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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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Immigrant Startup Founders – Tell Us Your Story

Comments (28)

As the Startup Visa initiative continues to pick up momentum, we are now collecting stories from immigrants who have either started or tried to start their company in the US.  We are interested in any aspect of your story and – while we’d like to be able to have your contact info – recognize that some people will want their story to be anonymous (which is ok with us.)

We’re looking to collect as many stories as we can by February 27th (11pm) so that we’ll be able to put them together in an appropriate format for the Geeks on a Plane trip to DC on 3/4/10 – 3/6/10 which will include a delegation of folks (including me) talking about the Startup Visa.

If you have a Startup Visa story about your immigration challenges to tell, please help us out!

  • Anon

    I am an immigrant. I founded and am running a startup. In my case, the two vectors are orthogonal.

  • http://dshan.me/blog DShan

    Same effort being pursued here in Canada. I'm an American having some hiccups trying to get things rolling in Vancouver. I know that's not helpful in this call to action but it'll be very nice when these visa are more common worldwide.

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

    I’d love to hear your story if you are willing to tell it.

  • craig

    I know a few folks who started the immigration process when they were just out of school and at their first job. So not entrepreneurs or founders then, but now they are going in that direction.

    Does that mesh with the Startup Visa story?

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

    Yes it does – happy to hear there stories.

  • name

    We sold our last company to one of the top 3 internet companies (if public valuation is a measure), and as part of the agreement, as you are so well aware of, we had to relocate some of the key folks to the US (ourselves included). Now that we are getting to the end of what’s expected from us in big corp., we’ve decided to do the next startup from the US. – BUT the current visa’s we have, gives us nothing more than 60 days in the US, before we have to leave, if we are to resign. There is not really other VISA opportunities than us applying for a “green-card”, if we want to start, own and run a business here. A process that either delays everything a year (optimistically) – OR probably just make us go back to Europe, or as we have been contemplating, move to Asia, where you have “entrepreneur” VISA’s all over.

    Well, to cut a long story short, I am a huge supporter of your Startup Visa Initiative!, it'll not help me today, but I am sure there is somebody just like me arriving tomorrow. :-)

  • http://www.co2cut.com Roman

    This is the best I've found: https://www.usimmigrationsupport.org/e2-work-visa… Good start-up idea and biz plan may help lower request for E-2 visa initial investment.

  • Richard

    Don't know if my story is of interest/use… UK company that started up in Seattle soon after starting in the UK, requiring me to move over here. Company now does about 90% of it's 7 figure a year business in the US. On an E visa but it's been a headache and would not allow me to start another business here easily.

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

    Definitely of use.

  • http://www.codeness.com GeorgeA

    Hi Brad,

    I applaude your initiative. This has been most welcomed. Some of the intelligentia brain mass is still outside of the United States. It would be a shame not to harbor that capacity.

    Keep on the good work.
    George.

  • SaK

    Hi Brad,

    I was an immigrant student, and started a company in SF on a H-1B visa. it did help that we had angel funding from day 1, which meant that I could be an employee of the company from day 1. Went on to grow the company to 60 odd people, out of which at least 75% were Americans.

    It makes no sense to me that the US govt does not create an easy path for this kind of story to happen again and again. It's a win-win-win situation for all involved.

    Best.

  • http://www.bouldersoftware.org Richard Bass

    Read about this in the BCBR. Great idea. If a VC or Super Angel is willing to put their stamp on it, why shouldn't a gov't that's a whole lot less sophisticated. Not even sure why you need renewal conditions – so long as the company is alive there are jobs. You probably have a good reason I suspect. You guys are much smarter than I.

  • Vijay

    I graduated from Stanford University, and got my H1B visa sponsored
    through my startup company. What made this possible was the fact that
    we were backed by reputed angel investors and a VC firm and we could
    consequently show the USCIS that we had the ability to pay the H1B
    founders the "H1B prevailing wage" for the role of Software Engineer
    in the area, which works out to be around $75,000 in the San Francisco
    bay area. Our immigration attorneys told us that the rule was that you
    had to raise enough money to comfortably pay the H1B employees the
    prevailing wage for a year. One of my immigrant friends started a
    company in similar fashion too.

    The real issue arises when funding is not readily forthcoming;
    either the idea is too raw or you still need to work on networking and
    reaching out to enough investors etc., or alternatively managed to
    raise funding that could pay you a "stipend" but not the H1B minimum
    wage.

    In such a situation, current immigration policies would make it
    impossible to run the startup and work on it until it is funding
    worthy. And it is simply impractical to leave the US for a few months,
    work on the startup and then raise funding, since location and
    networking are a crucial aspects of the equation. Apart from the fact
    that your startup ideas refine over time and the feedback of smart
    entrepreneurs and VCs in the silicon valley is often very crucial
    (which can be got only by being physically present in the US/Silicon
    Valley).

    In an ideal world, smart entrepreneurs would have some visa
    category that would enable them to hang around in the US for say 1-2
    years without having "too much to show", since that would likely be
    the state of most early stage startups that do eventually succeed.
    However I can easily see such a visa category exploited heavily by
    folks who want to hang around in the US for a while and find other
    opportunities. I suspect that the safeguards against exploitation
    would likely throw the baby out with the bathwater and I can't think
    of a simple way to satisfy both concerns. In fact I have found these
    find points being mostly unaddressed in most articles in support of
    the "startup founder visa".

