Tag: Startup Visa
Yesterday there was solid progress on the Startup Visa Movement – specifically making it easier for foreign entrepreneurs to start their companies in the US. The WSJ had a good summary article titled U.S. to Assist Immigrant Job Creators that discusses two formal communications from the Obama administration.
- Press release from the Department of Homeland Security titled Secretary Napolitano Announces Initiatives to Promote Startup Enterprises and Spur Job Creation
- Post on the White House blog titled Making It Easier for Immigrants to Start Companies in the United States by the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
There are additional guidelines listed in detail at the following links.
- New guidelines on how entrepreneurs can qualify for an EB-2 green card with National Interest Waiver
- New guidelines on how entrepreneurs can satisfy the employer-employee relationship requirement for an H-1B visa (see the second-to-last question about sole owners)
- Implementation of enhancements to EB-5 immigrant investor program, including premium processing
- Public engagement between entrepreneur community and USCIS to inform new training of USCIS adjudicators
I’ve been working on this issue since I wrote the post The Founders Visa Movement on 9/10/09 (all my posts can be seen in the category summary Startup Visa on my blog). A number of colleagues throughout the entrepreneurial community (entrepreneurs, angels, VCs) joined in on the effort as it became a formal grass-roots movement, resulting in several bills being drafted in Congress in 2010 and then 2011.
While I’ve learned a lot about politics, Congress, and how Washington works in the past two years, one thing that became painfully apparent to me was that Congress was completely stalled on anything related to immigration issues. While I’ve continued to view the Startup Visa as a jobs issue (we need more entrepreneurs in the US – anyone should be able to start a company here if they want to, and that creates jobs, which is good for our economy) that’s not how people in Washington see it (“visa” – that means “immigration”).
In parallel, a number of us have been talking to key people in the White House, including the amazing Aneesh Chopra, the White House CTO. Aneesh totally gets this issue as do a number of his colleagues in the White House and the Office of Science and Technology Policy and they’ve been working on non-legislative solutions that can be implemented with policy changes in USCIS. While the changes made yesterday don’t cover every case, they make a solid step in the right direction.
In the past six months, I’ve personally been involved in about ten cases of foreign entrepreneurs trying to get valid US visas so they could either start their company here or join a US-based company that they helped co-found. After being stymied for a variety of reasons, including extremely aggressive, negative, and inconsistent behavior at the border from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers, most of the folks I’ve been talking to and/or helping have been able to get visas. In all cases, they were willing to share their stories, in detail, with people on the White House staff, who I think have been extremely thoughtful and diligent about understanding what was going on, worked hard to figure out appropriate and legal solutions, and provided a constructive and empathetic ear to the very frustrated entrepreneurs.
I don’t feel comfortable naming names as most people are very concerned about confidentiality around immigration issues, but I’m proud of the efforts by many of these entrepreneurs. They didn’t give up, didn’t get angry even when they had plenty of reason to, and were willing to be very open with White House officials in trying to help figure out a more effective approach. I’m also very impressed with the folks at the White House and OSTP who I’ve been working with on this issue. The contrast between their efforts, thoroughness, and their “let’s solve the problem” vs. a “let’s be political” attitude is commendable.
There are plenty of additional things in the Startup Visa Movement that need to be addressed but I feel like we made some progress today. Thanks to everyone who has been involved – you are a force for good in the world.
Today Senators Kerry (D-MA), Lugar (R-IN) and Udall (D-CO) unveiled the Startup Visa Act of 2011. This is an updated version of the Startup Visa bill from last year that is aimed at making it much easier for foreign entrepreneurs who want to start a company in the US to get a visa. Today, this process is incredibly difficult and has been stifling the creation of new companies and the corresponding job creation that these companies provide.
The Startup Visa Act of 2011 has several significant improvements over last years bill.
– Lowered, More Realistic Thresholds: The minimum investment has be lowered to $100,000. This is more in line with a larger number of startup companies.
– Broadened Qualifications to Include H-1B or Students with Advanced Degrees: Entrepreneurs already in the US on an unexpired H-1B or those who have completed a graduate level degree in science, technology, engineering, math, computer science are eligible to apply as long as they have either an annual income of $30,000 or assets of at least $60,000 and a qualified US investor has agreed to invest at least $20,000. This opens up the Startup Visa to students after they graduate, which is a huge thing.
– Entrepreneurs Who Want to Relocate: Entrepreneurs who’s companies are based outside the US can now relocate as long as their businesses have generated at least $100,000 in sales in the US.
