I’ve been consistently public, for almost a decade, about my belief that we should significantly change our approach to immigration in the US, especially for entrepreneurs. As one of the original advocates of the Startup Visa, I continue to be bummed out that our government can’t seem to figure out why this is important or doing anything productive around it.
But, I’ve been appalled the past few days, as Amy and I spend time in Germany, to watch the Trump immigration enforcement that separates children from their parents and detain the children in separate locations. While we had a joyful anniversary yesterday, I felt a bitter emotional undercurrent that upset me.
I’m lucky that I was born an American citizen. Over the years, I’ve invested in many immigrant entrepreneurs. Amy and I have supported a number of organizations that help immigrants and refugees. But when I saw Ayah Bdeir’s blog post titled Zero Tolerance for Zero Tolerance on the littleBits blog, it brought tears to my eyes.
We’ve been investors in littleBits since 2013. I’ve gotten to know and deeply respect Ayah as a leader and an entrepreneur. But I especially appreciate her as a human being. Her story is an amazing one, and she continues to be brave about her experience and the values that have come from it.
In her words:
“I know firsthand the strife of being a refugee. In 1982, my family fled my home country of Lebanon because they feared for our lives during the Lebanese-Israel war; we were welcomed in Canada with open arms. In 1989, a civil war broke out and my parents fled violence again to Canada, where we were again welcomed and allowed to live with dignity and respect. In 2006, a war broke out between Israel and Lebanon; my sister and I separated from my mom and other sisters to flee to Jordan, then the United Kingdom, then the United States.
I was 24-years-old, I was fully aware of what was going on, I spoke fluent English, and I had means to buy flights and hire a lawyer. Yet it was still a massively traumatizing experience. I cried for weeks afterwards and I remember every second vividly. The kids we are talking about today do not have any of the resources I had, and they will be scarred for life.”
The post is powerful and an example of the kind of intellectual leadership that makes me proud to know someone. She states clearly her view:
“History will judge us if we sit still and allow this to happen. Our kids will not forgive us if we don’t stand up for them. Our conscience will not rest if we allow something so basically human to appear partisan. We must speak out.”
Please read her entire post. In our current world of tweets and soundbites, I think it is even more important to read slowly and thoughtfully, especially from people who have direct experience with different situations that we are confronted with as a society.
And – if you want to help, here is a list of activist groups supporting families at the border that need your help right now.
Ayah – I’m honored to know you and get to work with you. Thank you for your very public leadership.
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.
Amy and I have been big supporters of a movie about immigration called For Here or To Go?
With our friends at Boundless, we are sponsoring a week of screenings in Seattle. We are supplying a bunch of free tickets and – when they are used up – will still have a set of paid tickets available.
It’s playing at the Landmark Theaters Crest Cinema Center from Friday 9/22 to Wednesday 9/27. If the topic of immigration is important to you, this is a great, powerful, thought-provoking movie.
If you want to bring a big group or spend some time with Rishi, the creator of the movie, just email me.
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.
Amy and I are executive producers of the movie “For Here or To Go?” We’ve decided to fund the screening of it in Boulder. It will be showing at
It will be showing at The Boedecker Theater at The Dairy Center for the Arts on May 28th at 4:30pm. Tickets are only $11 and are limited. They’ll sell out quickly so sign up now. We will be there – we hope to see you also!
The overview of the movie follows:
Set against the backdrop of the 2008 recession, For Here or To Go? is a comedy drama about the many personal battles faced by immigrants living in America. Young Silicon Valley software professional Vivek Pandit is poised to become a key hire at a promising healthcare startup, but when they realize his work visa has less than a year remaining, the offer disappears. Having learned the hard way about the flaws in his “it’s just paperwork” mentality, Vivek battles forces beyond his control to get his visa extended, whether at his existing company or a new job. Just as the prospect of returning home to India starts to look tempting, Vivek meets a girl worth the fight to keep the life he has built in America. Along the way, his eyes are opened to the similar struggles of his own roommates – other immigrants equally seen as “temporary workers” in the United States, who drive nice cars but avoid investing in furniture for fear of having to leave it all behind. American in mind and Indian at heart, this is a contemporary story of ambition and ambivalence fueled by one’s immigration status that characterizes the dilemma of modern cultural displacement. (Rucha Humnabadkar, 2017, USA/India, 1:45, NR)
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 email@example.com.
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:
- Go to our monthly match page and hit the donate button and give whatever you feel like giving (min is $10).
- After you complete the donation, TWEET your donation out on the post donation page. That will register it for our match.
- If you don’t use Twitter, you can forward your email receipt. The instructions will be on the post donation page. We would vastly prefer you tweet it out.
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.