Sep 24th 2016

Fewer foreign entrepreneurs say they need the U.S. That’s a problem.

Apple is facing accusations that it copied Chinese innovations in the iPhone 7.  Indeed, China’s smartphone manufacturers released dual-camera systems and handsets without headphone jacks long before Apple did.  And the stickers and animations that Apple is adding to iMessage are a direct knockoff from China’s WeChat.  This is quite a twist from the days when Apple accused the Chinese of copying its inventions.  The reality is that America’s most innovative company is no longer the world’s most innovative company: entrepreneurs all over the world are producing innovations that rival what you see in Silicon Valley.

This is also evidenced in the numbers of billion-dollar technology startups, unicorns, that are sprouting up all over the world.  According to CrunchBase, of the 191 unicorns world wide, 42 are in China and 8 in India.  Yes, more than 105 are in the U.S., but you would hardly have found any blockbuster technology startups in Asia as recently as a decade ago.  Today, Chinese Internet companies such as Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent are amongst the most innovative and valuable few in the world.

The world’s entrepreneurs used to dream of coming to Silicon Valley because it was the innovation capital of the world and there were few opportunities elsewhere.  This is no longer the case, as I learned during my recent trip to New Delhi.  There are startup incubators sprouting up all over the country, and the quality of the startups is second only to those in Silicon Valley and China—which are running head to head.

I spoke to about 50 entrepreneurs at local incubators and meetups.  Unlike earlier generations, very few had interest in moving to the United States.  Most said that they believed the greatest opportunities were in India.  As technology designer Himanshu Khanna said, “Why should I move to Silicon Valley when I have a market 10 times as large here?”.  Khanna had asked me to sponsor him for a long-term U.S. visa five years earlier, which he could not get.

The tide has surely turned.  For decades, the United States invited the world’s best and brightest to come and study at its universities and provided them with temporary work visas.  But it placed tight limits on the numbers of permanent-resident visas for those who wanted to stay, so the lines grew longer and longer.  My research team at Duke, Harvard, and NYU documented that there were, as of October 2006, more than a million skilled workers in “immigration limbo” in the U.S., with only 120,000 green cards being made available every year for their work categories. My estimate is that the backlog has now increased to more than 1.5 million. I explained the consequences of this in my book, The Immigrant Exodus: Why America Is Losing the Global Race to Capture Entrepreneurial Talent: that it would lead to a reverse brain drain.  And this is exactly what happened.

Hundreds of thousands of highly skilled workers as well as the graduates of top American universities have returned home because of America’s flawed immigration policies.  They are in leadership roles at top research labs and at the unicorns in China and India.  America has lost an entire generation of entrepreneurs and innovators and bolstered its global competition.  That is also why the proportion of immigrant founded startups in Silicon Valley fell from 52% in 2005 to 44% in 2012 and is probably even lower now.

It is in this context that the Obama administration announced its last-ditch effort to reverse the tide.  On August 26, The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed a rule to allow foreign entrepreneurs to enter the United States and work at qualifying startups.  This uses the parole authority under which the President, through DHS, can permit certain individuals to temporarily enter the United States.

But, the President’s immigration authority being very limited, this is a very short-term and very constrained fix.  The start-up entity must have been formed within the three years before an application for entrepreneurial parole; the entrepreneurs must own at least 15 percent of the entity; only three foreigners can be employed by the startup; and the applicant must prove that the start-up has “substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation” by receiving investments of capital totaling $345,000 or more from established U.S. investors with a history of substantial investment in successful start-up entities or at least $100,000 in grants or awards from local, state, or federal government entities.

This is not a slam dunk for entrepreneurs wanting to come to the U.S.—and it provides no clear path to permanent residency.  Also, to become effective, the rule must undergo a 45-day notice and comment period in the Federal Register.  Nevertheless, if it takes effect, it will be better than nothing: it will probably lead to several hundred startups’ moving to the U.S. and creating tens of thousands of jobs here.

What are needed even more badly are DHS rules that let foreigners on temporary work visas change jobs rather than be subject to abuse by their American employers.  Present rules prevent employees from changing jobs while they wait for their green cards, which often take one to two decades to arrive.  This disadvantages both the workers on temporary visas and American workers, because it allows employers to artificially depress salaries.  The foreign workers cannot also start companies, so those whom we could have creating jobs here are getting frustrated and returning home.

Immigration has become a toxic subject in the United States, thanks to the xenophobia being served up in the election campaigns.  Though the use of Presidential executive privilege is no substitute for lack of governance on Capitol Hill, we do need enactment of rules to improve the dire situation, because the country’s competitiveness is at stake more now than ever.  To quell the social disenchantment that is creating resentment of immigrants, we need economic growth and job creation; and we need to welcome those who would bring about both.



