Before the tragedy of ‘Trump’ happened to the US, the Obama-led government had previously created the International Entrepreneur Rule (IER) under which foreign-born entrepreneurs are allowed to remain in the US for up to 5 years if they’ve created a company/startup that has the potential for rapid growth and job creation, among other requirements.
The IER program was set to take effect on 17 July 2017, but on 10 July, the Trump administration postponed it until March 14, 2018, with a possible intent of demolishing it altogether. Subsequently, in September, the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) sued the US government over its opposition to a key immigration program. NVCA, which is comprised of more than 450 member firms, is the premier trade association that represents the U.S. venture capital industry.
The NVCA, which serves as the official mouthpiece for the VC community in Washington, DC, has asked a federal court to block the DHS from delaying the IER and require the department to begin accepting applications for the program.
The others who also brought this case against Trump government in a court of law include the foreign-born founders of LotusPay, Occasion and Omni Labs. LotusPay’s founders, Atma and Anand Krishna, had just finished Y Combinator’s Summer 2017 session when the IER was delayed.
Omni Labs — Vikram Tiwari & Nishant Srivastava
Omni Labs was founded in June 2015 by Alex Modon and his Indian citizen co-founders — Vikram Tiwari and Nishant Srivastava, who had worked in the tech industry for a number of years and were well acquainted with the challenges of “startup life” but then what happened eventually is totally unprepared for them to face — the U.S. immigration policy under President Trump.
As Omni Labs was the collaborative brainchild of its three co-founders, only the U.S.-born Alex is now allowed to live and work in the country where the business is based. In 2017, Tiwari or Srivastava, who are Indian citizens and are residing in U.S. on work Visa were unable to obtain U.S. work visas and thus the founders came up with a solution as a last resort to open a secondary office in Vancouver, Canada but then it too created an anther problem of added cost, which is not required at all otherwise, and a variety of logistical challenges too.
Notably, Omni, which is an automated ad data analysis platform for businesses, is a rising star and according to court filings, Omni Lab’s customer base grew from 5 to 140 businesses in just eight months last year, and by September 2017, the largely self-funded startup already boasted a positive cash flow. However, all of this seems to be going in vain due to Trump’s “Pseudo-nationalistic” immigration law to make America great again.
In the months since Omni Lab’s lawsuit was filed last September, the company’s leadership has gradually dimnished in size from three co-founders to two, with Srivastava returning home to India and pursue a more stable job opportunity in homeland. Tiwari, meanwhile, remains based in Vancouver, Canada, which is Omni’s secondary office.
BauBax — Hiral Sanghavi
An another Indian-citizen founded startup BauBax, which is $20 million startup (in sales), is also one of the victim of IER killing.
BauBax had earlier raised an impressive $9.2 million on Kickstarter to fund his idea to create and sell a travel jacket with a bunch of built-in features — a neck pillow, eye mask, gloves, even a pocket to hold a soda can.
To date, the company has sold more than 200,000 BauBax jackets worldwide. For the past six months, Sanghavi and his team have been working on the next iteration of the BauBax travel jacket. This one has 25 features in it.
However, now Sanghavi may have to wind up the business and leave the United States. About four years back, BauBax CEO & founder Hiral Sanghavi immigrated to the United States and got married to Yoganshi Shah.
In 2015, Sanghavi took a sabbatical from his MBA program at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management to launch BauxBax. That’s when he got an H-4 visa, which was tied to his wife Yogina’s H1-B. H-4 visas are given to spouses and dependents of H-1B workers. Unlike student visas, they allow the holder to work or to launch a business.
But Sanghavi’s wife Yagansi’s H1-B visa expires in August and she will need to seek a renewal soon. And, is Shah’s wife loses her H-1B visa for some reason, he will also lose his visa.
“If my wife for whatever reason is unable to renew her H-1B, then we are without status. I would have within 30 days of the denial to shut down my company and leave the country”, said Hiral Sanghavi to a US business daily.
BauBax, which is 100% owned by Sanghavi, employs six full-time workers at its Redmond, Washington, office and 11 contractors who work remotely.
Despite of all this stricter immigration policy, U.S. is still a preferred destination for entrepreneurs worldwide especially Indians. In a study titled America’s New Immigrant Entrepreneurs: Then & Now, nearly 25% of engineering and technology U.S. startups have at least one immigrant founder. A report by the National Foundation for American Policy titled Immigrants and Billion Startups, stated that India is the leading country of origin for immigrant founders of billion-dollar companies in the U.S.
The first generation of Indian entrepreneurs arrived in the US in the early 1980s were — Kanwal Rekhi, Vinod Khosla, Naren Gupta, Prabhu Goel, Suhas Patil, and many more, who went on to found notable companies like Sun Microsystems (acquired by Oracle), Excelan, and Cirrus Logic.
It is to be noted that, India’s IIT produces 4th most billion-dollar startups in the World. Last year, India topped a global ranking of 21 countries as the source of the most immigrant founders of billion-dollar startups in the United States.
Meanwhile, some Indian entrepreneurs and engineers are actively exploring opportunities in countries that provide attractive citizenship privileges and opportunities to expand businesses. Canada is one example, and Toronto is emerging as a popular destination. In his blog, former LinkedIn employee Vikram Rangnekar explains that he chose to give up his H1B visa due to its highly restrictive nature and the long wait for an American green card.
Notably, a lot of Indian Startups too are now choosing Canada over the US due to later’s visa uncertainty trouble, cracking the US immigration system nowadays has also become a very difficult task, a feat which only a lucky few are able to achieve. Canada has emerged as a popular immigration choice among Indian entrepreneurs after the US due to the clarity the country offers under its Canadian Startup Visa or SUV programme.
Meanwhile in India, amid new regulations of the US aimed at preventing the extension of US H1B visas, predominantly used by Indian techies, the chairman of Mahindra Group, Anand Mahindra in strong message to the IT professionals and entrepreneurs who want to come back to India to start afresh –
If that happens, then I say ‘Swagatam, Welcome Home.’ You’re coming back in time to help India Rise… https://t.co/HD2rhHRxJq
— anand mahindra (@anandmahindra) January 3, 2018
Top-most Image – DNAIndia.com