A little over a year ago I wrote a post about a feature film Amy and I were helping fund called For Here or To Go. The movie is about a set of Indian software developers in the US on H1-B visas. The main character wanted to start a company, or join a startup, but couldn’t make either happen in the context of the current H1-B visa constraints.
It felt relevant when we helped fund it. It seems even more relevant today. It’s an excellent movie and my punch line from the blog post a year ago was:
“Now, this wasn’t a dry movie. While I don’t know Indian culture very well, Rishi created a rich set of characters, interwoven storylines, and a powerful content – including the challenge of romantic relationships while having an uncertain future around one’s immigration status – that drew me in to the movie.”
For Here or To Go is now finished and will be out at the end of March. Amy and I committed to match up to $25,000 of a $55,000 fundraising campaign to help get wider distribution for move. If this is something you are willing to participate in, go to the Crowdrise page and give whatever amount you are willing, knowing that Amy and I are matching you dollar for dollar.
Fred Wilson, Joanne Wilson, Amy, and I are doing our second Monthly Match. This one is in support of the National Immigration Law Center. We will be matching $20,000 of contributions that our respective communities make to NILC.
Any level of contribution is super helpful. Since we are matching 1:1, each dollar you contribute gets NILC another dollar.
The four of us did this on an impulse last month after the Executive Order on Immigration hit. We were all extremely upset about the executive order and decided to do something about it. We ended up raising over $120,000 for the ACLU over the weekend during a period where the ACLU got a lot of visibility for making the first major move against the executive order and ended up raising over $24m.
As a result, we’ve decided to do a Monthly Match fundraiser (where the four of us match $20,000 in donations) for a different organization that supports the rights of minorities who we feel are at risk under our current administration. We’ve committed to do this for a year and expect this will evolve as things unfold over the course of the year.
The National Immigration Law Center was established in 1978 and is dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of low-income immigrants. Their mission is clear.
At NILC, we believe that all people who live in the U.S.—regardless of their race, gender, immigration and/or economic status—should have the opportunity to achieve their full potential. Over the years, we’ve been at the forefront of many of the country’s greatest challenges when it comes to immigration issues, and play a major leadership role in addressing the real-life impact of polices that affect the ability of low-income immigrants to prosper and thrive.
If this is important to you, please join in on our Monthly Match and make a contribution to NILC. To make sure we see it, follow the directions below:
For those of you who are part of our community and support this effort, feel good that you are taking a specific action today to support the rights of all immigrants in America.
Sunday morning Fred Wilson put up the following blog post: A $20,000 Match Offer On ACLU Donations Today. Joanne Wilson put up a similar post titled A $20,000 Match Offer On ACLU Donations Today on her blog.
It came after a flurry of emails that started with one from me at 7:41am.
“Inspired by Chris Sacca, Amy and I are considering doing an ACLU grant with a 100% match”
Joanne, Fred, Amy, and I were all distressed by Trump’s executive order on immigration, which Fred wrote about in Make America Hate Again and I wrote in Unsettled and Disgusted. We had seen the ACLU already jump into action so we collectively decided to do something about it by supporting it.
Fred’s partner Albert Wenger and his wife Susan Danzinger had already started a match for $15,000 so we (Fred, Joanne, me, and Amy) agreed that when they maxed out they’d hand the ball to us to match for another $20,000.
Jet lag then ate my soul and I went to sleep for a few hours. When I woke up, Amy said “we did something good while you were asleep.” I had well over 100 tweets with ACLU receipts, Fred had started a spreadsheet of all the matching gifts, and we had blown through our $20,000 match. By the end of the day, we were over $90,000 of matches with more coming in so we stopped counting and, with our $20,000, were easily over $100,000 to the ACLU in one day, which started with Fred’s blog post.
By the end of the day it had picked up enough speed to become a TechCrunch article: Some tech executives are matching ACLU donations amid immigration ban protests.
We know more executive orders on immigration are expected. Bloomberg is hinting Trump’s Next Move on Immigration to Hit Closer to Home for Tech. Regardless of how this plays out, I’m hopeful that Congress will step up and do their job at this point, rather than just let executive orders slide by, create chaos, and get litigated in court. Remember – Congress makes the laws and the President is supposed to execute the instructions of Congress.