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Vivek Wadhwa is a Fellow at Arthur & Toni Rembe Rock Center for Corporate Governance, Stanford University; Director of Research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at the Pratt School of Engineering,  Duke University; and Distinguished Fellow at Singularity University. He is author of  “The Immigrant Exodus: Why America Is Losing the Global Race to Capture Entrepreneurial Talent”—which was named by The Economist as a Book of the Year of 2012, and ” Innovating Women: The Changing Face of Technology”—which documents the struggles and triumphs of women.  In 2012, the U.S. Government awarded Wadhwa distinguished recognition as an  “Outstanding American by Choice”— for his “commitment to this country and to the common civic values that unite us as Americans”. He was also named by Foreign Policy Magazine as Top 100 Global Thinker in 2012. In 2013, TIME Magazine listed him as one of The 40 Most Influential Minds in Tech.

Wadhwa oversees research at Singularity University, which educates a select group of leaders about the exponentially advancing technologies that are soon going to change our world.  These advances—in fields such as robotics, A.I., computing, synthetic biology, 3D printing, medicine, and nanomaterials—are making it possible for small teams to do what was once possible only for governments and large corporations to do: solve the grand challenges in education, water, food, shelter, health, and security.

In his roles at Stanford and  Duke, Wadhwa lectures in class on subjects such as entrepreneurship and public policy, helps prepare students for the real world, and leads groundbreaking research projects.  He is an advisor to several governments; mentors entrepreneurs; and is a regular columnist for The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal Accelerators, LinkedIn Influencers blog, Forbes, and the American Society of Engineering Education’s Prism magazine.  Prior to joining academia in 2005, Wadhwa founded two software companies.




