Startup 101

Jim Cossler:
What the U.S. Is Losing

January 10, 2019

I was a stranger, and you did not take me in.

-Matthew 25:43

Today, very few people know of Mezyad AlMasoud or his startup called Flair. Yet tomorrow, he may be as famous, and as wealthy, as Elon Musk of PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla or Sergei Brin of Google.

AlMasoud certainly has an ideal pedigree to become a successful entrepreneur. AlMasoud, a native of Kuwait, graduated with a 4.0 GPA in accounting from the American University of Kuwait. He was graduated with honors with a master’s in business administration from the Instituto de Empresa in Madrid, Spain. And he holds a master’s degree in advanced management from Yale University where he was a Harley Lippman scholar and Victor Frank fellow.

It was at Yale where AlMasoud came up with the idea for his startup. And it was there that he attracted all-star business mentors such as professor Robert Shiller, a Nobel laureate, and a half dozen angel investors ready to fully fund his startup venture.

Like Musk and Brin, AlMasoud wanted to immigrate to the United States and start his company here. He thought he could under the Obama-era International Entrepreneur Rule, a regulation specifically designed to increase the presence of foreign entrepreneurs in the United States who want to start, build, and scale their businesses here. That rule, however, is being terminated by the Trump administration because it “does not adequately protect U.S. investors and U.S. workers.”

Frankly, I don’t believe for a moment that is the real reason for the termination, because it flies so squarely in the face of common sense.

So AlMasoud is taking his startup to Canada, which has developed its own fast-track program to lure entrepreneurial immigrants there, much like the program the Trump Administration is killing here.

And Canada is not alone in recognizing the vital importance of entrepreneurial immigrants. Similar fast-track programs are now operating in, and successfully attracting immigrant entrepreneurs to, the United Kingdom, China, Japan, Israel, Germany, Estonia, Australia and New Zealand.

Immigrant entrepreneurs are absolutely essential for the United States to succeed in a globally competitive economy. And they benefit, not hurt, American investors and workers.

In addition to SpaceX, Tesla, PayPal and Google, immigrant entrepreneurs have also founded eBay, Stripe, Intel, Computer Associates, Yahoo and WhatsApp – to name only a few. The children of immigrants have founded companies such as Apple, Oracle and Amazon. Those companies collectively employ millions of U.S. workers. And they have made countless American investors wealthy.

But, it is not just the immigrant entrepreneur that the Trump administration is shutting out. That is only one part of a much broader move to severely curtail immigration visas, including H-1B visas that historically have been used to attract highly skilled, highly educated foreign nationals to the United States. It is estimated that nearly half of the Ph.D.s working in science and engineering in our country are immigrants.

Consider, as well, these facts. Foreign-born immigrants to the United States total 33 of the 85 American winners of the Nobel Prize since the year 2000. In chemistry, medicine, and physics, over the past 17 years, foreign-born Americans have won 38% of all Nobel Prizes awarded in both chemistry and medicine, and 40% of all prizes awarded in physics.

Those stunning numbers will surely be dramatically dropping because of the Trump administration’s severe curtailment of immigration visas. At the same time, they will be dramatically increasing in Canada and the United Kingdom, which not only developed programs to attract immigrant entrepreneurs, but star scientists as well.

The simple fact is that the United States cannot develop all the tech talent it needs to be globally successful today. And the fight to attract that talent is growing fiercer around the world every year.

While other countries are substantially stepping up their games to attract immigrant entrepreneurs and scientists, the United States is going in exactly the opposite direction. That is a recipe for disaster. And one that will topple our country from its position of global leadership in both business and science.

I don’t know anyone who believes that we do not need immigration laws and border security. But, we also cannot have them based on unfounded fears and the destructive concept of “nationalism.”

Our next Steve Jobs very well could have been Mezyad AlMasoud. Could have been, but, won’t be. Because he was a stranger we did not take in. Canada did.

Sad.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.