Attracting Global Talent

Posted by on September 25, 2013.


If you make a list of all the most successful American companies of the last 50 years - the ones that have shaped the economy and created millions of jobs - you will soon find that many of the founders, are immigrants. The United States truly is a country of immigrants. Yet today, there are thousands of highly-skilled individuals who are still legally banned from contributing to the U.S. economy.

I was born in Chile in 1988. Ever since I’ve been conscious, I’ve had aspirations to build a world-class company of global impact. This is why, at age 23, I decided to move to New York City.

It was a bold move; I was fresh out of school and our company, Klooff, was just an idea. We didn’t know anyone, we had next to no money, but we knew this was the place to be. So all three business partners withdrew our life savings and embarked on a 2-month journey that would shape the future of our company. In these 2 months, we incorporated Klooff in the U.S., we got our first angel investors on board, and we built our first prototype. We were (are) young, smart and hungry. 

Upon return to Chile, we set up our office and development team. A few months later, Klooff was beginning to get pretty nice traction. With virtually no marketing budget, we got thousands of people to use our app and we even got several superfans!

With our growing success, we decided to apply to TechStars NYC. We wanted to come back to the city and we knew that TechStars was the best business accelerator around. After a couple of months of a tremendously rigorous selection process, we were admitted.

Five months later, our company looks better than ever. We validated our hypothesis and are scaling this into a product I’m personally excited about using. The problem? Not only do I have normal stress-inducing business issues to take care of, I also have my own fair share of the infamous “visa issue."

Even though my situation isn’t as complicated as it is for a lot of people, I feel like the U.S. forgot some of it’s roots through implementing this broken process. I feel like the U.S. in part forgot it’s substance.

Shouldn’t the U.S. be welcoming talented individuals? 

I know this may sound wacky, but immigration policy is one thing that the United States should definitely learn from Chile.

As a tiny country, they created a wonderful program called Startup Chile. This program is designed to bring foreign entrepreneurs to start businesses in Chile instead of any place else. In addition to giving a grant to promising entrepreneurs, Chile grants you also get a 6-month visa, which is renewable.

Chile is serious about attracting talented people. 

The results? Tremendous economic benefits. Thousands of jobs have been created. Hundreds of foreign entrepreneurs have hired thousands of locals. This not only brought great talent to the country, but also boosted the internal, local workforce. 

These sound like some of the same economic effects the U.S. would benefit tremendously from, as part of an increasingly competitive global market.

What happened in Chile when they modified their immigration policies for talented entrepreneurs, is truly amazing. For a country that speaks no English, for a country where, 5 years ago, no one had heard the word “VC”, “startup” or “entrepreneurship,” this is huge. I can only imagine what a similar initiative would do to a more mature and synergetic ecosystem like Silicon Valley, LA or NYC.

E Pluribus Unum is inscribed in the United States Seal. “Out of many, one” thought the visionaries that built this great country. I think it’s time for American politicians to remember where they came from.  


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