Category Archives: Uncategorized

White House ask: Tell us your startup story

The White House has an ask out to the startup community: how is your startup doing? What are some of the struggles you’ve faced and overcome?

For new founders in the past two years, tell the White House what being a new entrant to the startup world has been like. What networks have helped you? What have you most struggled with learning and adapting to?

For founders struggling with visa issues, why not take two minutes to share your story, explaining the need for Startup Visa?

“We would like to hear your story about how your business has done over these last 25 months. Please take a few minutes and share it here. These stories are critical to our policy work — so thank you.

As a reminder, yesterday, the White House signed the JOBS Act legislation that we supported and pushed through with over 5000 signatures on AngelList

“Yesterday, the President signed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, a bipartisan bill that enacts many of the President’s proposals to encourage startups and support our nation’s small businesses. The JOBS Act will allow “crowdfunding” so startups and small businesses can raise up to $1 million annually from many small-dollar investors through web-based platforms, expand “mini public offerings”and create an “IPO on-ramp,” making it easier for young, high growth companies to go public. Read all about the JOBS Act here.”

Next up: Immigration, Startup Visa

Startup Visa: Who are Congressional supporters, how the startup community can have an impact

[Cross-posted: http://johnmanley.net/start-up-visa-act/an-interview-with-craig-montuori-on-the-start-up-visa-act]

Craig Montuori is the Executive Director of PolitiHacks, an organization that supports the Start Up Visa Act. Mr. Montuori has agreed to discuss the Start Up Visa Act on this blog site.

 

Q:  Please describe your organization and your role in it.

A:  PolitiHacks makes politics suck less for startups.  We provide services to the nationwide startup community at the intersection between the political and startup worlds, with our first priority being connecting startup founders with visas to create US jobs and expand the economy.

The startup community is frustrated by the political world, making it difficult to make our voices heard on poorly conceived bills, like the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). I founded PolitiHacks to alleviate this market pain.  The issue we’re addressing first is immigration.   It seems like every early-stage founder knows someone who has suffered from immigration issues, while investors hate seeing their promising portfolio companies fail due to being stuck in bureaucratic immigration limbo.

By teaching founders how to hack the political system and cut through red tape, we can get the system working better for the American economy, the founders themselves, and their investors. It’s a win for everyone.   I take in founding teams with immigration issues and educate them on how they can break through the system to get back to focusing on their product and building a great company. I package press about foreign founders creating US jobs to send off to Capital Hill to raise awareness of the issues. I coordinate with and advise VCs and other startup community VIPs on how to have the maximum political impact for the minimum effort.

PolitiHacks is founded on the principle that the American Dream shouldn’t come with red tape, so we focus on teaching the startup community how to cut through bureaucracy to get things done and solve problems.

Q:  Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.), reintroduced the Start Up Visa Act on March 14, 2011.  This bill seems like it could create a positive ripple effect on the U.S. economy.  Can you tell us exactly what is the status of this bill right now?

A:  The bill hasn’t made any movement this year since being introduced, with the first step being to schedule hearings in subcommittee.  On the positive side, we’ve gained an additional four Senators (Bennet, D-CO; Gillibrand, D-NY; Landrieu, D-LA; and Warner, D-VA) over the course of this past year.  We’ve also seen entrepreneurship become an issue that both parties are fighting to be identified with, which is a clear win for the community, if we can mobilize to act on it in the aftermath of our success with the JOBS Act.

Further, while S.565/the Startup Visa Act of 2011 is stalled, with no legislative momentum behind it for the past year, the solution it represents has been showing up more and more often on Capitol Hill.  Startup Visa was endorsed as a part of the President’s comprehensive immigration reform in his El Paso speech on his vision for a 21st century immigration system, and Startup Visa gained a high priority slot in the 2012 State of the Union, along with STEM Green Cards and DREAM Act.  In Congress, Rep. Lofgren’s IDEA Act contained an even more expansive vision of the Startup Visa, while Sens. Moran (R-KS) and Warner (D-VA) introduced their Startup Act, including authorizing 75,000 Startup Visas.  Politicians in DC are increasingly aware of the economic problems the status quo causes by encouraging some of the best and brightest global talent to start companies and create foreign jobs and competition, while US-educated, foreign founders are begging to do so here in the US, benefiting Americans.

