A new crop of venture capitalists is specifically backing companies that have international founders.
These are tense times for foreigners who want to live and work in the U.S., due to President Trump’s aggressive remarks and stringent policies about immigration. But skilled immigrants who want to start companies in the U.S. are finding support in a group of venture capitalist investors who aim to ease their challenges.
Such assistance can be crucial to immigrant entrepreneurs because the U.S.—unlike Canada, France, Singapore, and the U.K.—lacks a so-called startup visa. In July, the Trump administration delayed an Obama-era rule that would have helped international founders stay in the U.S. for up to five years and has indicated it plans to rescind it. In its absence, several VC firms that explicitly invest in companies created by immigrants are filling some of the gaps.
Though these firms, which include Unshackled Ventures, One Way Ventures, and One VC, were not created in direct response to Trump’s actions, their focus on aiding immigrants is particularly timely and vital now. “As immigration issues pop up, we’re seeing VCs answer the call and offer immigration counsel [to their portfolio companies],” says Jeff Farrah, vice president of government affairs at the National Venture Capital Association, a Washington, D.C., trade group.
Yingzhe “Regi” Fu is one beneficiary of this trend. He approached Unshackled Ventures in early 2016, a few months before he was due to graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, with a master’s in mechanical engineering. As a Chinese citizen who wanted to stay in the U.S. and help some school friends launch a home-automation-technology startup, Fu essentially had two choices: he could seek employment with a large American company that would sponsor his visa or he could convince Unshackled Ventures to support his work authorization so he could concentrate on his startup.
By Elizabeth Woyke for MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW
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