I continue to be a strong supporter of legal immigration to the United States. A fundamental belief of mine is that entrepreneurs should be able to start their companies anywhere they want. A corollary to that is some of the historical success of the US as an entrepreneurial ecosystem has been being the place that entrepreneurs want to start a company.
Today, it’s hard to get a visa to start a company in the US. Our legal immigration system is complex and expensive to navigate, and there are few choices for entrepreneurs, especially aspiring entrepreneurs, who haven’t already managed to get a visa.
For the past five years, I’m been involved in an effort called the Global EIR program. It’s a national effort, led by Craig Montuori, that is modeled after an extremely successful program in Massachusetts, led by William Brah at the University of Massachusetts. The roadmap for starting a company on a visa is now well defined.
The results in Massachusetts have been extraordinary. Over the past five years, As of today, 66 Initial H-1B visas have been approved with 100% visa success rate. The companies founded by these entrepreneurs employ 940 people and have raised over $500 million in venture capital.
Imagine if we had this level of activity in all 50 states?
I’ve been working on the Startup Visa since I first wrote about it 2009 in my post The Founders Visa Movement. After a decade, it’s clear that our federal government has broadly failed us on this front.
In 2015, I announced the Global EIR initiative to try something different. Today, I’m happy to welcome the University of Michigan to the Global EIR network. Applications are now open to become a Global Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of Michigan’s Economic Growth Institution (EGI). Interested applicants can learn more about the program, fill out an application form, and reach out to Millie Chu at Global Detroit.
For founders, this announcement means access to a startup visa, with a long runway, and a path to a green card. Global EIR founders will use their experience as founders to support EGI’s mission of helping other Michigan-based companies develop and execute growth strategies while simultaneously building their startups without worrying about their visa status.
From a broader perspective, the Global EIR program attracts international founders to Michigan. The goal of the Michigan coalition, led by Global Detroit and joined by the William Davidson Foundation, EGI, and Global EIR, is to contribute to the Detroit renaissance and demonstrate how startups are a critical part of economic growth in the 21st century. Thank you in particular to the William Davidson Foundation for their generous support to launch Global EIR in Michigan.
If you’re interested in learning more, I encourage you to look at the detailed information on Global Detroit’s site and apply. They are looking for high-growth international founders primarily in the STEM sector who have a need for an H1B visa and would like to establish their business in southeastern Michigan. Once approved by Global Detroit and EGI, the founder is offered a stipend for working part-time (10-20 hours a week) at the university, along with receiving entrepreneurial guidance and resources to help grow their business.
As of today, Global EIR has helped over 80 founders solve their visa issues. Their companies have raised $450 million and employ nearly 900 people. I’m excited by the progress being made despite frustrating inaction from Washington DC after a decade of conversation about creating a startup visa. Local action by leaders like Global Detroit, EGI, and the William Davidson Foundation is where solutions arise.
Amy and I are proud to be supporting the Global EIR program and the Global EIR Coalition. If you are interested in getting involved and bringing the Global EIR to your state, send me an email and I’ll connect you with the right person.
This article, Engineers Are Leaving Trump’s America for the Canadian Dream, stimulated a simple thought for me.
Canada has a huge, near-term competitive opportunity over to the US.
I have a deeply held belief that US entrepreneurship has benefited extraordinarily over since World War II due to the desire of people from around the world to come to make their lives in the US. While this immigration philosophy started with the drafting of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 (and arguably before that with the European colonization of America), it transformed entrepreneurship, the US economy, and the US’s place in the world dramatically from the 1950s on.
While there are lots of issues around immigration, I believe the US’s relative permissiveness around, and openness to, people from other countries had a remarkably positive impact on the US. I wouldn’t be here other than the immigration of my great-grandparents (and my maternal grandfather) in the early 1900’s from Europe and Russia. While I feel deeply (and proudly) American, I know that my family has only been here for a few generations.
