An Entrepreneur Who Risked It AllShare on Twitter Share on Facebook
FWD.us chatted with entrepreneur Mike Galarza about his company Entryless, his tumultuous experience with our immigration system, and why he decided to risk everything to pursue his dream of working in Silicon Valley.
FWD.us: What is Entryless and how did you go about starting it?
Mike: I led a finance and accounting team for a large manufacturer. While there, I realized that cost management and financial compliance is any company’s worst nightmare. After talking with my peers, I learned that they were experiencing the same problem within their own companies.
I decided to put that to an end and created Entryless. My turning point was inspired from a talk by Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel at Stanford University. His talk ignited my entrepreneurial journey. Now based out of Menlo Park, California, Entryless transforms the way businesses manage cost. We provide real time financial compliance to a business’s cloud accounting system. Entryless accomplishes this by automatically capturing bills with our document recognition software and syncing records to widely-used cloud applications. In turn, we have received an innovation award from IBM and I was honored to be listed as a prominent immigrant in technology by Business Insider.
FWD.us: Walk us through your immigration process. What were the biggest challenges you faced in trying to come to the United States?
Mike: I dedicated an enormous amount of effort – including many sleepless nights – to earning my visa. As an entrepreneur, I was already challenged with creating a company out of nothing but an idea to create something new – but going through the immigration process proved to be an even greater challenge than starting the company.
Originally, I came to the U.S. on a TN visa under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) through a previous employer, but later I found this visa to be restricting. I wanted to start Entryless, but I could not resign from my job and stay in the country to start my own company with a TN visa. So I juggled my time between my full-time job during the day and spent all night to develop my company. In order to realize my dreams, I had to change the status of my TN visa to an E2 investment visa with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
There was a greater risk of deportation for me during this time. A simple clerical error could have extinguished my dream to build Entryless in the U.S. My future and the future of my company was on the line. I was inspired to work even harder because I had to prove to the visa offices that my new business would deliver a unique value to the U.S. economy. To even apply for the E2 investor visa, I had to leave the life I had built in the U.S. behind and travel back to Mexico to submit my application. I knew that if the consul denied my visa, my startup was doomed and I might not have been able to return to the U.S. During this climactic face-to-face meeting with the United States Consul at their Embassy in Mexico City, I proved I could solve a significant problem facing scores of companies. I was granted the E2 Investor Visa and Entryless became a reality.
FWD.us: How has being in the Bay Area affected your business? How would you imagine your business would be different if you had founded it anywhere else?
Mike: Silicon Valley is a support system for entrepreneurship and a network where every entrepreneur can find what they need to be successful. Resources and inspiration are abundant. There is no other network like Silicon Valley.
I would never have been able to launch Entryless without being in Silicon Valley and immersed in the network it provides. Entryless is headquartered in the heart of Silicon Valley and owns a large customer-base in the U.S. We are undergoing an aggressive market expansion in Australia, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Canada among other countries and we’re are rapidly growing 60% month-to-month across all regions. Where else could you see that kind of growth?
FWD.us: Why is it important for people in tech to get involved in politics? How can tech influence D.C.?
Mike: From my experience with politics – you don't see immediate results in politics as you do in the tech or entrepreneurship world. This does not motivate the people in tech to be engaged at the influential level of involvement needed in politics. I’ve met and heard personally from CEO’s of public companies who have gone every year for the past decade to D.C. to speak with politicians in order to get immigration reform done. To date, every year has shown the same disappointment from Washington. Immigration reform has yet to see the light at the end of the tunnel – it’s a tunnel blocked with conflicting political interests damaging the potential the U.S. has to capture and create value. Instead we’re faced with the reality that the U.S. is sending back to foreign nations some of the smartest and brightest instead of making measured efforts to retain them and help create American jobs.
Real life stories get lost in a myriad of political issues. It is crucial that people in tech get involved in politics, specifically in the immigration debate. Sharing your story, or a co-worker’s story, about overcoming the problems our broken immigration system creates for people in tech helps politicians understand the reality of the current broken immigration system and, most importantly, the impact of their political actions.
FWD.us: Why is immigration reform critically important?
Mike: I have been really fortunate to meet with a wide variety of people who are battling our broken immigration system – from DREAMers battling their own way up, to politicians, to CEO’s of public companies, and my peers. The immigration process for foreign-born founders needs to be accelerated properly if the U.S. wants to remain at the top attracting and retaining the smartest and the brightest across all nations. This is a critical time for U.S. immigration policy. Immigration Reform cannot wait for the next session of Congress in January 2015.
It is heartbreaking to see DREAMers fighting every day for their dreams, only to have their aspirations blocked by the current immigration system. They’re unable to participate and contribute to the U.S., after being raised in American schools and neighborhoods.
It’s up to all of us to tell our government that we want an immigration system that captures value, keeps our nation attracting the smartest and brightest workers, and maintains American competitiveness to keep our economy thriving.