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Sep 25th 2020
EXTRACT: "We now know the potentially appalling long-term effects of suffering cruelty from others, including damage to both physical and mental health. The benefits of being compassionate towards oneself, rather than treating oneself cruelly, are also increasingly recognised..... And the idea that we must suffer to grow is questionable. Positive life events, such as falling in love, having children and achieving cherished goals can lead to growth..... Teaching through cruelty invites abuses of power and selfish sadism. Yet Buddhism offers an alternative - wrathful compassion. Here, we act from love to confront others to protect them from their greed, hatred and fear. Life can be cruel, truth can be cruel, but we can choose not to be."
Sep 19th 2020
EXTRACT: "Over his incredible career, David Attenborough has seen more of earth’s natural wonders than almost anyone. To hear him talk, with such clarity, about how bad things are getting is deeply moving. Scientists have recently demonstrated what would be needed to bend the curve on biodiversity loss. As Attenborough says in the final scene, “What happens next, is up to every one of us”. "
Sep 15th 2020
EXTRACTS: "The Anglo-Australian multinational company Rio Tinto – the largest iron ore mining company in the world – demolished two 46,000-year-old Aboriginal rock shelters in May.......The Dampier Archipelago of Western Australia is home to thousands of Aboriginal pictographs, and perhaps the oldest surviving rock art in the world. Indeed, Australia’s Indigenous art represents the longest uninterrupted tradition of art in the world – going back over 50,000 years......Aboriginal people represent the oldest continuous culture in the world...."
Sep 13th 2020
EXTRACT: "Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution was a defining event that changed how we think about the relationship between religion and modernity. Ayatollah Khomeini’s mass mobilisation of Islam showed that modernisation by no means implies a linear process of religious decline.....Reliable large-scale data on Iranians’ post-revolutionary religious beliefs, however, has always been lacking...........In June 2020, our research institute, the Group for Analyzing and Measuring Attitudes in IRAN...conducted an online survey......The results verify Iranian society’s unprecedented secularisation."
Sep 12th 2020
EXTRACT: "Just as you can upgrade your old computer’s operating system, culture can evolve even if intelligence doesn’t. Humans in ancient times lacked smartphones and spaceflight, but we know from studying philosophers such as Buddha and Aristotle that they were just as clever. Our brains didn’t change, our culture did."
Sep 2nd 2020
EXTRACT: "Our lab in Cambridge, England, is working with a promising new family of materials known as halide perovskites. They are semiconductors, conducting charges when stimulated with light. Perovskite inks are deposited onto glass or plastic to make extremely thin films – around one hundredth of the width of a human hair – made up of metal, halide and organic ions. When sandwiched between electrode contacts, these films make solar cell or LED devices."
Sep 2nd 2020
EXTRACT: "Bryant, a black man, was sentenced to life in prison for trying to steal hedge clippers from a Louisiana carport storage room in 1997. He has already served twenty-three years for this petty crime, and on 31 July the Louisiana Supreme Court denied a request to review his life sentence. The denial followed a lower appeals court’s 2019 decision that concluded “his life sentence is final.” The only judge on the Louisiana Supreme Court to dissent (or even issue an opinion) was Chief Justice Bernette Johnson. She wrote a stinging rebuke, observing that Bryant’s “life sentence for a failed attempt to steal a set of hedge clippers is grossly out of proportion to the crime and serves no legitimate penal purpose.” "
Aug 18th 2020
EXTRACT: "In 2016, the Brennan Center for Justice reported that as high as 40 percent of prisoners should not be in prison—”behind bars with no compelling public safety reason.” There are literally thousands of young prisoners, Black and white, who are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for non-violent offences. It is unfathomable that we as a society are spending billions of dollars every year to sustain such pointless cruelty, to inflict needless pain on individuals, fathers and mothers, who pose no threat at all to the public."
Jul 31st 2020
EXTRACT: "From a Kantian standpoint discrimination based on race – or religion, or gender – is fundamentally wrong. It is wrong, first of all, because it is dehumanizing, a denial of human dignity. When I racially discriminate, I am denying the person’s intrinsic self-worth, I am, in fact, denying their very right to exist, whether I know it or not. The moral law demands that I treat every individual as a free person equal to everyone else. If the moral law grants each of us a kind of infinite worth, it does not grant someone greater worth than anyone else."
Jul 12th 2020
EXTRACT: "Remember, your wellbeing is extremely important when supporting someone with depression. Take time for self-care so you can model positive behaviours and be replenished enough to provide this crucial support."
Jul 4th 2020
EXTRACT: "--- Nobody is more dangerous than he who imagines himself pure in heart, for his purity, by definition, is unassailable. --- Author James Baldwin’s words, written in the America of the late 1950s."
Jun 29th 2020
EXTRACT: "Numerous studies have shown that children who grow up in more deprived neighbourhoods tend to have worse physical health as adults compared to those raised in more affluent areas. This is the case even when researchers take into account family income and education, and whether or not parents have major illnesses. In order to address this health disparity, researchers need to understand how those living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods end up with worse health outcomes. Our team’s latest study has highlighted one potential way your childhood neighbourhood may influence your health for years to come. It might do so through changing how the activity of your genes is regulated."
Jun 29th 2020
EXTRACT: "Ruth Poniarski is a painter and the author of Journey of the Self: Memoir of an Artist (Warren Publishing, 2020), in which she tells the story of her decade long struggle with mental illness, a “spiraling malady” which led her into a “pattern of psychosis”. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Poniarski about her life and work, and how she eventually overcame her demons."
Jun 27th 2020
EXTRACT: "I know I’m good in a couple of things, really good in a few things, and that’s enough. My confidence is big enough that I can really let people grow next to me, it’s no problem. I need experts around me. It’s really very important that you are empathetic, that you try to understand the people around you, and that you give real support to the people around you."
Jun 27th 2020
An essay about the "the enormously influential 1940 'Head of Christ' painting by evangelical Warner E. Sallman" pictured below.
Jun 17th 2020
EXTRACT: "The diverse, non-human life forms that live in our guts – known as our microbiome – are crucial to our health. A disrupted balance of these contribute to a range of disorders and diseases, including obesity, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease. It could even affect our mental health..... It’s well known that the microbes living in our guts are altered through diet. For example, including dietary fibre and dairy products in our diets encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria. But mounting evidence suggests that exercise can also modify the types of bacteria that reside within our guts."
Jun 13th 2020
EXTRACT: "Bonhoeffer’s life holds an important lesson for us today, regardless of our religious affiliation or lack thereof. And simply put it is this: you are called upon; you are called on behalf of your neighbor. When you are called to be responsible that is not an obligation which you can decline, discharge or acquit yourself of – it is an infinite responsibility, a “forever commitment” as Charles Blow recently put it. And we all must be prepared to make any sacrifice necessary when we are called."
Jun 11th 2020
EXTRACT: "People differ substantially in how much they’re affected by experiences in their lives. Some people seem to be more affected by daily stress, or the loss of someone close to them. On the other hand, some people seem to get through the same experiences relatively unscathed. Similarly, some people benefit strongly from counselling, or having a support system of close family and friends. Others seem better able to manage on their own. But understanding why some people are more sensitive than others isn’t just a question of how they were raised, and the experiences they’ve been through. In fact, previous research has found that some people in general seem more sensitive to what they experience – and some are generally less sensitive."
Jun 7th 2020
EXTRACT: " The root causes of anthropogenic climate change – which has led to the endangering of countless species across the globe – cannot be adequately grasped in isolation from the technological application of modern science. While Swedish activist Greta Thunberg was certainly justified in calling upon American legislators to “unite behind the science,” neither can we overlook the culpability of science in bringing about the environmental crisis. "
May 23rd 2020
EXTRACT: "The QAnon movement began in 2017 after someone known only as Q posted a series of conspiracy theories about Trump on the internet forum 4chan. QAnon followers believe global elites are seeking to bring down Trump, whom they see as the world’s only hope to defeat the “deep state.” OKM is part of a network of independent congregations (or ekklesia) called Home Congregations Worldwide (HCW). The organization’s spiritual adviser is Mark Taylor, a self-proclaimed “Trump Prophet” and QAnon influencer with a large social media following on Twitter and YouTube."