I’ve been aware of and engaged in issues around immigration for the last decade. When I saw this article yesterday, titled U.S. startup visa draws only 10 applicants as Trump throttles program, I thought to myself “duh.” I then read the article, which had a good punch line in the second paragraph.
“A big reason for the shortfall is that the year-old program has been constantly under assault since the election of President Donald Trump, whose agenda revolves around tightening immigration rules and dismantling Obama-era policies. The Homeland Security Department has twice delayed implementation of the program but agreed to leave the application process open after venture capitalists won a court challenge in December. No one has been granted a visa, and Homeland Security said last year that it’s working on a plan to kill the rule entirely.”
Yeah, well, I wouldn’t apply for one of those things either. After advocating for and working on the Startup Visa for almost a decade, it was powerful to end up with something at the end of 2016 (the International Entrepreneur Rule, which was the closest we’ve been to this) but disheartening to see the endless and continuous attack and attempt to undermine this by the current administration.
This is a gift to Canada around entrepreneurship, and I’ve already seen the impact of it in many places. The Toronto/Waterloo startup community is on fire. Many companies I’m involved in are exploring offices in Canada, especially Vancouver (for the Seattle folks) and Toronto (for the east coast folks) since it’s so difficult to get work visas in the US for employees. Other entrepreneurs from around the world are simply opting to start the company in Canada rather than the US because of all the uncertainty around visa status.
I’ve always liked Canada. There is a window in time where Canada has a massive strategic geographic advantage over the US. It’ll be interesting to look back in twenty years and see if the country capitalized on it.
Yesterday, the White House announced it was delaying and likely eliminating the International Entrepreneur Rule. This rule is the closest we’ve come to a Startup Visa, something I’ve been working on with numerous other people since 2009. Several failed bills in Congress, a failed bipartisan Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill, and an Executive Order later, and we still have nothing.
I’m disappointed but not surprised. Steve Case says it really well in his article America Will Fall Behind Without Immigrant Entrepreneurs. I won’t repeat his words here because I agree 100% with them. I encourage you to go read his post if this is a topic you care about.
If you just want Steve’s punch line, it follows:
“The data is clear: immigrant entrepreneurs are job makers, not job takers. And today, we just pushed them to create jobs somewhere else.”
Jeff Farrah of The National Venture Capital Association wrote a thoughtful post titled An Unforced Error for Job Creation. It explains what the International Entrepreneurship Rule is and why delaying and rescinding it is at fundamental odds with a number of goals of the Trump Administration. Jeff’s article ends with a clear message.
“Finally, rescinding the rule is at odds with the administration’s goal of advancing emerging technology. Last month, top VCs joined President Trump at the White House to discuss how to bring to life next-generation technology. What was one of the key recommendations from venture leaders? Retain the International Entrepreneur Rule so the best technology is created and developed here rather than overseas. Today’s action is 180 degrees from the recommendation of successful startup leaders.
The administration’s move is certainly a setback, but it’s far from the end of the road. NVCA will continue to be the leading voice in Washington for immigrant entrepreneurship. We’ll continue to advocate that the Trump Administration reverse course and allow the International Entrepreneur Rule to take effect. Only then will the United States realize the full benefit of immigrant entrepreneurs to our nation.”
While I agree that it’s a setback, in the eight years since a group of us started advocating for a startup visa, entrepreneurship has taken off around the world. A number of other countries now have startup visas modeled after the original US startup visa idea. As entrepreneurship is democratizing the world, the US has exported a great idea for attracting entrepreneurs to one’s country, while denying the US’s ability to do this for itself.
That’s unfortunate and disappointing for the US, but great for the rest of the world.
Today Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) announced their support for Global EIR, a cause for which I care deeply. As you may know, over breakfast in 2015 Jeff Bussgang and I launched Global EIR with the hope of advancing the startup visa effort on a local and state level after it stalled in Congress.
