Guest Author: Thomas Ketchell, CEO of Hstry – a graduate of LearnLaunch Accelerator
It’s not everyday you get invited to the White House and it was with nervous excitement that I joined a group of 15 immigrant tech entrepreneurs from across the United States all sent to Washington to speak to officials, members of Congress and their staff. We had a clear message going into these meetings: it’s well past time for legislative reform to ensure the best and brightest can come here to build their businesses, grow the economy and create American jobs.
US immigration policies are forcing foreign-born startup founders with capital and employees out of the country, effectively sending thousands of well paid high-skilled jobs overseas. The foreign-born founders (like us at Hstry) would much rather be here in the United States contributing jobs, taxes, and innovation to the economy. We have blogged previously about how the US immigration system is flawed for entrepreneurs. If you wish to discuss these issues in the classroom, I suggest you take a look at our interactive timeline and accompanying lesson plan (which can be found on the app when you sign-in). Our friends at the American Immigration Council also have some great resources to get your students engaged in these important topics.
The “fly-in” was organized by the folks at FWD.us and the National Immigration Forum. The power of having fifteen entrepreneurs share their story made me realize not only how the system is actually damaging the American economy but also how it affects the immigrants themselves who often have to be parted from their families. All the entrepreneurs that day have good stories but I want to share one with you. Eren Bali is the co-founder of Udemy which is one the biggest names in online courses and MOOCS. His story is very real and highlights the flaws of the system. Udemy’s employment is expected to hit 300 by the end of the year and 500 by the end of the next year, furthermore the company has contributed to the employment of thousands around the US as tutors sell courses online through their platform. Unfortunately, Eren’s co-founder at Udemy was denied an H-1B visa and they had to take the company back to Turkey. As a consequence, they have no choice but to send the new people they hire to their offices in Turkey and Dublin, no longer to the US. Eren also has plans to launch a new company but is worried at the visa situation and doesn’t think it would be worthwhile to do so until there is more security. Eren’s story was inspirational and many of my fellow entrepreneurs faced a similar struggle.
Senator Orrin Hatch was also part of the day and he set-up a press conference alongside us and FWD.us. He highlighted this key message:
“America will face a shortage of more than 220,000 workers with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics degrees by 2018. Canada comes down and advertises in Silicon Valley. I want to be clear: American companies have to look beyond our borders because we make it too difficult for them to be innovative, and it’s only because we don’t allow them to hire the high skilled labor they need to be competitive.”
Action needs to be taken and I do hope reading this blog post and Senator Hatch’s words will inspire you to call your representative and tell them that immigration reform needs to happen. What amazed me about the whole experience of being in DC was how easy it was to access and speak to the staff of Congress Representatives. You have a voice and they do listen.
Special thanks to Representatives Capuano, Clark and Kennedy for their time and listening to our struggles at Hstry. If you have any questions either as a European startup trying to move to the States or would like to know more about my recent trip to Washington D.C., please do get in touch by email email@example.com or else via Twitter (@tomketch).
Click here to read the full blog post from Hstry