Q:  Which Senators or Members of Congress have supported the bill?

A:  Direct supporters for S565/HR1114 include:  S. 565   

  1. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)
  2. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN)
  3. Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO)
  4. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)
  5. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
  6. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA)
  7. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
  8. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY14)
  9. Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY23)
  10. Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA8)
  11. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR3)

However, Zoe Lofgren’s HR2161/IDEA Act containing the Startup Visa Act 2010 plus a new “self-starter” EB-5-like “create 10 jobs, get a green card” provision has 25 sponsors:  H.R. 2161

 Likewise, S.1965/Startup Act also has the support of Sen. Blunt (R-MO), in addition to sponsors Sen. Moran (R-KS) and Warner (D-VA). That bill contains the Startup Visa Act of 2010 with required capital reduced to the levels set by the Startup Visa Act of 2011 and creating 75,000 new visas:  S. 1965 

Q:  What advocacy steps would you recommend to supporters of this bill?

A:  First and foremost, organize. Sign up for Startup Digest, find the local founder groups whose events interest you, and start attending.  It’ll not only make you a stronger entrepreneur by exposing you to startup best practices, it’ll also plug you into the startup network, letting you have a political impact without taking time away from building a great company.  If you want to do more, great!

Invite your local Congressional representative to the startup meetups.  The Rep’s district staffers will attend to meet their boss’s constituents, and the more we can introduce DC to our culture and the frustrations that DC can alleviate, the more responsive they will be. 

Developing a relationship with congressional staffers is an easy 10x hack to improve your effectiveness at advocating for the Startup Visa.  There are two types of congressional staffers: district/local and DC/issue.  For the local staffers, add them to your distribution list for your startup’s press releases, since they’ve got incentives to cheer your successes, as you contribute to the local economy and eventually create jobs.  For the DC staffers, we are specifically interested in identifying immigration staffers for Startup Visa advocacy. 

If you’ve got four minutes, follow these instructions to help.  In the future, others can follow in your footsteps to reach out directly to the staffer and circumvent what I call the intern firewall to make a more meaningful contact.  I offer non-traditional methods of advocating because we’re a bunch of hackers who can have a greater impact by not playing the traditional DC game. We’re small in number but can have an outsized impact.

Q:  Which Senators or Members of Congress need to support the bill to ensure its passage?

If we want to pass the bill before the end of 2012, the House comes down to one man:  Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX21).  Based out of Austin, Smith is the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which oversees immigration.  While Rep. Elton Gallegly is the Immigration subcommittee chairman, Rep. Smith has handled immigration issues personally, as is his prerogative as Chairman.  In the Senate, that role is filled by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).  The Immigration subcommittee chair is Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY).  Schumer is also the no. 2 Dem, in charge of messaging, making him a very important individual to win over.

Additionally, leadership in both chambers are important ‘gets’ to seeing the bill advance and gain momentum, since like A-list VCs, they signal to other elected officials.  Reps. Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, and Kevin McCarthy, the Young Guns, are senior Republican leadership in the House. Rep. Cantor’s opposition to SOPA signaled that bill’s death in the House, and as the group has reached out to Silicon Valley.   In the Senate, Sen. Reid (D-NV) is responsible for determining the calendar, which can speed up or completely stall a bill. We need to secure at least the non-opposition of his office to succeed.

