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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Monday Morning Startup Visa Articles

Comments (22)

While everyone is talking about health care, let’s not forget our friend the Startup Visa.  Two good articles appeared this morning.

Also, if you missed Thomas Friedman’s awesome OpEd this weekend titled America’s Real Dream Team – I encourage you to go take a look.

  • http://www.facebook.com/berislav.lopac Berislav Lopac

    I think you missed an important one here: http://www.businessinsider.com/why-the-startup-vi

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

      I did miss it and just saw it. I think it’s a really misleading post that misses the point of the whole thing. I think Dave McClure’s comment is incredibly important.  I’ve repeated it here:“what an incredibly defeatist attitude, not to mention a narrow misinterpretation of the bill that paints it as taking away opportunities — opportunities which wouldn't even exist without its creation.1) to describe failure = deportation is a GROSS exaggeration of the issue, and distorts the focus of the bill. if the bill doesn't pass, the entrepreneur wouldn't be able to come to the country anyway. you're making it seem as if something that never existed is being taken away. YES, you do have to meet the terms of the bill to qualify — create jobs & economic output. if you don't qualify, then sorry you don't get to stay if you don't meet those rqmts. you can try again, and re-apply if you want… however the PRIMARY focus is to create jobs and economic results. if you don't, then sorry but this isn't a charity program. people in business do it for results, this is no different.2) to suggest that there is any extra power that investors have over entrepreneurs again misses the primary point — if you take money from investors, you ALREADY have signed up for a relationship which shares power & control (board seats, preferred shares, voting rights, etc). to assume that this is substantially different due to the specifics of this bill again misses the point — both founders & investors are here to create economic output. in this case, it's a fairly specific and clear goal to create jobs & revenue, not some unfair / unclear objectives which investors can manipulate.in summary, you're looking for every possible thing that can go wrong with the bill, instead of every thing it can do to improve the lives and opportunities of talented entrepreneurs who want to come to the US. if you prefer to be a victim, you can find crisis & despair & misfortune around every corner, and never decide to get out of bed in the morning. personally, i'd hate to be that kind of person.if on the other hand you prefer to be an optimist, you can find reasons for great positive things to occur, and the Startup Visa provides open doors for people to pursue their dreams where none existed previously.Personally, i'd rather light a candle for those who take risks & make things happen, than to blow out the flame and leave us in darkness where people like yourself have only fears instead of hope. thanks for the alternative perspective, but no thanks.”

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/berislavlopac Berislav Lopac

        Sorry Brad, but this comment doesn't really answer any of the concerns the article's author (or I, for that matter) have about the project.

        But regardless, what I would really like to hear from the horse's mouth: How do you intend to find the entrepreneurs who might be viable for Startup Visa? And why would getting them to the USA be preferable to funding them in their own countries?

        • John Buehler

          I'll chime in on the second part. Anything that can create jobs in the US is worthwhile. Our Government seems to have forgotten that it has shifted its tax base from tariffs and corp. taxes to taxes on incomes. Even as the GDP rises today, taxes are falling with employment. Small business has to be the engine of employment and with Health Care Reform placing even more strain on that, we should be looking anywhere and everywhere to bring innovation here.

          • http://intensedebate.com/people/berislavlopac Berislav Lopac

            Very well, John — but my question was how it would be preferable for startups and investors, not for the US government. But even this point is moot because a) modern high-tech startups will rarely create more than a handful of jobs, and b) even non-US startups can create US jobs — I know of at least one such case.

          • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

            Berislav – the assertion that “modern high-tech startups will rarely create more than a handful of jobs” just isn’t true.  For example, I’m an investor in Zynga.  When we invested in the fall of 2007, they were 10 people.  Today they are over 800 people.  That’s a lot of jobs.

          • Bill Mosby

            Can you give us some idea what the average pay rate for those 800 people is, and what their jobs are like? Better than what I'll describe below, I hope.

            I work for an internet-based tutoring company as an independent contractor for $11 an hour. They have trouble getting enough math and physics tutors at that rate, so we handle 2 or 3 students at a time while claiming to be supplying 1 on 1 tutoring. Multiple students on the same subject with students who are aware of each others' presence would be one thing, but simulating 1 on 1 tutoring among 3 students each in different topics (math, physics, and English grammar, say) at the same time is a great mental workout which unfortunately fails to impress the students at times.

            I'd like to think other hi-tech companies are better. What can you tell me about the ones you invest in?

            Previously, I developed an iPhone app but was unable to market it well enough. Still on the app store, not going anywhere. So tutoring was plan B. Or C, or something.

          • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

            Much better – many are highly paid developers and the infrastructure staff that supports this kind of growth.

        • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

          I run into entrepreneurs that would be viable for the Startup Visa on a regular basis.  The whole impetus for the Startup Visa came from an experience I had last summer at TechStars where two of the companies (one set of Canadian founders, one set of English founders) couldn’t get visas to stay in the US and start their companies.  See http://www.feld.com/archives/2009/09/the-found… />
          There are a huge number of stories like this – I come across them all the time.  We’ve collected a bunch of them at http://www.startupvisa.com (we’ve published a few, but will gradually publish more). 

          I believe it’s only useful to get them to the US if they want to be in the US.  But – if they want to be here, I think it should be easy for them to be here since these entrepreneurs are creating companies that have the potential to be great job creation machines. 

          • http://intensedebate.com/people/berislavlopac Berislav Lopac

            Okay, this comment answers a lot of issues I had with the Startup Visa — and particularly by the notion that it is primarily aimed to providing a solution for foreign entrepreneurs who are already *in* the US by some other means (which is running out). (Even though I still think that the two weeks' eviction notice is much too harsh.)

            However, from a point of view of someone outside the US this seems like a bad way to attract talent and take advantage of them. I know this is not the initiative's intent, and I only hope that it — if passed –won't mean that the US investors are closing themselves into a "splendid isolation" of sorts. All crises naturally inspire protectionist behavior, but we are living in a different world now, and the only solution is to think globally. I'm still convinced that investors from all over the world, not only the USA, should keep looking for entrepreneurial and technical talent around the globe.

          • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

            I don’t think there is any causal link to protectionist behavior.  Investors are going to invest both (a) where they see opportunity and (b) where they want to.  Many US VC firms have expanded aggressively over the past decade into other parts of the work, especially China, India, and parts of Europe.  The Startup Visa isn’t aimed at that dynamic in any way, nor do I think it’ll have any impact on these firms strategies.

            Rather, this continues to be focused on the entrepreneur outside the US that wants to move to the US and start his business in the US.  I strongly believe that the US (and every country – for that matter) should welcome these entrepreneurs and make it easy for them to start businesses wherever in the world they want.  Since I live in the US and am governed by US law, I’m focused on changing the dynamic here because I think it’s hugely important long term for the competitiveness of the US to make it easy for entrepreneurs that want to move her to be able to move here.

            Ultimately it’s the entrepreneurs choice.  And capital will follow the great entrepreneurial opportunities!

          • http://intensedebate.com/people/berislavlopac Berislav Lopac

            The last sentence is all that I really need to know — so tell me, when do you want me to make reservations for our dinner in Zagreb, Croatia? ;)

            I'm just partially joking — my point is that there seems to be a problem that there are many excellent opportunities happening all around the world, but the capital — and *especially* seed-stage capital — is still confined to a handful of locations like Silicon Valley, Boston and London. While the investors keep expressing their interest to fund globally, in practice this is foiled by the fact that they don't know much about the situation elsewhere — and I'm not talking about general business climate and political situation, but concrete, specific opportunities. I'm inviting you, and all other US investors (angels or VCs) to spend more personal time in traveling to such locations and check out the local startup scene.

            And the dinner invitation is open, any time you're around. :)

      • http://www.facebook.com/paramendra Paramendra Kumar Bhagat

        Great points Brad. I could not have said it better.

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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

    If I’m ever in the vicinity of Zagreb, Croatia, I’ll give you a shout!

  • http://3gpower2.com Bill McNeely

    Brad,

    Thanks for getting the startup visa legislation rolling.

    I feel its a good idea to invite folks who will bring value to our country from overseas.All good ideas and investment opportunities do not reside in an American’s head.I know that is shocking to some readers.

    I also like that you reconize that being an American citizen,Permanant Resident or invited guest (visa holder) is a privilage not a right. In order to gain entry into this country you should have something positive to offer. Nothing is free or easy.

    I think the latest generation of veterans in this country (which I am one) can buy into this visa idea knowing that the immigrants this bill produces will continue to strength the economic viability of this great land.

    I wish you success.

  • http://www.facebook.com/paramendra Paramendra Kumar Bhagat

    "While everyone is talking about health care…"

    Immigration is next on Obama's agenda. Get ready to overwork on the issue. It is going to be as challenging as health care was. You will hear all sorts of ridiculous counter arguments.

    • Bill Mosby

      I'd be in favor of letting in all the entrepreneurs there are. And also not letting in so many people that immigration becomes the main driver of population growth. However crowded some other countries are, I like the population density we have here about at the level it is now. And that's only because I realize we can't turn it back to what it was 40 years ago when I first got interested in that issue.

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