talented entrepreneurs from around the world to relocate their business to St. Louis. There are numerous benefits to the program including assistance with cap-exempt H-1B visas applications, enrollment in a 12-week boot camp, access to discounted office space, network development, mentorship opportunities, and access to capital.

I’m excited to have a Global EIR state besides Colorado in the middle of the country. Missouri is our fourth state to go live following Massachusetts, Colorado, and Alaska. New York has a similar program, so let’s count them as five, even though they aren’t formally part of the Global EIR coalition. We’ve got another half a dozen states in different stages of launching, so look for more soon.

St. Louis has a great startup scene and a vibrant business community. I ran a marathon there several years ago with Matt Shobe and have several long time entrepreneurial friends there like Keith Alper. There are a number of accelerators in town, including Capital Innovators, Arch Grants, SixThirty, Standia, and The Yield Lab. Business growth over the last five years has been significant and 26 Fortune 1000 companies are headquartered in St. Louis across many industries including Express Scripts, Emerson Electric, Monsanto, Ameren, Sigma Aldrich, and SunEdison.

St. Louis is a good example of a vibrant city. Having stayed in a hotel in 2011 overlooking Cardinals stadium when they won the World Series, their fans definitely show up loud and proud. As I ran the marathon, I got a sense of the city, which felt healthy and diverse. With the help of the St. Louis Mosaic project, the city aims to have the fastest growing immigrant population in the U.S. by 2020.

Gateway Accelerate is a one of a kind program where 100% of its funding comes from local companies rather than the university. I hope more cities engage with immigrant entrepreneurs the way St. Louis has – it’s a great model.

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Oct 25 2016

We Need More Entrepreneurs In Congress

As we come to the end of a particularly noisy and contentious election cycle, a thought echoes over and over in my mind – we need more entrepreneurs in Congress. As I continue to believe that innovation and entrepreneurship are the key drivers to our economic future, it’s frustrating to hear such little cogent discussion around it.

I recently got a call from a long time friend, Martin Babinec. Martin is running for Congress in Upstate New York (District 22) as an Independent. We met in 1991 when Martin had just started his company (TriNet – now a public company) and Feld Technologies (my first company) was a dozen people. We’ve been friends ever since and when he told me he was running for Congress, I smiled, gave him feedback, and listened to his reasoning.

He recently did a debate with his two other candidates at Colgate University. It was sent to me yesterday and I watched it last night in the background as I was grinding through email. It was incredibly refreshing after watching each of the presidential debates. Martin did a great job and reminded me why I think more people like Martin should be in Congress.

When I think of his background compared to the other candidates, and how he ended up running for Congress, it’s a powerful narrative. He moved his family back to his home town of Little Falls NY in 1999 to be closer to his parents (and his kids grandparents) and then commuted to Silicon Valley for 11 years while running TriNet. He saw first hand how the lack of new, innovative companies caused some of the best talent in Upstate New York to leave – and decided to do something about it.

In 2010 Martin started a non-profit called Upstate Venture Connect with a mission is to connect first time entrepreneurs in new industries with the resources who can help them across the entire Upstate NY region. He helped launch six seed capital funds, three college accelerator programs, the StartFast Venture Accelerator. He engaged deeply in his startup community and was one of the leaders.

When he called me about running for Congress, my first question to him was “why are you doing this?” He was clear – he’s frustrated with hearing politicians talk about creating jobs and then repeating the failed corporate welfare strategies of the past as they hope for a different result. His goal was to shift the discussion and resources towards fostering an environment that supports local innovative companies and a thriving startup community over attracting businesses to the region. Ultimately, he thinks – as do I – that this is the best long term approach to creating vibrant economies.

Rather than play into the existing political infrastructure in New York, Martin did what any great entrepreneur does and started a new political party. He’s running as an independent, having created the Upstate Jobs Party.

I hope Martin gets elected – I know he’d be a strong, thoughtful, capable, and disciplined member of Congress. He’s an incredibly hard worker, which I respect immensely. And he’s a critical thinker, capable of listening and learning about things he’s being exposed to for the first time.

District 22 covers a big area in the middle of Upstate New York (roughly Utica to just east of Syracuse and south to Binghamton.) If you are in this region, I strongly encourage you to support Martin Babinec for Congress!

