Open Immigration Should be an Easy Sell


The American Made study that details the impact of immigrant entrepreneurs on U.S. competitiveness has been public now for about eight hours. 

NVCA commissioned this study to add some hard facts into the rancorous  and often overly emotional debate on immigration. For years the venture capital community has recognized the tremendous value that foreign born nationals have played in building some of the most innovative companies in America. The scenario of a foreign born graduate student coming up with a bright idea, obtaining venture capital, and fundamentally changing the way this country lives and works is very familiar to us. 

We have star examples in Yahoo!, Google and Sun Microsystems. These organizations are American companies, creating American jobs, and fostering ongoing innovation and entrepreneurship on our shores. The current crop of venture-backed companies hold the same promise.  It is highly likely, according to the survey, that half of these companies would not be here if their immigrant founders were not allowed to stay in America. 

The U.S. needs to continue to attract and retain the best and the brightest from all over the world if we want to leverage this robust pipeline.

The reaction to the report has been overwhelmingly favorable. Most understood the value of the companies created and why we don’t want to see them created elsewhere. However, it is inevitable that there will be critics who accuse the industry of wanting a more open legal immigration system to import cheap labor (which is an offensive accusation) or offshoring jobs anyway (which is misguided). 

The truth is that the venture capital community will go where the opportunity is – whether that is here, or in India or in China, or in the UK.  But the second and perhaps more important truth is that we are committed to funding opportunities here in the US more than anywhere else in the world and we have done just that for over 50 years.

Just in the third quarter of this year, US venture capitalists invested over $6 billion in US companies – and only a few hundred million in China and India. Venture-backed companies account over almost 10% of jobs and revenues in the United States- and many of those jobs and revenues are the result of a foreign born entrepreneur deciding that America is the place to start and build thier company. 

The game is ours to lose. Those who suggest that restricting legal immigration to the US will help our competitiveness should further explore the benefits these immigrant entrepreneurs have brought to this country.  The information is out there- if they can’t find it- try Yahoo or Google using a computer with Intel chips that was bought on eBay.