Monday, March 22, 2010

The new startup arms race (for Huffington Post)

The Huffington Post published an op-ed on the Startup Visa movement that I've been working on for some time. I've quoted from the article extensively below, but I hope you'll take a moment and read the whole thing. I believe we have a unique opportunity to pass the Startup Visa Act this year - if we continue to stay focused on delivering the message to lawmakers that this is something their constituents want. So, as a reminder, if this is something you support, please get involved. You can literally make a difference with as little as a tweet, by using 2gov at Once you've done that, let us know if you want to do more. You can find a list of ways to get involved at Thanks!

The New Startup Arms Race
America's future prosperity depends on our ability to maintain this lead. But today, it is getting harder and harder to maintain. A quick glance is the rear-view mirror reveals that other countries are catching up and at an alarming rate. Part of this is due to their determination to overtake us, but part is due to structural changes in the nature of entrepreneurship.

Startups are the lifeblood of our economy. In the past two decades, they have accounted for nearly all the net job growth in our country. Many of these companies are started by entrepreneurs, and are now household names: Google, Yahoo, eBay and Intel. But many more are true American success stories, out of the limelight, quietly creating jobs and securing our future.

Take the example of Indiana's Passageways. Paroon Chadha came to the US for his graduate education, and was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug immediately after school. He started Passageways Inc. immediately upon graduating, and has spent the last 8 years struggling to work around visa restrictions. Luckily for the rest of us, he was able to find his path to a green card, and now employs 24 Americans in West Lafayette, Indiana. For every success story like Paroon's, there are dozens -- hundreds -- of similar cases that end in failure.

Like other industries -- from publishing to automobiles -- entrepreneurship is in the process of being disrupted by globalization. The cost of creating new companies is falling rapidly, and access to markets, distribution, and information is within the reach of anyone with an Internet connection. The result is a profound democratization of the digital means of production.


If the next Facebook, Google, or Amazon begins in another country, the economic growth that it sparks will benefit us, too. But the jobs will be created over there.

The United States is locked in a new arms race for that most precious resource -- the future entrepreneurs upon whom economic growth depends. Substantial research shows that immigrants play a key role in American job creation. For example, over 25% of the technology companies founded between 1995-2005 had a key immigrant founder. These companies produced over $52 billion dollars in sales in 2005, and employed 450,000 workers that year. Similarly, 24% of all the patents filed in the US in 2006 had a foreign resident as inventor or co-inventor.

If we allow other countries to welcome these immigrants, support them and nurture them, we will lose out in this race. We will not lose on their products -- after all, most of them are global. We will not necessarily harm investors, either: as capital is increasingly global, they will be able to invest wherever good ideas are born. The cost will be felt in jobs -- thousands of new jobs that could have been created here, but weren't.

Read the rest of The New Startup Arms Race at Huffington Post. Special thanks to everyone who's helped advance this movement, especially Brad Feld, Shervin Pishevar, Dave McClure, Dave Binetti and Abheek Anand. And an extra special thanks to the volunteer copyeditors who reached out via twitter to help improve this piece.
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