In the mean time, thanks to everyone who contributed to the ACLU match yesterday. We helped the ACLU raise $24 million since Saturday morning. For perspective, the ACLU typically raises a total of $4 million in a year. Amy and I have been long time ACLU supporters and I expect they will have an outsized and important role in our democracy in the next four years.
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.
At the MIT Celebration of 50 Years of Entrepreneurship in November, I heard a number of fantastic lines that have stuck with me. One of them was from Noubar Afeyan.
“Entrepreneurship is intellectual immigration.”
As I sat in an audience of about 200 extremely accomplished MIT graduates spanning over 50 years, I thought to myself “he just fucking nailed it.”
I’m a huge fan and supporter of immigration, especially around entrepreneurship. If you look at the landscape of success entrepreneurs in the United States you see a remarkable number of first and second generation immigrants. We can argue about immigration policy all day long (and plenty in DC do, mostly to insure that nothing actually gets accomplished) but the historical statistics around immigration and entrepreneurship in the US are undeniable.
Noubar talked about immigration being “going someplace outside of your comfort zone.” Every first generation immigrant I’ve ever met has talked about immigrating to the US as something akin to this. Many entrepreneurs I’ve met have articulated a similar emotion around their experience leaving whatever they were doing to start a new company.
My whole life has been built around the idea of intellectual immigration. I’m constantly exploring new things, getting out of my comfort zone, and moving toward new “things.” As part of this, I’m moving away from (emigrating away) from old, established things.
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.
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.
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.
It’s 2am on Friday and I’m awake because Brooks the Wonder Dog is afraid of thunderstorms. His approach to them is to literally try to climb under my body while I’m sleeping, which prevents me from sleeping, which results in me watching the Brexit insanity in real time.
Yesterday, we had our own US insanity around immigration as our Supreme Court voted 4-4 on the legality of Obama’s executive orders on immigration. This means that the issue gets kicked back down to the lower court and nothing is likely going to happen on this until after the election. There are so many ironies in this, especially against the backdrop of the potential immigration implications in England of the Brexit, that one can only wonder if our politicians are taking Game of Thrones a little too literally.
It’s easy to view all of this abstractly, rather than think about how it impacts individual people. Two weeks ago I watched a movie by Rishi Bhilawadikar titled For Here or To Go? It was about a set of Indian software developers in the US on H1-B visas. The main character wanted to start a company, or join a startup, but couldn’t make either happen in the context of the current H1-B visa constraints.
Now, this wasn’t a dry movie. While I don’t know Indian culture very well, Rishi created a rich set of characters, interwoven storylines, and a powerful content – including the challenge of romantic relationships while having an uncertain future around one’s immigration status – that drew me in to the movie.
There were several big twists, including the challenges of a large company co-founded by two Indian immigrants, one who was frustrated with the US immigration system and wanted highly educated Indians in the US to go back to India and start their companies there. This intersected with the main character’s romantic relationship and job search, which came together at the end in a powerful way.
Rishi is planning on formally releasing the movie at the beginning of next year. I’ve offered to help, and – like I did with Code: Debugging the Gender Gap – am providing some financing for that effort. If you care about the immigration issue and want to help with the movie in some way, email me and I’ll get you set up with a free full preview screening of the movie so you can watch it and decide if you want to get more involved.
Applications are open for the second group of Colorado Global Entrepreneurs in Residence. If you are interested in applying send a resume and a cover letter, including a statement of interest, to GEIRfirstname.lastname@example.org.
The Global Entrepreneurs in Residence (GEIR) Program brings international entrepreneurial talent to the CU-Boulder campus and community. GEIRs work across the CU-Boulder campus mentoring students in a wide array of projects requiring an entrepreneurial mindset. GEIRs guest lecture in classrooms, advise on entrepreneurial research, and provide mentorship to CU community members developing their own startups.
We currently have three Colorado Global EIRs.
We are looking for entrepreneurs with a college or graduate school degree, and with a track record in, or a very
strong interest in, entrepreneurship, technology commercialization, and leadership.
We expect we’ll accept another three EIRs in this group.
Amy and I are proud to be supporting the Global EIR program and the Global EIR Coalition (which I’m on the board of). While Colorado is one of three states to have a program (the others are Massachusetts and New York) we are about to launch a few other states, including one I’m particularly excited about.
If you are interested in getting involved and bringing the Global EIR Coalition to your state, send me an email and I’ll connect you with the right person. If you are interested in applying to be part of the Colorado GEIR program, apply by email at GEIRemail@example.com.