I’m particularly excited about the broadened qualifications. I think every student that graduates with an advanced STEM or computer science degree should have a green card stapled to his or her diploma. It makes no sense to me that we’d make it difficult for the best and the brightest to stay in the US if they want. While this doesn’t go that far, at least it’s now easy for them to stay in the US and start a company if they want.
If you’ve been following the Startup Visa, you may know that the bills that were submitted in both the House and the Senate expired at the end of the 2010 Congress. I’ve been on a number of calls lately discussing re-introducing these bills with updates to reflect the renewed understanding of the impact on high growth entrepreneurship on jobs in our country.
A few months ago several entrepreneurs took it upon themselves to create a great short (25 minute) documentary called Starting-Up In America. It is a set of interviews with foreign entrepreneurs in the US talking about why they chose to start their company here, the struggles they’ve had getting appropriate visas, and – in several cases – the severe limitations their visa status has placed on their businesses.
It’s been very difficult to get people to talk publicly about their experiences because of fear of retribution from the USCIS. I’m super proud of everyone involved in this documentary – both for putting the effort into making it as well as being brave about talking out about the issue.
I spent the previous 36 hours in Washington DC, primarily at the O’Reilly Gov 2.0 conference. I did a ten minute speech on the Startup Visa and a ten minute interview about entrepreneurship, innovation, and the Startup Visa. The conference was well attended – about 700 or so folks – and I enjoyed a number of the talks that I sat through.
Following are the two segments – first my keynote and then the interview.
Well, I’ve learned a lot about how a bill becomes a law on my journey to try to turn the Startup Visa idea into a law. And yes – it’s a lot like how I learned about it on Schoolhouse Rock about 35 years ago.
It’s been a little less than a year since I wrote the post on 9/10/09 titled The Founders Visa Movement. This evolved into the Startup Visa initiative, resulted in a bill in the House (HR 4259 sponsored by Polis (D-CO)) and a bill in the Senate (S. 3029 co-sponsored by Kerry (D-MA) and Lugar (R-IN)). We’ve made steady progress building support and have numerous endorsements, including most recently the American Bar Association and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. In addition, the co-sponsors for the various bills are starting to appear: for example, Udall (D-CO) recently signed on to co-sponsor S. 3029, Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Owens (D-NY), and Wu (D-OR) have co-sponsored HR 4259. I’m also aware of a few more that are about to announce.
In the mean time, I regularly get asked by readers of this blog and supporters of The Startup Visa “what can I do?” At this point, it’s straightforward (but not necessarily easy) – get your Congressperson to sign on as a co-sponsor. At the stage we are at, it’s apparently the most impactful thing we can do get our little bill friend in the Schoolhouse Rock video up off the steps and moving toward law.
I’m extremely excited that Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), the senior senator for Colorado, has signed on as a co-sponsor of The Startup Visa Act of 2010 that was originally proposed by Senators Kerry (D-MA) and Lugar (R-IN). Senator Udall joins his Colorado colleague in the House, Jared Polis (D-CO), who has proposed Startup Visa legislation as part of his EB-5 reform bill.
In addition, our friends at SVB Financial (the parent of Silicon Valley Bank) have also formally endorsed the Startup Visa. My partner Jason Mendelson wrote a post about a roundtable that Silicon Valley Bank hosted for members of “the new Democrat Coalition” which included Jared Polis. Shortly after this meeting, SVB formally endorsed the Startup Visa.
I’m really proud that two of Colorado’s members of Congress are leading the charge on the Startup Visa. I have deep respect for both Mark and Jared, their understanding of the importance of entrepreneurship, and their vision for innovation in our country. I’m also grateful that SVB – which has been an integral part of the entrepreneurial activity throughout the US – for their support as well.
We are working on a few additional major announcements and endorsements in the next sixty days. I’ve received a number of requests for ways to help. At this point, if you are part of an organization that you think would be supportive of the Startup Visa, please drop me an email and let’s talk about ways to get a formal endorsement.
I’m far away from Washington DC today. Actually, I’m a lot closer to Russia than I am to DC and that makes me an expert on Russia. Wait, someone else said that (although the people next to me and Amy at dinner last night were speaking Russian.)
But my friend the Internets (actually, the Web) brought DC closer to me today. While I’m only involved in a handful of things related to politics and DC, several of them popped up somewhere in my world in the last two days. So, I thought I’d share them with you.