Some additional Representatives and Senators represent key milestones whose support will show that progress is being made:  Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) has been the traditional champion of the tech world, as a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, as demonstrated by her opposition to SOPA.  Her support would be a key milestone for the viability of the bill in the House, as she is the ranking member of the Immigration Subcommittee of Judiciary.  Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is another member of Congress who worked with the tech world in fighting SOPA.  He would be a key member to work with in crafting a bill that can pass Congress and be implemented.  Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), currently running for Senate, has been supporting a STEM Green Card bill, called the STAPLE Act. His support might demonstrate a potential coalition around these two similar issues.

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Kerry-Lugar-Udall Visa Bill Will Create Jobs in America

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.), today reintroduced legislation to drive job creation and increase America’s global competiveness by helping immigrant entrepreneurs secure visas to the United States.  Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) plans to introduce companion legislation in the House.

The StartUp Visa Act of 2011 will allow an immigrant entrepreneur to receive a two year visa if he or she can show that a qualified U.S. investor is willing to invest in the immigrant’s startup venture.  And in an expansion from the Kerry-Lugar StartUp Visa Act of 2010, the pool of eligible immigrants would now include holders of H-1B visas and entrepreneurs living outside the United States with a market presence in the country.

“Every job-creating American business started as an idea in the mind of an entrepreneur.  We need to keep and bring more of those ideas to our shores where they can put Americans to work.  Global competition for talent and investment grows more intense daily and the United States must step up or be left behind,” said Sen. Kerry.  “Everywhere Dick Lugar and I travel for the Foreign Relations Committee, we see firsthand the entrepreneurial spirit driving the economies of our competitors.  Creating a new magnet for innovations and innovators to come to the United States and create jobs here will offer our economy a double shot in the arm – robust job creation at home and reaffirmation that we’re the world’s best place to do business.”

“We want to establish a way for the smartest and most entrepreneurial individuals in the world to come to the United States and create jobs. Many are already here studying at our great universities,” said Sen. Lugar.  “Helping them stay to invest in their ideas and create jobs benefits all Americans.”

“Our broken immigration system prevents talented entrepreneurs from all over the world from developing ideas that keep America competitive in a global economy.  While I believe broader reform of the immigration system is long overdue, this fix is important to ensure we don’t unnecessarily hinder the innovators and entrepreneurs who will help drive America’s future economy,” said Sen. Udall.

“The entrepreneurial spirit among immigrants is ingrained in our country’s history and success,” said Rep. Maloney. “This legislation will promote our competitiveness around the globe and create a new generation of prosperity here at home by helping highly-skilled talent– wherever in the world it comes from–to create companies and jobs in the U.S.”

Options for Entrepreneurs

 The StartUp Visa Act of 2011 would amend immigration law to give immigrant entrepreneurs three new options for entry or retention of residency:

Option One: Immigrant entrepreneurs living outside the U.S. would be eligible to apply for a StartUp Visa if a qualified U.S. investor agrees to financially sponsor their entrepreneurial venture with a minimum investment of $100,000. After two years, their business must have created 5 new jobs and raised not less than $500,000 in additional capital investment or generate not less than $500,000 in revenue.

Option Two: Immigrant entrepreneurs currently in the U.S. on an unexpired H-1B visa; OR immigrant entrepreneurs currently in the U.S. who have completed a graduate level degree in science, technology, engineering, math, computer science, or other relevant academic discipline from an accredited United States college, university, or other institution of higher education would be eligible for a StartUp Visa if;

They demonstrate annual income of not less than roughly $30,000 or the possession of assets of not less than roughly $60,000; and

Have proven that a qualified U.S. investor agrees to financially back their entrepreneurial venture with a minimum investment of $20,000.

After two years, their business must have created 3 new jobs and raised not less than $100,000 in additional capital investment or generate not less than $100,000 in revenue.

Option Three: Immigrant entrepreneurs living outside the U.S. would be eligible to apply for a StartUp Visa if they have controlling interest of a company in a foreign country that has generated, during the most recent 12-month period, not less than $100,000 in revenue from sales in the U.S. 

