10,000 Nerds


Happy New Year- now that everybody’s done making top ten lists, it’s time to look to the future, and wonder what kind of cool iPhone applications we will have in 2020.

No need to beat around the bush. Technological development will not get to where it could be without immigration reform.

In 2006, Mark Heesen in Venture Beat, an online magazine intended for venture capitalists in the technology industry, wrote:

While the successes have been great for our industry and the U.S. economy, they also suggest an alarming reality: the U.S. is essentially stunting its own growth by not reforming its immigration system with the proper urgency.”

Intel Chairman Craig Barrett, in the New York Times stated:

We are watching the decline and fall of the United States as an economic power- not hypothetically, but as we speak.  With a snap of the fingers, you can say, “I’m going to make it such that those smart kids- and as many of them who want to- can stay in the United States.”  They’re here today, they’re graduating today- and they’re going home [the U.S.] today.

However, Farhad Manjoo writing for Slate said it best:

Give me your tired, your poor, your startup founders: America can’t be the world’s tech leader without immigration reform.

And the sentiments follow the numbers. Both Heesen and Manjoo reference the same statistics: Over the past 15 years, about 25% of American tech companies are founded in part or entirely by foreign-born Americans.  In Silicon Valley, more than 52% of the startups were founded or co-founded by immigrants. Companies founded by immigrants and initially backed by venture capital account for more than $500 billion of total U.S. market capitalization.

Paul Graham, a partner at Y Combinator, a venture-capital firm in the tech industry, calls the U.S. government’s immigration restrictions “the biggest constraint on the number of new startups that get created in the U.S.”

Paul Graham is also the man behind the proposed“Founder Visa”(dubbed by Slate the 10,000-nerds-a-year plan), which would be available to 10,000 people a year who show a plan for an internet startup.  The idea has been bouncing around the tech world for a couple years, even motivating several executives to put in some calls to their congressional representatives.  Business Week covered the Founder’s Visa, as did TechDirt.

His proposal prompted others in the industry to float their own ideas about immigration reform and the tech industry, including Brad Feld, another venture capitalist, who suggested in 2008 that anybody who graduates from a qualified four-year university with a bachelor’s degree in computer science should receive permanent residency- period.

The idea took off, and a variation on the original “Founder’s Visa” is included in CIR ASAP.  It’s called the “Start-up Visa”, but the conditions are extremely steep- they have to attract anywhere between 100K and 250K from venture capitalists to be considered- and they don’t include undocumented immigrants.

So. They want a young, smart, educated workforce.  They want people with initiative, with persistence, who are willing to try once and try again, undeterred.  It all sounds so familiar.

They want to recruit 10,000 nerds a year into the country to inject some life into the American tech industry? There could potentially be tens of thousands of nerds ready to go within the year- with comprehensive immigration reform and especially the DREAM Act.  We’ve got their solution- maybe they just haven’t heard about it yet.

If you’re feeling empowered today (or want to found an internet startup someday…) email the man behind the Founder’s Visa, Paul Graham at pg@ycombinator.com (he says he likes short, two line emails) and the people who support it: Brad Feld at brad(at)feld.com, Farhad Manjoo at farhad.manjoo(at)slate.com.  Don’t forget to include the petition: http://www.dreamact2009.com


One thought on “10,000 Nerds

  1. this is by far the best argument i've read on why to pass the dream act. america has already invested millions of dollars into the lives these students. it's like throwing away millions of dollars CASH in the garbage. makes no sense.

    pass the dream act 2010.

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