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Oct 18 2016

Denver: Conversation With Chris Sacca

Chris Sacca (Founder and Chairman Lowercase Capital and star of ABC’s Shark Tank) is in Denver on Tuesday 10/25 at Galvanize from 5:00 PM – 8:30 PM to support Hillary Clinton. Chris has been a friend for many years, is a remarkable investor, and a super compelling speaker. While I’ll be in Kansas City for a different event, if you support Hillary, are in Denver, and are an entrepreneur or investor, I encourage you to sign up and attend. Thanks to Jim Deters and Galvanize for hosting.

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Oct 11 2016

Thoughts From A Female Friend on Locker Room Talk

Yesterday, Elizabeth Kraus, a good friend and the co-founder of MergeLane (we are investors), sent me the following blog post and asked me if I would reblog it on my site. After reading it, I felt she expressed her thoughts on Trump’s “locker room talk” extremely well. The original post appears at Please, Mr. Trump, Stop Calling This “Locker Room Talk”

Dear Mr. Trump,

Thanks to the hard work of many before me, I, an entrepreneur born in the same year as your daughter Ivanka, have grown up believing I could do everything my brother could do. I’ve never really felt the weight of the glass ceiling. I co-founded MergeLane, an accelerator and fund for high-growth startups with at least one woman in leadership. I’m proud to say that we’ve outperformed all of our projections because so many people believe investing in women is the smart thing to do. I’ve always imagined that you also believe this to be true.MergeLane Co-Founder Elizabeth Kraus

It is hard to deny what you’ve achieved as an entrepreneur. Before this election, I would have jumped at the opportunity to have a meeting with you.

Today, I woke up with the sad realization that I would be afraid to be alone in a room with you.

I experienced what you are calling “locker room talk” at my first job when I was 16 years old. I overheard my superiors talking about women in a way very similar to how you and Billy Bush spoke in that video. Although they never said anything like that directly to me, it was paralyzing to think about what they might be saying behind my back or what they might do to me when no one was watching.

I started wearing baggy clothes. I stopped wearing makeup. Most sadly, when my boss told me I was the best employee he had ever had, I dismissed the compliment because I was also the only female employee he had ever had.

It took me years of meeting with supportive, trustworthy men to overcome this paranoia. I’ve gone back to wearing fashionable and feminine clothes. I regularly meet alone with male CEOs and powerful public figures. I’ve experienced and overheard the occasional slightly inappropriate comments, but as a whole, I have felt extreme gratitude for the respectful men who have supported me throughout my career.

Since the age of 16, I have not felt the feeling of fear and sadness that I felt when I listened to your tape. To hear this from the man who may be the next President of the United States was more disappointing than you can ever know.

I know you’ve apologized. I appreciate your apology, but please, I beg of you, stop calling this “locker room talk.” When you and your supporters refer to it as such, it feels as if you are dismissing it as something that is normal. While I would be severely disappointed if it is common practice, I, and women and men everywhere know that it shouldn’t be. More importantly, we  have hope that one day it won’t be.

As you’ve acknowledged, it was a mistake. Please refer to it as nothing but a mistake.

If, as I predict from your previous responses, you would ask why I am not asking the Clintons to address the questions the public has raised about them, I have. I wrote my first public article at the age of 14 to express my disappointment in how President Clinton handled his affair. I will be releasing a letter to Secretary Clinton this week to express why I – a daughter, an entrepreneur, and an American – desperately need her to take the moral high ground.

It is my deepest hope that we will elect leaders who will make me feel proud to be an American and safe as a woman.

Thank you for listening.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Kraus
Daughter, granddaughter, and Chief Investment Officer, MergeLane

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Aug 29 2016

A Startup Visa – The International Entrepreneurs Rule – Form I-941

On Friday, the USCIS proposed The International Entrepreneurs Rule. While this is a proposal subject to a public comment period, I expect it will go into effect in about 45 days. We finally will have a startup visa!

The best summary I’ve seen so far is from Tahmina Watson titled International Entrepreneurs Rule (Obama’s Startup Visa Alternative)- Detailed Summary by Tahmina. If you want to see a detailed summary from someone who read and analyzed all 155 pages of the rule change, go read Tahmina’s post.

This journey started for me about seven years ago on 9/10/2009 when I wrote the blog post The Founders Visa Movement. Paul Kedrosky and I wrote an OpEd in the Wall Street Journal on 12/2/2009 titled Start-up Visas Can Jump-Start the Economy.

A group of us, including Dave McClure and Eric Ries went to Washington.

