Startup Act 3.0!

In January of 2015, Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) introduced the fourth version of their Startup Act, which includes a proposed startup visa.  

The visas are included in the bipartisan Startup Act 3.0 bill, for which they have been lobbying for over three years, would be available to 75,000 foreign-born individuals who also start companies in the U.S., provided that they meet certain investment and job-creation benchmarks within three years. Once the company meets the benchmarks, the entrepreneur is able to apply for legal permanent residence. 

The Startup Act would also create a new visa category available to 50,000 foreign-born students who graduate from American universities with STEM degrees, and would further eliminate caps on the number of work visas that may be granted to individuals from each country.

A Kauffman Foundation study estimates that a startup visa could create 500,000 to 1.6 million new American jobs.

This sounds great, and the U.S. is long overdue for a pathway to LPR status for immigrant entrepreneurs, but one issue I wonder about is whether three years is long enough to prove an entrepreneur’s true resilience or potential for growth. I think the most important aspect of this bill is that it gives extended visas to those who obtain an education in the U.S. To turn them away after we have invested two, three, or even four years or longer leaves competitor countries in a much better position.

Visa-for-Sale: the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program

Very generally, the EB-5 program provides a pathway to legal permanent residence to eligible foreign investors who invest $1M into a new commercial enterprise, or at least $500k in rural or high unemployment areas. There are certain requirements of job creation (must create at least 10 jobs in two years), and on its face, the program appears to be a win-win for both foreign nationals eager to i.e., get their students educated in the U.S., and for the local, regional, or the national economy. However, with very little oversight by an agency (USCIS) ill-equipped to assess business plans, risks or securities, there is a dark side to this buy-your-birthright program. This article details a prime example of issues arising from a well-meaning program that in practice is wrought with corruption.

The Unnatural Selection of Male Entrepreneurs

Harvard Business Review’s Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic says that there is such a disproportionate number of male entrepreneurs because (1) women are more financially risk-averse; (2) women are typically more patient than men, and are thus more willing to tolerate incompetent or abusive bosses; and (3)  women are universally disadvantaged when it comes to raising capital from VCs, obtaining loans, and impressing shareholders.

The first question many would ask is, How can more women overcome these deeply-embedded sexist barriers? In practice, however, the most effective way to level the playing field is for men to recognize these conscious or subconscious tendencies and decide to change their attitudes in hiring, investing, and granting loans.

The Jury Is Out On Legal Startups

Even though investment has declined slightly, i don’t believe this is a sign the industry is dead to VC/Angel. As many have pointed out, the industry is ripe for disruption and it seems like more success stories like LegalZoom and Ravel Law are on the horizon. If anything, it will likely be a select few VC/Angel groups who see this and believe in it, even if the VC/Angel community as a whole looks for other opportunities. The biggest challenge at this point seems to be the hurdle of sales cycles – but if one comes out to target consumers rather than B2Firm, there may be a resurgence in investments.

Is private equity really dead?

Mr. Carter said today that private equity is dead.  The Wall Street Journal’s Andy Kessler has taken the same stance, but the author of this Business Insider believes that this assertion is ludicrous.  He claims private equity has more cash than ever before, with investors continuing to pour money back into PE firms, its top managers appear to have learned from the major issues of the last decade, and Washington has not taken action against private equity.  If private equity investments are stable and for the risk-averse, why is it dying?

Gender & Venture Capitalism

A different perspective on the world of venture capitalists. As HBS Prof. Paul Gompers stated, “[v]enture capitalism is all about collaboration with partners, and you hope there’s a diverse set of experiences at a firm so that people can question new ventures.” Unfortunately, the VC world of Silicon Valley doesn’t reflect this ideal.

These two articles highlight the lack of gender diversity at VC firms and discuss the recent gender discrimination lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers filed by Ellen Pao. While Pao ended up losing in court, the case did throw the spotlight onto the dearth of female representation in the VC industry.

The Gender Problem in Venture Capital Is Really, Really Bad:

  • Fast facts:
    • Industry-wide, 77 to 79 percent of VC firms have never had a woman represent them on the board of one of their portfolio companies.
    • More than 75% don’t have any women working as venture capitalists at all.

Female-Run Venture Capital Funds Alter the Status Quo

  • This article discusses emerging VC firms headed up women and, to some extent, focusing on women led companies to invest in (this should not be interpreted to mean companies focusing on selling “female products”)
  • Fast facts:
    • Just 6 percent of partners at venture capital firms are women
    • A study conducted by Gomper found that “a lack of inclusion and mentorship by male partners hurts female partners in a material way, by driving down their overall returns.”