Immigrant Entrepreneurs in the US wait for Trump’s next move

The president’s rhetoric has been unwelcoming and business founders are worried

When Donald Trump was elected US president, Deniz Ergürel was nervous.

“I’m from Turkey — it’s a Muslim majority country and so I didn’t know how the new administration would treat us,” says Mr Ergürel, who founded US-based virtual reality media start-up Haptical in 2016. He spent the past six months wondering if he will be able to transition from the tourist visa that allows him to do little more than hold business meetings in Silicon Valley to a more permanent situation that would allow him to raise money and Haptical to grow.

Five months into the presidency of Mr Trump — who ran on an anti-immigration, “America First” platform — it is a question that many immigrant entrepreneurs, along with the angel investors who fund them, are asking. US immigration processes have always been bureaucratic and complicated, but Mr Trump has promised crackdowns on legal and illegal immigration that will inject added uncertainty and stress.

“It’s like starting a football match 3-0 behind,” says Mr Ergürel, who in May was granted an “extraordinary ability” visa that will allow him to stay in the US and develop his business. “Everyone is working to build the next big thing in the start-up world, and you’re doing the same thing . . . [but] at the same time you have to work on all the legal documents and the papers . . . That’s tough.”

Nitin Pachisia, originally from India, has also experienced the time-consuming nature of the immigration process. That led him to co-found Unshackled Ventures, a venture fund focused on immigrant-founded start-ups: “We saw that capital is the starting point but ultimately [they need to be able] to move fast — it’s the founders’ time that matters most.”

By Neil Munsh for Financial Times
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