I talked about the Startup Visa at conferences.

Bills were proposed but not passed. Lots of articles were written. Many tweets were tweeted. Even a book was written about it by Tahmina Watson.  Canada created their own Startup Visa. The UK created an Entrepreneur Visa. But in the US, Congress continued to be unable to create a Startup Visa, under the guise of the failure of comprehensive immigration reform.

In response to the non-action from Congress, I co-founded the Global EIR Coalition with Jeff Bussgang and Craig Montuori. We’ve launched in four states (MA, CO, NY, AK) with a bunch more coming before the end of the year. I finally felt like some progress was being made.

After all the efforts of Congress to do something failed, the White House determined that a Startup Visa could be created under the existing law with a rule change. Tom Kalil and Doug Rand of OSTP worked tirelessly on this (they understood the importance of this from the beginning) and, as part of the announcement on Friday, wrote a great post Welcoming International Entrepreneurs.

It’s been a really long journey but I’m thankful for the support and encouragement of this effort from many people. I’ve learned a lot about our federal government as part of this process and expect that the learning will continue. Hopefully this rule change will survive a new administration (I’m told by a number of experts that it will) and foreign entrepreneurs who want to start companies in the US will have an easier time of it.

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Aug 3 2016

Reason for Reform: Join the Movement for Immigration Reform

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.”

Check out Reason for Reform here and submit your own video.

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.

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Jul 26 2016

My Twitter Feed Is Full Of Politics

It’s so disheartening to me. I don’t read newspapers or watch the news on TV deliberately to avoid the noise. Periodically I’ll get a little signal of value from somewhere, usually Amy, but generally I can focus on what I care about.

Twitter has always been that refreshing place where I can quickly find out what is going on in my tech world. I follow mostly entrepreneurs and VCs – some who I know and some who I don’t know. I have a few companies in my feed. But no newspapers, no magazines, and no mainstream media.

Suddenly it’s all politics all the time. The retweeting of stuff I simply don’t care about overwhelms my feed. As my brain gets hit over and over again by the noise of the RNC, DNC, Trump, Clinton, and zillion other people bloviating about what I think is one of the strangest elections I’ve every experienced as a human, it has become hard to dodge and ignore it.

I think today might be the turning point for me. I’m utterly disgusted by the bullying, lies, racism, and hate going on. I’m starting to believe the Russian conspiracy theories. I’ve hit my personal moment of “I’ve got better things to do with my day.”

I know it’s just going to get worse between now and the election. Noisy. Crazier. More offensive and intolerable. Less rational.

Amy reminds me that this isn’t anything new. In the 1930s the anti-immigrant sentiment was high as the economy declined during the great depression. In the 1940s the America First Committee was dominant. In the 1950s McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee was front and center. In the 1960s we had civil rights, FBI overreach, and the setup for the 1970s with Nixon. And on and on and on.

All this has happened before, and all this will happen again. It’s time to focus on what I care about and not let the noise take over my brain.

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Jul 4 2016

Happy Birthday United States of America

I’m glad I get to live in the United States of America.

I started reading the Declaration of Independence every year on America’s birthday a while ago and just read it again. The famous line that always gives me chills when I read it is:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

I believe that all men and women are created equal, but it took our country until 1920 to acknowledge this for women. And then it took until 1964, the year before I was born, to outlaw discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. And same-sex marriage became the law of the land in 2015. It took a while, but we have, and continue to make, progress as a country, and a species.

As we enter what most expect will be a very contentious, hostile, and nasty election cycle, I encourage everyone to remember that ultimately we are all on the same team. I think one of the brilliant parts of our democracy is how resilient it is. We are each allowed to have our own beliefs and, as long as we follow the rule of law, we can express them however we’d like. This is a unique characteristic of the best democracies and one I value tremendously.

I expect that over the next 40 years it’s going to get more, rather than less, complicated. We are currently in the middle of a confusing debate around gender identification which was presented in an easy to consume way in the New York Times Magazine article over the weekend titled The Humiliating Practice of Sex-Testing Female Athletes. We are beginning to talk about the idea of enhanced humans, and whether they should have the same rights as the un-enhanced. And, our fears of the coming AI Apocalypse are making headlines on a periodic basis.

I’d like to believe that in America, we’ll continue to be at the forefront of human society as we work through these issues. We have been since 1776 and I hope that continues at least until 2076. Happy birthday America.

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