Monday, March 22, 2010

There are Two Sides to Everything

Today, in the Unites States, if an immigrant entrepreneur starts a successful company but his Visa expires (s)he is forced to leave the country. The Startup Visa Act promises to solve that problem by providing Visas for foreign founders. BusinessWeek explains it thusly:

"The StartUp Visa Act would create a new type of two-year visa, called an EB-6, available to any immigrant entrepreneur who has secured at least $250,000 in capital from accredited venture capitalists or angel investors. After two years, the person would become a permanent U.S. resident if his or her business has met one of three criteria: created five full-time jobs in the U.S., raised an additional $1 million from investors, or achieved $1 million in revenue."

Seems like a no-brainer, right? Of course we want to retain talent that creates wealth, jobs, and innovation. Venture luminaries like Fred Wilson, Paul Graham, and Brad Feld all support (or in Graham's case, originated) the idea. The idea has even begun successfully navigating its way through the gauntlet that is the US legislative branch. Who could possible object to such a thing?

But there are two sides to every story.

As this well-researched, articulate, and thorough piece in Business Insider explains, there are a number of consequences to the current incarnation of the bill. I encourage you to read the whole article, but in short, the proposed bill would put foreign founders at the mercy of vaguely-defined "qualified investors", relying on the amount of money raised as the primary metric for Visa eligibility.

I'm not sure where this leaves the act. The problem it's trying to solve is real and should be addressed, but the solution may not be as straightforward as we had hoped.