Startup Visa – My Story

I’ve noticed some momentum building around the web for a startup visa. I love the idea. If it had been around 10 years ago, it would have changed my life.

My dream since I was 12 (~1985) was to move to the USA and make a startup. Having grown up in Australia with the Commodore Amiga, I was amazed by the idea of a group of dentists funding an intensely smart group of engineers who ended up building the Amiga. We were blown away by companies like Epyx who made incredible games and utilities. I didn’t know it back then, but many of these companies were based in Silicon Valley.

So I followed my dream, and in 1999 I was working at Oracle in Silicon Valley. But I found the life in a big corporate machine was really not for me. I really, REALLY wanted to be in the startup world, building my own startup.

As an Australian citizen working in the USA with an H1b visa wanting to make a startup, I found 4 options:
1. Join someone’s startup, sponsored under an H1b. The problem with this approach is that if their startup fails, I have to be re-sponsored for a new visa. And, obviously I am not building my own startup this way.

2. Make my own startup. But with an H1b visa, this was going to be difficult to arrange. H1b visas are better for employees with minority ownership, not founders. And again, what happens if the startup fails after 3 months?

3. Leave the USA and move to a country close by which would enable me to use the infrastructure of the US, but avoid the visa issue entirely. (I didn’t want to return to Australia since I didn’t feel the startup culture was very strong there, and the timezone makes online work difficult).

4. Stay working at a big company until my greencard was issued. This would have taken 3-4 years. Maybe I should have followed this approach, but I really, really wanted to be out doing something on my own.

In the end, I chose #3, and now live in the Dominican Republic. I’ve done reasonably well and am quite happy here. But the problem I face locally is the lack of a startup scene and technology talent. I can’t build an ebay or a google from the caribbean. I’ve had to become extremely good at building a network remotely; thus I run http://MeetInnovators.com

I can tell you that if there had been an option of a startup visa, where if I raised $1M in funding I would be granted a visa to live in the USA and build a company, I would have put 100% of my energy in making that happen. And, if a visa category like this is created, I may just go ahead and do it now, even though I’m now considered old by startup standards (37). (Its considered the most successful startups are built by people in their 20s). So this would have been a perfect fit for me 10 years ago.

One last comment: I’m comfortable with risk. So make the visa performance based! Give the entrepreneur 3 shots at making a company work. And if they can’t, send them home. Thats pretty rough, but it would be a much better option than I had back in 1999.

  • Pat

    I personally despise the StartupVisa because there is a much better solution.

    Solution:

    1) H1B to Green card application does not require that person stay at a single company until the green card is issued.
    2) Make the transition from student visas to green card/H1B visa seamless and automatic.

    Much of the opposition to H1B visas is centered around the fact that H1B visa holders are slaves to their current company until the green card is complete. H1B holders will accept below market rates because they can’t leave.

    Break this cycle and there would be much more support (and yet another visa would NOT be needed )

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  • vidli

    Hey Adrian,Thanks for bringing awareness to this issue. Your story is quite profound…We did up a a rundown on the Startup Visa. (funny)Anyone who likes Lord of the Rings will get a kick out of it. (Aussies, Kiwis, Americans, whoever…:-) Looks like you're an elf!http://blog.vidli.com/startup-visa/Enjoy…Looks like you're an Elf! Hooray! http://blog.vidli.com/startup-visa/Enjoy…

  • Hey Adrian,

    Thanks for bringing awareness to this issue. Your story is quite profound…

    We did up a a rundown on the Startup Visa. (funny)

    Anyone who likes Lord of the Rings will get a kick out of it. (Aussies, Kiwis, Americans, whoever…:-)

    Looks like you’re an elf!

    http://blog.vidli.com/startup-visa/

    Enjoy…

    Looks like you’re an Elf! Hooray!

    http://blog.vidli.com/startup-visa/

    Enjoy…

  • vidli

    Hey Adrian,Thanks for bringing awareness to this issue. Your story is quite profound…We did up a a rundown on the Startup Visa. (funny)Anyone who likes Lord of the Rings will get a kick out of it. (Aussies, Kiwis, Americans, whoever…:-) Looks like you're an elf!http://blog.vidli.com/startup-visa/Enjoy…Looks like you're an Elf! Hooray! http://blog.vidli.com/startup-visa/Enjoy…

  • Hugo

    Hi Adrian! Long time!
    If you have a legal entity in Dominican Republic that has already some years of existence and proof of operations, you may be able to apply to an L1 VISA, with the reasoning that you need to be physically in the U.S. in order to do business and that you will still hold relationship with your parent company in the Dominican Republic. It’s almost like a transfer for your company, but I know of at least two cases where it has worked very well.

    Hope that helps

  • Hugo

    Hi Adrian! Long time! If you have a legal entity in Dominican Republic that has already some years of existence and proof of operations, you may be able to apply to an L1 VISA, with the reasoning that you need to be physically in the U.S. in order to do business and that you will still hold relationship with your parent company in the Dominican Republic. It's almost like a transfer for your company, but I know of at least two cases where it has worked very well. Hope that helps

  • Globally, most people are using either Visa or Mastercard and we reached out to both of them. … I have been involved in three or four start-up businesses. …

  • Globally, most people are using either Visa or Mastercard and we reached out to both of them. … I have been involved in three or four start-up businesses. …

  • $18956066

    I’m particularly excited about the broadened qualifications. I think
    every student that graduates with an advanced STEM or computer science
    degree should have a green card stapled to his or her diploma. It makes
    no sense to me that we’d make it difficult for the best and the
    brightest to stay in the US if they want. While this doesn’t go that
    far, at least it’s now easy for them to stay in the US and start a
    company if they want

  • I’m particularly excited about the broadened qualifications. I thinkevery student that graduates with an advanced STEM or computer sciencedegree should have a green card stapled to his or her diploma. It makesno sense to me that we’d make it difficult for the best and thebrightest to stay in the US if they want. While this doesn’t go thatfar, at least it’s now easy for them to stay in the US and start acompany if they want

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