How Can The Startup Visa Be Improved Upon?
from the fixing-it-bit-by-bit dept
When the startup visa was first put forth by Paul Graham, I was a big supporter. When Brad Feld took the idea and got political support for it, I was still a big supporter. But when the bill was actually introduced, I expressed some serious worries about it — specifically over the fact that it was entirely focused on enterpreneurs who could raise a certain amount of money. As I noted, there were some potentially serious unintended consequences of requiring enterpreneurs to raise a specific amount of money just to stay in the country. The leverage between enterpreneurs and VCs can be a delicate enough balance without adding in the fact that you might get deported if you don’t take the deal being handed to you.
While many of the people I know and respect in the industry have been vocal champions of the current bill, it was good to see at least someone make a big deal of these serious deficiencies in the bill. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry wrote up a post for Business Insider that basically reflects this same viewpoint. We both think that a startup/entrepreneur visa makes a ton of sense, and it’s something the country needs, but we’re a bit worried by the current bill, which seems entirely focused on venture capital, rather than actual entrepreneurship.
Some have responded and suggested that this is better than nothing, but I’m not entirely convinced of that. A bad bill with unintended consequences could create more harm than good and could derail future attempts to put forth more serious (and needed) reform.
In the end, I think (former VC) Jeff Nolan put it best: this is a “well-intentioned bad idea that shouldn’t be stopped.” The real thing is that it should be fixed. Now, some of the bill’s supporters have suggested that the problems with this bill are necessary, in that it’s the only way they’ll get passed, but that seems like a defeatist attitude. We have an opportunity to actually get this right and to bring smart entrepreneurs who can create a lot of jobs and tremendous value to the US. We shouldn’t rush it through in the easiest manner possible: we should focus on getting it right, even if it takes more effort.
Update: It looks like the folks at the Kaufman Foundation have had similar concerns as well, supporting the concept, but worried about tying it to funding. They suggest an alternative, focused on job creation:
Here’s a way to improve on the Kerry-Lugar plan. Create a true “job creator’s visa,” one tied directly and only to job creation by new immigrant entrepreneurs. The visa could be a temporary one for immigrants already here on another visa who establish a business. It could then be extended if the firm hires at least one American non-family resident. The visa should become permanent once the enterprise crosses a certain job threshold (such as five or 10 workers). But it would not be tied to financing.
There are plenty of immigrants who might qualify: the one million skilled foreign workers now here on H1-B visas who otherwise must go home after six years, as well as the roughly 60,000 foreign students who earn degrees at American universities each year. These are far larger numbers than those who could qualify under the Kerry-Lugar proposal.