After two years, their business must have created 3 new jobs and raised not less than $100,000 in additional capital investment or generate not less than $100,000 in revenue.

Better Utilizing Existing Visas

To accommodate this new type of visa, adjustments would be made to the existing EB-5 visa – which grants visas to foreign nationals who invest $1 million towards the creation of 10 jobs. Under a new EB-6 category, a visa would be granted to the innovative entrepreneur with intellectual capital, instead of a wealthy foreign investor who is in a position to buy a visa. The legislation transfers an allotment of the yearly 9,940 EB-5 visas, of which only 4,191 visas were used in FY 2009, to be granted under the new EB-6 category. The creation of new visas is not authorized in this bill.

Preventing fraud and abuse

The investor(s) eligible to “sponsor” immigrant entrepreneurs must be based in the U.S. – with the majority of partners being U.S. citizens – and have made $10 million capital commitments over the course of 2 years, with at least four investments exceeding $500,000 as stipulated in applicable SEC investor rules.

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The Story of an Immigrant Entrepreneur

Passageways Inc. is the 27th fastest growing software company in the United States. Based in Purdue University’s Research Park, the company employs 28 people (including 24 US citizens), has over 200 customers and contributes significantly to the local and state economy. Paroon Chadha was one of the two co-founders of the company, and his story is indicative of the issues faced by immigrant entrepreneurs across the country.

“I came to the US in 1999 for an MBA, which is where I met my fellow co-founder, Christopher Beltran. Together we started working on the first business plan for Passageways. Almost immediately, the idea took off. We won at a prestigious business plan competition at Purdue University in my first year, and got convinced to pursue this opportunity full-time after school.

However, my visa situation was tenuous. After graduation, I was allowed to work for a year on this project, after which I would have to get sponsorship from another employer for my H-1B visa. All initial discussions with potential investors were tainted by this uncertainty. To delay the start of the 1 year ticking clock, I took a year off from school as well.

Purdue Employees Federal Credit Union became our first paying customer. In fact, they were so impressed with the product that they agreed to invest $100,000 in our company as seed funding. We spent thousands of dollars of our precious seed capital to explore visa opportunities that would enable me to start my own company, but our attorneys came up empty.

Finally, we worked out a compromise. As part of the Operating Agreement, Purdue EFCU took majority ownership of my business and agreed to sponsor my H-1B application. The Operating agreement allowed for transferring back some equity to me (and Christopher) on meeting certain milestones.”

Paroon’s story is replicated across the country, as bright students continue to try and start their own businesses, only to stumble when it comes to getting a visa. Passageways has been profitable for 5 years running, and was recently named amongst the 50 companies to watch in Indiana. While Paroon was able to trade ownership in the business for a visa sponsorship, this hurdle is too difficult for several others to overcome.

“In 2004, Passageways applied for permanent residency for me, and I finally received my green card this year. For years, our annual strategic meetings listed my lack of permanent residency as amongst the top business risks for our company. It took me 7 years, 4 trips outside of the country solely to get visa renewals, and countless hours spent resolving paperwork that could have been spent focusing on growing my business.

I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I have seen several other startups fall by the way side as they try and resolve the founder visa issue. This country is the only place where a business like mine could be so successful so fast. However, the immigration laws made it harder, and not easier, for me to achieve my entrepreneurial objectives.”

Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs & VCs Travel to DC to Promote Startup Visa Job Creation Bill

[For Immediate Release]

Grass-roots team behind StartupVisa.com to meet, brief representatives of White House, Senators, State & Commerce Departments, DHS, SBA

San Francisco, CA, March 2, 2010 — A group of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and venture capitalists will travel to Washington DC this week to promote the Startup Visa Act of 2010, legislation to spur job creation by enabling startup founders to bring new companies to the US, if they can demonstrate funding from US-based investors. The group plans to meet with a variety of federal representatives to brief them on the bill, including the White House, State Department, Commerce Department, DHS, SBA, and members of congress.