Since then, Global EIR has grown to 13 university programs across the country, helping 42 international founders start companies. These companies have created 123 new jobs and raised $29.9 million in investment for the US economy. And there is still an overwhelming demand of visionary international founders that want to start companies in the US. If Global EIR can raise $300,000 this summer, they can scale rapidly over the next 18 months, with an ultimate goal of helping over 10,000 founders per year.
In response to this opportunity, SVB is joining Amy and me in a match challenge to raise $300,000 for Global EIR. For every $1 you donate up to $100,000, Amy and I will donate $1, and SVB will donate $1 on top of that. So – your $1 donation gets a $2 match.
I’m grateful that SVB sees in Global EIR a way to unlock the potential of the next generation of great founders, no matter where they were born. The entire team at SVB is unique among banks in their willingness to make bets on behalf of founders and startups and are often the first stop when a startup needs banking services. What makes this even more impressive is how quickly and consistently the startup community reinvents itself, yet SVB is always there to make a good first impression on new founders.
For these new founders, many were born in other countries and came to the US for a variety of reasons. For some, education brought them here. Others came to turn a great idea into a startup and ultimately into a world-changing company. Like SVB, the world’s founders know that the US has the right ingredients of capital, talent, and a culture that celebrates risk-taking. However, despite over a dozen countries creating visas to attract international founders, the US still does not have a startup visa.
When I reached out to long time friends at SVB, including Pamela Aldsworth and John China, they immediately were supportive of the idea of Global EIR. SVB had previously supported the Global EIR program in Boston with the University of Massachusetts, so I was delighted when they jumped on the opportunity to join a fundraising match with me across the entire country. It turns out that SVB’s general counsel, Michael Zuckert, is passionate about this issue and will be joining the Global EIR board.
Through Global EIR, universities run programs that help international founders obtain a visa, stimulate entrepreneurship at their universities, and unlock economic development in communities across the US. Global EIR supports programs throughout the US, currently ranging from Anchorage to Boston and seeks to expand to everywhere in between. We want to ensure that the world’s best and brightest founders continue to see the US as the best place to build their businesses and create jobs.
As many of longtime readers know, I’ve long been supportive of the startup visa. In 2009, I was inspired when two of the ten Techstars Boulder companies that year had international founders. With a startup visa, their promising companies would have an easy immigration pathway to create American jobs. Without one, they struggled to manage their visa status while also building their businesses. It should have been trivial for them to stay in the US; it wasn’t.
As with the entrepreneurs Global EIR helps, the organization began as a chaotic startup with Craig Montuori and Chris Nicholson leading Global EIR over the past two years. They learned a ton with our pilot schools UMass, CU Boulder, and SJSU. We were fortunate to have great partners in Bill Brah, George Deriso, and Anuradha Basu to help us figure this out to the point where we are now ready to scale to all 50 US states.
When we decided to have Global EIR go through the Techstars Boulder earlier this year as a non-profit, our goal was to get them ready to scale up. The experience of Techstars Boulder exceeded all expectations, and it’s great to see the Global EIR team start to take things to the next level.
For my VC friends, every time you invest in a brilliant immigrant founder, consider joining me and SVB in supporting Global EIR so that the next immigrant founder can have the chance to pitch to you. Email me and let’s talk about how to partner together in this work.
If you are a foreign entrepreneur who wants to build your company in the US, also email me, and I’ll connect you to the program.
The 2017 applications for the Colorado Global EIR are now open through April 15, 2017.
The Colorado Global EIR program is a way for experienced international entrepreneurs to receive an H-1B visa, allowing them to work in Boulder. They must commit to working 20 hours per week at CU Boulder (supporting cross-campus entrepreneurial activities), and of course, will be paid for doing so.
In their spare time, we encourage GEiR (Global Entrepreneurs in Residence) to either establish their existing company, create and launch a new company, co-found a new company or join a local startup here in Boulder. This will allow them to retain their H-1B status and thus remain in the U.S.
