- Immigrants play an important role in the US technology industry, and many have founded successful companies.
- With recent technological disengagement, there may be opportunities for immigrants to pursue entrepreneurship.
- These VC firms and startup incubators can help immigrants find companies with work visas.
Some of today’s best-known tech companies were born out of the Great Recession of the late 2000s, including Twilio, Airbnb, and Dropbox. For a certain type of entrepreneur, the challenges of the economic downturn represent an exciting opportunity to build something new from the rubble of the old.
Many of the top tech companies were founded by former employees of titans like Amazon or Google, giving hope that the wave of layoffs in Silicon Valley will lead to a similar startup renaissance.
But that opportunity isn’t available to a particular key type of tech worker: Immigrants who are in the US on work visas like the H-1B. Many of tech’s most powerful and influential figures, including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Stripe cofounders John and Patrick Collison, and Zoom CEO Eric Yuan came to the US as immigrants.
H-1B visas are sponsored by the owner’s employer, meaning that if they lose their job — either voluntarily or as part of a layoff — they generally have to return to their home country within 60 days . That’s bad news for tech because those workers possess valuable, highly desirable skills, and it’s unclear if or when they can come back if they want to.
Enter a new breed of venture-capital firms that are trying to keep that talent in the US by making it easier for immigrants to found American startups — sometimes even by sponsoring those visas themselves.
Jacob Colker, a managing partner of the AI2 Incubator program for artificial-intelligence startups, told Insider he wants to change the perception that it’s impossible to build a company while on an H-1B visa. It is certainly not easy, but it is possible, he said.
“If you’re really compelled to solve a problem, and you want to control your own destiny, and you want to make your dent in the universe, and you’re on an H-1B, it’s possible to find a company,” Colker said. “It’s not guaranteed.”
Insider spoke to four companies that focus on investing in immigrant founders, representing a mix of VC firms and startup incubators, about how to pitch them and which types of resources are available. they give.