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.




Browse articles by author

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Apr 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "We all owe Farah Nabulsi an enormous debt of gratitude. In a short 24-minute film, The Present, she has exposed the oppressive indecency of the Israeli occupation while telling the deeply moving story of a Palestinian family. What is especially exciting is that after winning awards at a number of international film festivals​, Ms. Nabulsi has been nominated for an Academy Award for this remarkable work of art. " 
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Apr 13th 2021
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Apr 8th 2021
EXTRACT: "Pollock’s universe, the universe of Mural, cannot be said to be a rational universe. Nor is it simply devoid of all sense. It is not a purely imaginary world, although in it everything is in a constant state of flux. Mural invokes one of the oldest questions of philosophy, a question going back to the Pre-Socratic philosophers Parmenides and Heraclitus – namely, whether the nature of Reality constitutes unchanging permanence or constant movement and flux. For Pollock, the only thing that is truly unchanging is change itself. The only certainty is that all is uncertain."
Apr 8th 2021
EXTRACT: "Many present day politicians appear to have psychopathic and narcissistic traits too. It’s easy to spot such leaders, because they are always authoritarian, following hardline policies. They try to subvert democracy, to reduce the freedom of the press and clamp down on dissent. They are obsessed with national prestige, and often persecute minority groups. And they are always corrupt and lacking in moral principles."
Apr 6th 2021
EXTRACT: "This has led some to claim that not just half, but perhaps nearly all advertising money is wasted, at least online. There are similar results outside of commerce. One review of field experiments in political campaigning argued “the best estimate of the effects of campaign contact and advertising on Americans’ candidates choices in general elections is zero”. Zero!"
Mar 30th 2021
EXTRACT: "The Father is an extraordinary film, from Florian Zeller’s 2012 play entitled Le Père and directed by Zeller. I’m here to tell you why it is a ‘must see’." EDITOR'S NOTE: The official trailer is attached to the review.
Mar 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "Picasso was 26 in 1907, when he completed the Demoiselles; de Kooning was 48 in 1952, when he finished Woman I.  The difference in their ages was not an accident, for studies of hundreds of painters have revealed a striking regularity - the conceptual painters who preconceive their paintings, from Raphael to Warhol, consistently make their greatest contributions earlier in their careers than experimental painters, from Rembrandt to Pollock, who paint directly, without preparatory studies."
Mar 26th 2021
EXTRACT: "Mental toughness levels are influenced by many different factors. While genetics are partly responsible, a person’s environment is also relevant. For example, both positive experiences while you’re young and mental toughness training programmes have been found to make people mentally tougher."
Mar 20th 2021

The city of Homs has been ravaged by war, leaving millions of people homeless an

Mar 20th 2021
EXTRACT: "There are two main rival models of ethics: one is based on rights, the other on duties. The rights-based model, which traces its philosophical origins to the work of John Locke in the 17th century, starts from the assumption that individuals have rights ....... According to this approach, duties are related to rights, but only in a subordinate role. My right to health implies a duty on my country to provide some healthcare services, to the best of its abilities. This is arguably the dominant interpretation when philosophers talk about rights, including human rights." ........ "Your right to get sick, or to risk getting sick, could imply a duty on others to look after you during your illness." ..... "The pre-eminence of rights in our moral compass has vindicated unacceptable levels of selfishness. It is imperative to undertake a fundamental duty not to get sick, and to do everything in our means to avoid causing others to get sick. Morally speaking, duties should come first and should not be subordinated to rights." ..... "Putting duties before rights is not a new, revolutionary idea. In fact it is one of the oldest rules in the book of ethics. Primum non nocere, or first do no harm, is the core principle in the Hippocratic Oath historically taken by doctors, widely attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher and physician Hippocrates. It is also a fundamental principle in the moral philosophy of the Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero, who in De Officiis (On Duties) argues that the first task of justice is to prevent men and women from causing harm to others."
Mar 18th 2021
EXTRACT: "Several studies have recently compared the difference between antibodies produced straight after a coronavirus infection and those that can be detected six months later. The findings have been both impressive and reassuring. Although there are fewer coronavirus-specific antibodies detectable in the blood six months after infection, the antibodies that remain have undergone significant changes. …….. the “mature” antibodies were better at recognising the variants."
Mar 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "Like Shakespeare, Goya sees evil as something existing in itself – indeed, the horror of evil arises precisely from its excess. It overflows and refuses to be contained by or integrated into our categories of reason or comprehension. By its very nature, evil refuses to remain within prescribed bounds – to remain fixed, say, within an economy where evil is counterbalanced by good. Evil is always excess of evil." ....... "Nowhere is this more evident than in war. Goya offers us a profound and sustained meditation on the nature of war ........ The image of a Napoleonic soldier gazing indifferently on a man who has been summarily hanged, probably by his own belt, expresses the tragedy of war – its dehumanization of both war’s victims and victors."
Mar 14th 2021
EXTRACT: "A blockchain company has bought a piece of Banksy artwork and burnt it. But instead of destroying the value of the art, they claim to have made it more valuable, because it was sold as a piece of blockchain art. The company behind the stunt, called Injective Protocol, bought the screen print from a New York gallery. They then live-streamed its burning on the Twitter account BurntBanksy. But why would anyone buy a piece of art just to burn it? Understanding the answer requires us to delve into the tricky world of blockchain or “NFT” art."
Mar 14th 2021
EXTRACT: "Exercise is good for your health at every age – and you can reap the benefits no matter how late in life you start. But our latest research has shown another benefit of being physically active throughout life. We found that in the US, people who were more physically active as teenagers and throughout adulthood had lower healthcare costs."
Mar 10th 2021
EXTRACT: "Although around one in 14 people over 65 have Alzheimer’s disease, there’s still no cure, and no way to prevent the disease from progressing. But a recent study may bring us one step closer to preventing Alzheimer’s. The trial, which was conducted on animals, has found a specific molecule can prevent the buildup of a toxic protein known to cause Alzheimer’s in the brain."
Feb 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "The art historian George Kubler observed that scholars in the humanities “pretend to despise measurement because of its ‘scientific’ nature.” As if to illustrate his point Robert Storr, former dean of Yale’s School of Art, declared that artistic success is “completely unquantifiable.” In fact, however, artistic success can be quantified, in several ways. One of these is based on the analysis of texts produced by art scholars, and this measure can give us a systematic understanding of how changes in recent art have produced changes in the canon of art history."
Feb 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "The most politically sensitive option we looked at was the virus escaping from a laboratory. We concluded this was extremely unlikely."
Feb 16th 2021
EXTRACT: ".... these men were completely unaware that they had put their lives in the hands of doctors who not only had no intention of healing them but were committed to observing them until the final autopsy – since it was believed that an autopsy alone could scientifically confirm the study’s findings. As one researcher wrote in a 1933 letter to a colleague, “As I see, we have no further interest in these patients until they die.” ...... The unquestionable ethical failure of Tuskegee is one with which we must grapple, and of which we must never lose sight, lest we allow such moral disasters to repeat themselves. "