Any entrepreneur with a college or graduate school degree, and with a track record (or a very strong interest) in entrepreneurship, technology commercialization, and leadership is a good candidate You will work part-time on the CU Boulder campus for 20 hours per week, supporting the CU Boulder entrepreneurship and commercialization efforts, including the New Venture Challenge, a range of teaching and extracurricular activities, and Catalyze CU.
You also get to start and grow a new company in the supportive, collaborative, and dynamic entrepreneurial community of Boulder, Colorado.
GEiR terms will begin September 2017 (or once visas are approved) on a one-year basis, with a potential opportunity for renewal up to two additional years.
You can apply for the Colorado Global EIR 2017 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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 GEIRemail@example.com.
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 GEIRfirstname.lastname@example.org.
Amy and I had a very quiet weekend hanging out with each other, Brooks the Wonder Dog, and Super Cooper the Pooper. We like Memorial Day weekend – it always feels like the beginning of summer to us.
I read three books over the weekend. Since I was home, rather than reading on my Kindle, I grabbed some books from the infinite pile of physical books I have in my office. New stuff shows up every week – mostly business and entrepreneurship books, and the occasional “I think you’d like this” book. In addition, whenever I want something that isn’t on the Kindle, I just buy the physical book.
So this weekend was about startup communities with a bonus book on the startup visa tossed in for good measure.
The first was The Making of Silicon Valley: A One Hundred Year Renaissance. This book was written in 1995 and published by the Santa Clara Valley Historical Association so the updated subtitle should be “A One Hundred Year Renaissance – 20 Years Later.” Anyone interested in Silicon Valley, what it means, and how it came together should read this book carefully from cover to cover. There is so much shortened history out there, where the most extensive typically only goes back to Shockley, Fairchild, The Traitorous Eight, and the founding of Intel. The history is so much richer, the one page stories about the companies the shaped each era are just awesome, and the perspective of what 120 years really means for a the startup community that is undeniably the most robust in the world right now is very powerful. It also ends just as the rise of the Internet begins, so it’s the long arc of Silicon Valley is not overshadowed by the last twenty years.
The next book I read was Screw the Valley: A Coast-to-Coast Tour of America’s New Tech Startup Culture. I don’t like the title – it’s too intentionally provocative for my tastes because I’m not anti-Silicon Valley but rather pro-building startup communities everywhere – but the book is excellent. Timothy Sprinkle interviewed me early in his process and then set off on an almost one year trip across the US where he spent real time in Detroit, New York, Las Vegas, Austin, Kansas City, Raleigh-Durham, and Boulder. He writes extremely deep stories about each startup community, along with strengths, weaknesses, and things that are going on that shape them. I show up in a number of times, both personally along with references to my book Startup Communities, and Timothy does a nice job of using some of the concepts from Startup Communities to draw out major themes in each city. This is a great snapshot in time – right now – to show how startup communities develop anywhere.
The last book I read was The Startup Visa: Key to Job Growth & Economic Prosperity in America. Tahmina Watson wrote an extremely clear and easy to process book on the problem of the startup visa, why the US immigration system and visa process doesn’t work for entrepreneurs, why this matters, and makes recommendations about what to do about it. She also gives a nice history of the various bills in Congress, going back to S.3029 in 2010 (Lugar, Kerry) titled “The Startup Visa.” It’s disappointing that it’s five years later and Congress can’t seem to get a bill on the Startup Visa passed – or anything on immigration for that matter – but that’s life in government.
If you want a real punch line to the whole situation, read the short article from the NY Times Magazine – Debunking the Myth of the Job-Stealing Immigrant by Adam Davidson. Amy handed it to me on Monday and I said “I don’t really feel like reading another thing on immigration because I’m so annoyed by our lack of progress.” But then I did, and it was a great read.
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.