    One useful change in USCIS immigration policy would be to make it
    a very straightforward process to get a green card provided an
    immigrant has started a company and has raised X dollars (say $500K)
    from accredited angels or VCs. Raising the money would already
    establish the bona fide credentials of the founders and the green card
    would certainly reduce hassle for them. I believe it might be possible
    to indirectly achieve this with the EB1 green card application,
    wherein the founders need to prove that they are "outstanding", but
    explicit criteria in this regard would certainly make life simpler.

    I don't have a good solution to the founder visa type that I
    described earlier and I'll be very happy to hear ideas that enable
    "genuine" startup founders with "very little to show" by way of their
    startup progress to hang around in the US and tinker around for a
    while, while simultaneously addressing the US government concerns of
    exploitation of these immigration visas.

  • http://twitter.com/juanchaparro @juanchaparro

    Started a cleaning company about 5 years ago with now money, no knowledge, no green card, no nothing…but a dream of making an impact in the world and becoming financially free. But we decided to learn from the best, so while we cleaned the homes we listened to podcasts/audio books on money, marketing, the web and became good at it….never went to formal business school. We made it happen together with my wife.

    We turned an old, boring and overlooked business into an exciting online maid service in the web 2.0 era….now know as Gmaids.com the leader in green cleaning in Dallas, TX and expanding in the U.S. The company helps feeding children in south america for very house we clean…providing a daily lunch to them…who can't afford it yet.

    Would love to share more…you can read more at our website in the footer you'll find a link that says our story.

    Let me know if this helps. Love to help more if needed.

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

    Congrats – great story!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/isaac_keyet isaac_keyet

    I'm sure you remember at least parts of my story. TechStars really triggered me wanting to live in the US and run a company there, then of course there was really no way for me to obtain a proper work visa and thus I had to hold back and work from a distance instead, with the occasional visit to my workplace. On my third attempt to enter the US on a Tourist-Business Visa Waiver I was deported because they thought my business trip was too long (I wanted to stay for 81 days). And I can also admittedly say I withheld some information about my visit. I learned my lesson, just a shame I now have to go through the full Visa process to re-enter the US – even if it's just for a two week business trip.

    Then we got acquired, as you well know, and my current company has a very distributed workforce – perfect for me right now. However imagining there to be a Startup Visa or similar in the US totally makes sense. That's something that truly would create more jobs, especially for US citizens, and would also allow the market to expand further thanks to the competition. For the economy as a whole, I think it could make a big difference.

    Interesting indeed!

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

    Yup – I totally remember.  While it was a few years ahead of what really inspired me to take action, your case was one of the first that I directly encountered.

  • http://upslopebrewing.wordpress.com/ Daniel

    Hi , I'm from Argentina, my name is Daniel Pages. email: ya_hayy@yahoo.com.ar.
    I will write my story soon. I'm a Brewer and with an American Partner I opened a new brewery in Boulder. Today There are 7 Americans employed working in this company.
    I don't have problems with my visa because I'm married with an American women.

  • http://www.memoryreel.com Nikhil

    Hi Brad, I just shared my story today using the link to the form you provided. I've also posted it here: http://nn140.posterous.com/why-i-support-the-star… if anyone is interested in reading it.

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

    Fantastic – thanks for the story!

  • Bond

    I am here on H4 dependent visa for past 8 Years. My wife is a Special Aid Teacher on H1b. When we filed our green card application on 2007, which is still reach no were because of backlog. When we file first time the application for our residency, we were very exited, we put our entire life savings on Buying home in NJ, I put 20% down, and now our status is on limbo. And If we have to leave this country, then what will happen to My home, Mortgage, school kids where my wife teach science. If we have same proposal to buy home and get green card. Which will make our housing market stable, economy will get better and the Govt get Escrow tax on property. But if we have to leave this country then we lose, the school kids loose the future, the school lose good teacher, and govt lose taxes on job & property tax, so all in one it will be lost for every one.

  • Bond

    Just we are Legal Immigrants, Follow the rules and regulation, Pay taxes every year, and invest in this country. And if this country is made of Legal Immigrants, Then please enforce our law for people don’t follow the rules, which will help Americans get back to there job. And don’t put my life on backlog for 20 to 25 years which mean I can do nothing for my half of the life just because I follow the rules. I have dreams too, I would like to support my family too, I have home now, a Car, but I want to create small business too, so that I can hire American people, and create job. So please give us some rights.

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  • John

    I Know this person who came to the united states when they were a teenager now this person is an adult and they didn't go through the process of getting a visa or green card or nothing. but the person is telling me their papers aren't straight and the only thing she can do is get married or something like that. But you see here i really like this person and the reason our relationship ended was because she said she couldn't date. but we both really care about each other and i know there's other ways to get a green card not just through marriage..and she wants to be successful go to college and become who she wants to be..and she also thinks there's nothing anybody can do the only way to go is through the marriage thing..and she's only just become an adult. What do you think needs to be done? and in How much time will it take? and is this a reason to end a relationship?

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