I sent this email to my congressman today. I urge you all to learn about and support the Startup Founder Visa movement.
Dear Congressman Rangel,
My name is Matt Mireles. I am a 28 year old Columbia grad and business owner. I had no silver spoon. To pay my way through college, I worked two jobs as a paramedic on nights, weekends and holidays in Harlem and the South Bronx, caring for the sick, injured, and indigent all throughout your district. At one point I even took care of a female staff member of yours who was having chest pain.
I have been in Harlem for five years now and intend to make it my permanent home. In May 2008, I graduated with honors from Columbia University. Now I am the Founder/CEO of SpeakerText, Inc., an internet startup that is changing how people use video on the web.
As I'm sure you're aware, Harlem is becoming a hotbed for technological innovation. As David Carr wrote in the NY Times:
Somewhere down in the Flatiron, out in Brooklyn, over in Queens or up in Harlem, cabals of bright young things are watching all the disruption with more than an academic interest. Their tiny netbooks and iPhones, which serve as portals to the cloud, contain more informational firepower than entire newsrooms possessed just two decades ago. And they are ginning content from their audiences in the form of social media or finding ways of making ambient information more useful. They are jaded in the way youth requires, but have the confidence that is a gift of their age as well.
That's me and my friends that he's talking about. In October 2008, as the world economy was in full meltdown, I founded SpeakerText with the smartest guy I know, a Swedish engineer named Björn. We met when I was a freshman at UC Berkeley. In addition to computer science training from Berkeley, Björn has an MSc in Engineering Physics from Sweden's premier technical college. We have since hired two employees and each hold 50% of the company stock. We are founders, not worker bees.
But here's the rub: Björn is a Swedish citizen and although we've been able to get this far with him an ocean away, for our company to really scale and attract top-tier investors, we need him here in New York. Current US immigration law makes this exceedingly difficult. This is why I am urging you to support the Startup Founder Visa movement and help to turn what has heretofore been an idea into actual legislation.
As entrepreneur/investor Brad Feld noted in the Wall Street Journal:
Immigrants have not only founded big, well-known companies [ahem, Google!]. Foreign-born residents made up just 12.5% of the U.S. population in 2008. But nearly 40% of technology company founders and 52% of founders of companies in Silicon Valley. Yet we don't seem to care. We send recent, foreign-born university science and engineering graduates back to their own countries after their student visas expire—unless these creative sorts are willing to spend some of the most entrepreneurial years of their lives working in a big company under an H-1B visa after they finish their studies.
The startup founder visa is an attempt to rectify this situation. Here's how it would work…
Would-be immigrant entrepreneurs would have to raise a minimum amount of seed capital (~$150k) from a professional venture capital firm or "accredited" angel investor and the US would grant him/her a "founder's visa" that allows the entrepreneur to work, live and travel to/from in the United States.
It's a simple idea, really, and long overdue.
I would like to meet with you and/or one of your staff members to discuss the Startup Founder Visa and how it can help Harlem and America in these tough economic times.
CEO, SpeakerText, Inc.