A company called Unshackled Ventures believes that investing in immigrant entrepreneurs will help shape a better economic landscape for the US and build new jobs. Here's how it plans to do it.
When Nitin Pachisia arrived in the US from India in 2005, he became one of the 8 million first-generation immigrants to land in America that year.
Nearly a decade later, Pachisia has learned from firsthand experience how much support immigrants need to create their own thriving startups. In 2014, he co-founded Unshackled Ventures, a firm that invests in immigrant entrepreneurs. Pachisia is using his money to help other immigrants get their businesses started—and creating 100,000 American jobs while he's at it.
Both Pachisia and his business partner have previously started companies with a cofounder who was in the US on a visa. "We realized that immigrant founders need more than just capital to move faster," Pachisia said. "Unshackled Ventures was born to take away any distractions that teams or startups with immigrant founders may have face with immigration, as well as to connect founders with an engaged network of people. Ultimately, the people surrounding you make a large difference."
Immigrant entrepreneurs, Pachisia said, face unique challenges. Many are "working in an ecosystem where there are legal impediments which cause them to go into another ecosystem," he said. But helping immigrants create startups does more than giving them an opportunity to achieve success—it also creates new jobs, and ensures that those jobs don't get moved offshore.
Pachisia sees the US as a particularly ripe place for entrepreneurs because of self-selection. "There are seven billion people outside the US," he said. "Our schools and our companies recruit a half a million to a million and a half of the top talent to bring them here." America, said Pachisia, has an "over-achiever" culture that draws in people who want to be entrepreneurs, and gives them a shot at building a successful business.
After 2005, the percentage of tech companies founded by immigrants dropped said Pachisia. That's a result of a longer green card process, which can take up to 10 or 15 years.
"I've been in the US for 12 years," said Pachisia, "and I'm still in line for mine." What that means, he said, is people become more risk-averse. "They end up spending their prime years,when they could take a lot of risk, working for somebody else," he said.
Pachisia began noticing this phenomena. "We said, 'This is not acceptable,'" he said. "When we bring this top talent to the country, we also need to give the opportunity to achieve what they came out here for." =
So Unshackled Ventures invests capital at the pre-seed and seed stages in the startup process.
First, it offers help with immigration. "The founder should not have to spend even a minute thinking about immigration," Pachisia said, "because their time needs to go into building their product." Also, Unshackled Ventures provides network support, helping bring entrepreneurs in contact with investors from places like Intel, Cisco, and Google who can support their ideas. The entrepreneurs can also get help in R&D, and be hired as Unshackled employees. Also, they receive help acquiring top talent across the nation.
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Since it believes in providing real hands-on support, Unshackled Ventures only invests in about a dozen companies a year. They guide entrepreneurs through sales pitches, products, pricing, and talent acquisition. "We really truly become partners in the business and work with founders shoulder to shoulder to help move fast," said Pachisia.
Unshackled Ventures believe startups have the potential to be "massive job creators."
"Once these businesses take off they create jobs in tens of thousands, not in tens," said Pachisia. So the 100,000 goal is the potential of jobs that could be created via immigrant entrepreneurs.
The worst form of offshoring, he said, is sending entrepreneurs away.
"We can bring them out of their day job," said Pachisia, "and put them in a position to pursue their American dream."
One of the beneficiaries of Unshackled Ventures is an entrepreneur named Prateek Joshi, founder of Pluto AI. Joshi, a H-1B visa holder, earned his master's in AI at the University of Southern California. Growing up in Gulbarga, India, Joshi knew, firsthand, how important water health is to a community. And he realized that he could apply AI to help prevent water wastage, predict quality, and lower operating costs at water facilities—of which there are 150,000 in the US, alone.
Joshi said the support of Unshackled Ventures was the most important piece in launching his business. Navigating complicated immigration regulations had been a burden that he could not shoulder alone, he said.
Now, Joshi mentors other immigrants, in an effort to pay it forward. "That's how you build a community," he said. "That's what makes Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley. It's the support you get from the ecosystem."
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