“Job creation is a national priority,” said Dave McClure, organizer of the trip and a venture capitalist and former software entrepreneur. “With the Startup Visa Act, we can create thousands of new jobs immediately, and tens of thousands more as these new startups grow into the next Googles, Yahoos, and eBays of their generation. It’s a huge win-win, and we’re traveling to DC to encourage the quick passage of this much-needed reform.”

The Startup Visa Act of 2010, introduced last week by Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN), would modify the existing EB-5 visa to enable job-creating entrepreneurs to immigrate to the United States. The bill requires each entrepreneur to have a sponsoring US venture capital or angel investor who will invest at least $100,000 in their startup, and total funds raised must be at least $250,000 per company. The legislation is supported by more than 150 venture capitalists and investors who signed a letter urging its passage. While in DC, the group will be meeting with members of Congress, The White House, Commerce Department, State Department and Small Business Administration, and bringing thousands of messages from voters around the country who support the bill.

The grass-roots effort to create the bill began last year, prompted by a blog post by Paul Graham of venture capital firm Y Combinator. Brad Feld, a venture capitalist with Foundry Group based in Colorado, took the next step and began promoting the idea on his website and blog. McClure and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs Eric Ries and Shervin Pishevar then joined the effort by creating the StartupVisa.com website after a previous trip to DC by Silicon Valley geeks in September, and producing a video featuring Ries and Canadian entrepreneur Eric Diep, who had been unable to get a visa to start his company in the US. Feld worked together with congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) to draft legislation introduced in the House last fall, and was later joined by Kerry and Lugar in introducing similar legislation in the Senate last week.

As McClure and others joined in, the Startup Visa movement became an example of how technology innovation can inspire change, and quickly gathered thousands of supporters in just a few weeks. The group has relied solely on the use of social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and blogs to promote its ideas, and have generated over 2,000 letters in support from voters across the country. “There are no lobbyists, no campaign contributions, no PR agencies,” McClure said. “This is a 100% grass-roots movement of citizens who want to encourage job creation and innovation in the United States.”

“America and the American Dream has attracted the world’s immigrants and their dreams for centuries, ” said Shervin Pishevar. “Our country has been reinvigorated and reinvented by a stream of humanity from all parts of our world. Increasingly, it has become harder for the best and the brightest minds to come to America and write the next chapter of the America Story. The StartUp Visa Act is about winning the race for the very best of the world’s brains and startups who will in turn create jobs and opportunities for all Americans.”

Support Job Creation in the US by  Supporting StartupVisa.com!

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[PR Contact Dave McClure – 650-743-4738 – dave.mcclure@gmail.com]

Senators Kerry & Lugar Introduce the Startup Visa Act in Washington, DC

We are thrilled to announce Senators John Kerry (D-MA) & Richard Lugar (R-IN) today introduced The Startup Visa Act in Washington.

The full text of the proposed legislation is here.

This new legislation is also supported by signatures from over 100 US venture capital and angel investors.

The Startup Visa Act proposes legislation to modify the existing EB-5 Visa in order to drive job creation in the US and increase American global competitiveness.  This would enable immigrant entrepreneurs who are creating new companies to secure visas to come to the United States, if there is investment capital available from a sponsoring US venture capital or angel investor of at least $100,000 in an equity financing of not less than $250,000.

Earlier legislation had been proposed last year by US Representative Jared Polis (D, CO-2), H.R. 4259, the Employment Benefit Act of 2009, also known as the StartupVisa.  Later, HR 4259 was included in the overall House Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill.

The folks here at StartupVisa.com are all very proud of this moment, and we ask for your support as the proposed Startup Visa Act legislation moves closer to a vote. We will provide more information from the sponsoring legislators as it becomes available.

Relevant documents are available below: