Modern, Pfizer, Google, Tesla.
These iconic businesses help drive the 21st century economy. Together, they employ hundreds of thousands of Americans. And all were started by immigrants.
Their founders also had to overcome unnecessary obstacles that blocked the path of other foreign entrepreneurs.
We’ve seen this saga all too often: An entrepreneur has a great idea, an excellent team and the support of a venture capitalist, but can not start a new American business.
Why? Because our country’s immigration policy is stacked against founders born abroad. Unlike many other developed countries, the United States does not have an initial visa, which makes it easier for immigrant entrepreneurs to start innovative new businesses and create jobs.
Instead, they have to rely on existing visa categories such as H-1B, O-1 or E-2 which impose strict restrictions on the number of applicants accepted each year, the type of people who qualify and how long they have to live. the United States before they can start their own companies.
Take Jyoti Bansal, for example. He applied for an H-1B visa, but had to wait 7 years before his immigration status allowed him to start using AppDynamics. My company and others had the opportunity to support Jyoti in his journey as AppDynamics grew, hired more than 1,200 Americans, and subsequently sold for $ 3.7 billion.
Luckily for our country, Jyoti got a green card and was able to start his business. But the same cannot be said about other entrepreneurs. As Jyoti said, “I have friends who have become frustrated with the uncertainty, and after years of waiting, they have finally left the United States.”
Fortunately, Silicon Valley’s own representative Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, has a plan to solve this problem. The Let Let Immigrants Kickstart Employment (LIKE) Act would create a start-up visa for immigrant entrepreneurs who attract investment and create U.S. jobs. It would also provide a boost to the necessary economic activity as our economy recovers from the pandemic.
According to the Kauffman Foundation, a start-up visa proposal like Lofgren’s could create up to 1.6 million jobs over ten years – a number that could be significantly greater if one of the businesses becomes the next Amazon or Google. In addition, Lofgren’s new bill will create even more jobs, as it limits the number of start-up visas that were in previous proposals and makes it easier for entrepreneurs to use them.
Other countries have responded to this challenge by creating their own start-up visas. As a result, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and more than 20 other countries are rolling out the red carpet for foreign entrepreneurs looking to start new businesses on their land. (The United States competes with these countries to attract the best entrepreneurs in the world.)
Lofgren is the perfect person to make such a proposal. As chair of the House Immigration Subcommittee, she is deeply involved in immigration policy. Because she represents Silicon Valley, Lofgren understands the problems foreign entrepreneurs face and also how to fix them.
As a former immigration lawyer and law professor, Lofgren is very familiar with the role that immigrant entrepreneurs have played in the history of our country. 44% of Fortune 500 businesses, for example, were founded by immigrants or their children. One-third of VC-backed businesses published in the United States — and more than half of all $ 1 billion unicorns — had at least one immigrant founder.
The business and the start-up ecosystem should work together behind Lofgren’s thoughtful proposal. Our country needs more entrepreneurs if we want to recover from the economic devastation of the pandemic. Immigrant entrepreneurs are common sense to bring innovation and new jobs when we need them most.
Barry Eggers is a founding partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners and the former chairman of the National Venture Capital Association.