Rockstar Entrepreneurs in DC to Push for a StartUp Visa
Jonathan Ortmans, President, Public Forum Institute
More than a dozen rockstar entrepreneurs and startup financiers have decided it was time to visit Washington, DC. They have taken three days of their busy schedules this week to push for the passage StartUp Visa Act of 2010, a bill that would make it easier for foreign entrepreneurs to start high growth enterprises in the U.S.
The proposed legislation, as PDE reported last week, was introduced by Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) to create a new type of visa for foreign entrepreneurs looking to start businesses in the U.S, the EB-6. It would be a two-year visa available to any immigrant entrepreneur who has secured at least $250,000 in capital from accredited venture capitalists or angel investors in the U.S. After two years, EB-6 visa holders would have the option of becoming a permanent U.S. resident if his or her startup has met one of three criteria: created five full-time jobs in the U.S., raised an additional $1 million from investors, or achieved $1 million in revenue.
On Thursday afternoon, the visiting group gathered at White House Conference Center to discuss the Startup Visa with representatives from White House's Office of Science & Technology Policy, the Department of State, Department of Commerce and Department of Homeland Security. Among the audience was Aneesh Chopra, the Federal Chief Technology Officer of the United States (CTO).
The campaign leaders explained how the legislation will help the country compete for talent and create new companies that would employ American workers at a time when joblessness is rampant. Dave McClure, organizer of the trip, venture capitalist and former software entrepreneur, argued that with the Startup Visa Act the U.S. can create thousands of new jobs immediately and tens of thousands more as these new startups grow into the next Googles, Paypals, and eBays.
With regards to the initial requirement of $250,000 in capital, Brad Feld, Managing Director of Foundry Group, explained that this threshold would allow the EB-6 solution to target high growth businesses.
Among other supporters of the bill and the campaign are:
- Shervin Pishevar, an Iranian-born entrepreneur and angel investor based in Silicon Valley.
- Paul Graham, co-founder of Mountain View (Calif.)-based startup incubator Y Combinator.
- Jeff Clavier, a San Francisco-based angel investor
- David Binetti, an entrepreneur who worked to create the original USA.gov
- Eric Ries, an entrepreneur and the author Startup Lessons Learned
Many of the VCs testified to the contribution of immigrant technology entrepreneurs to the economy. They estimated that currently over 50% of VC deals involve a foreign founder or CEO. According to these experts, a higher number and quality of entrepreneurs, foreign and national, competing for VC funds, the higher the flow of VC funds will be.
This is an impressive grassroots movement. They have no lobbyists, no campaign contributions, no PR agencies, just hundreds of supporters who want to encourage job creation and innovation in the United States. For more information on this campaign, access its website at www.startupvisa.com.