Starting-up without a visa: the immigrant-owned startups scene in the U.S.

Source: www.flickr.com/photos/chijs/5034695621/

This year’s TechCrunch Disrupt SF was wrapped up with Layer winning the Disrupt Cup.

At this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt SF, Layer, a communication platform that help build messaging into applications, won the startup battlefield and took home the Disrupt Cup.

Layer’s founder, Tomaž Štolfa, is originally from Slovenia. After running Slovenian skype rival vio.io for years, he started his new venture in San Francisco. He’s far from the only startup founder on the TechCrunch battlefield that decides to begin a business in a place away from his home country. Among the 6 finalists for the competition, Regalii, a startup that aims to help immigrants send money home more easily, has a founder that’s a native to Dominican Republic. In fact, almost all founding members of Regalii are from Latin America, and their targeted consumers, too.

The appearance of immigrants in tech startups seems more than usual. According to a report by the Partnership for a New American Economy published in August last year, immigrants were responsible for 28 percent of U.S. businesses founded in 2011 while they only comprise 12.9 percent of the total population. In New York, immigrants are starting 42 percent of the new ventures while making up 22.2 percent of the population.

The entrepreneurial spirit that immigrants present not only gives themselves jobs but also creates jobs for Americans. The study also found that 1 in every 10 people employed at a privately-owned U.S. company works at an immigrant-owned firm. A study by Kauffman Foundation pointed out that, in 2012, immigrant-founded companies employed 560,000 workers and generated 63 billion dollars in sales.

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Mark Zuckerberg speaks about immigration reform at this year’s Disrupt SF.

The immigrants-centered startup scene has called for reform for immigration law that will help keep the most talented foreign founders in the country. Engine Advocacy, a company that works with lawmakers to ensure a startup-friendly public policy had launched a campaign to push the immigration reform bill early this year. Mark Zuckerberg also formed a group named FWD.us to advocate for a “startup visa” for foreign-born talents. He spoke out publicly about his support for a comprehensive immigration reform last week in a TechCrunch Disrupt interview, stating that his support for immigration goes even beyond the scale of highly skilled workers.A new round of “Startup Visa Act” was launched in January this year, which proposed that foreign-born entrepreneurs can be issued a new class of visa as long as they secured $100,000 investments and hired a certain amount of employees. The bill also suggests a larger quota for H1-B visas, which is very competitive and can only be issued to highly skilled workers. The proposed bill was passed by the U.S. Senate on June 27 but still uncertainties still remain as the decisions of the House will come at least several weeks from now.

[Photos via Flickr/Chijs and /jdlasica]

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