Navigating the U.S. Immigration System

Posted by on January 31, 2014.

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In 2012, my co-founder and I started our company KISI in Munich with only a piece of paper and an idea to change the way keys are used. We developed our idea and submitted it to NYC Next Idea, a business plan competition in New York. We were accepted into the competition’s final round and flew to the United States to pitch our company and were thrilled to present in front of a jury that included Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures. It was a great experience and made the whole trip worth it. At the end of the competition, KISI was announced as the winner and a whole new set of opportunities opened up for our company.

We decided to move the company to New York City because it has a bigger market and a great technology community. Winning NYC Next Idea meant we had the support of the whole entrepreneurial community behind us. After moving, we quickly became familiar with the burdens people born outside the US but fighting to create jobs here face in trying to found a company in the U.S. Our first challenge was opening a simple company bank account as a foreigner and the obstacles facing our company only grew after that. We feel that navigating the immigration system has definitely been one of the biggest challenges for us as founders, even though we have the support of New York City and many of its institutions.

The company is doing well and is growing--we are creating jobs and we get great feedback from our customers. Still, our company is at a stage where resources are limited and the investment of our time is incredibly important for the company’s success. For me, dealing with the immigration system has turned into a second job and taken away from the time I have to focus on the start-up.

Because immigration issues cannot be quickly resolved, the uncertainty adds even more insecurity to the already unstable life of an entrepreneur. I look forward to the day when this issue is solved and reforms to the U.S. immigration system make it easier to start a company in the United States.

KISI (www.getkisi.com) is a smartphone access system that enables you to share and control virtual keys to your office, home or gym. The technology can be easily implemented into any existing access infrastructure and transforms your phone into a key.

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