Let’s start with software patents. I’m still seriously bummed about Bilski – not the specific ruling, but the fact that in my opinion the Supreme Court wimped out on something that is very important. Several friends have told me that the Supreme Court did exactly what they were supposed to – they ruled on a vary narrow and specific issue that was put before them. A few other friends of mine, including several lawyers that know a lot about the Supreme Court, said it looked like the Supreme Court came close to making a significant and profound ruling – with plenty of hints buried in the stuff Justice Stevens wrote. I can’t interpret any of the Supreme Court inside baseball, but I do know how I feel about software patents and expressed my frustration in an article that I co-authored with Paul Kedrosky titled Software Patents Need to Be Abolished that showed up in the Huffington Post yesterday. In case you need more evidence around the stupidity of the whole situation, take a look at the crap van Rijn is going through. Or maybe this patent from Microsoft on “how to turn a page in an electronic book.”
DC Topic #2 is the Startup Visa. Inc. Magazine has a great article about the issue and the Startup Visa titled The Immigrant Advantage. My friends Kevin Mann (British) and Thanavath Jaroenvanit (French) – both of TechStars Boulder 2008 – co-founders of Graphic.ly – and one of my inspirations for the Startup Visa movement) are prominently featured. And the Kauffman Foundation just came out with a study that concludes that Job Growth is Entirely Driven by Startups. I’ve had a few encouraging conversations about the Startup Visa movement recently, including hearing about a new co-sponsor of the Senate Bill (“The Startup Visa Act of 2010”) as well as talking to a handful of prominent organizations that are close to signing up to get behind it.
Finally, LeBron James has apparently signed with the Miami Heat. I have no idea what that has to do with DC, other than I’m sure the Wizards were trying to get him also.
I’m in Washington DC again – this time to talk about innovation. I’ve been here three times in the past year – the first time was to hear Bilski at the Supreme Court in November and then I was back in March to talk about and promote the Startup Visa.
Yesterday, Thomas Friedman article wrote another great OpEd about the topic titled A Gift for Grads: Start-Ups. As with many Friedman OpEd’s, rather than just railing against the situation, he suggests several specific things that can be done – in this case by the current administrationb. His premise is that to solve the unemployment issue, especially among recent college graduates, we need three things: more start-ups, more start-ups, and more start-ups. And to do this, Friedman talked to Robert Litan (vice president of research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation) and Curtis Carlson, (CEO of SRI International) and came up with the following.
- Create a cabinet position (Secretary Newco) that is focused on pushing through initiatives that help startups and unleash millions of entrepreneurs
- Staple a green card to the diploma of every foreign student who graduates from a US university
- Create a meaningful entrepreneurs visa
- Cut capital gains taxes to 1% for startups
I strongly agree with each of these. My one small addition to the Secretary Newco idea is that person should be an accomplished entrepreneur rather than a career politician, policy person, academic, or lawyer.
Over the next two days I’ve got a meeting with each of my Colorado Senators (Michael Bennet and Mark Udall) as well as a summit at the White House led by Phil Weiser (Director of Technology and Innovation for the National Economic Council), Aneesh Chopra (CTO of the US), and Vivek Kundra (CIO of the US). Our summit includes a small group of VCs from different parts of the US that I’ve helped put together and it’ll focus on the issue of early stage entrepreneurs and innovation throughout the country (specifically – more than just Silicon Valley). I’m also participating in a roundtable titled Implementing The National Broadband Plan and Protecting Consumer Choice: The Venture Capitalist Perspective with fellow VCs Brad Burnham from USV and Santo Politi from Spark Capital. And, as a special bonus, I’m going over the CIA later today for a tour, although I can’t talk about it, so you didn’t just read that.
I don’t spend a lot of time in DC, in politics, or even following politics (I’ve never been a political junkie) so these short immersions are fascinating to me. Hopefully when I look back on the time I’ve spent on this stuff I’ll feel like it’s been a productive effort for the cause of entrepreneurship and innovation in the US which is the thing I spend all my time actually working on by helping create new companies.
I promise I’ll write something thoughtful tomorrow and not torture you with more video and audio.
Over the weekend, I did a fun interview with Howard Lindzon on StockTwits TV during his annual Lindzonpalooza event. We covered a wide range of entrepreneurial topics and gave each other plenty of good natured shit. Eek – I’m a looking a little chunky – note to self: more running, more swimming, less eating. Or maybe it was just the camera.
This afternoon I did an interview with Jon Hansen on Blog Talk Radio about an article that Ariana Huffington wrote on the Huffington Post titled When It Comes to Innovation, Is America Becoming a Third World Country? Jon does a good, thoughtful, long form interview.