“Going” to America: Getting visas to do business in Silicon Valley

One of the parlor tricks I like to perform when starting off any Silicon Valley talk or presentation is to ask the audience to raise their hand if they currently live in the area. Most people raise their hand. I then ask the people who were born in Silicon Valley to leave their hands up. Generally, in a room or say 1,000 people, maybe ten or fifteen still have their hand up.

That’s what makes Silicon Valley so special – it welcomes people from all over the world to come and build their dream. There is less racism, classism, sexism, or general prejudice here than anywhere else I’ve been. Part of it is the unique history of the bay area (See Berkeley and San Francisco), and part of it is that hyper-competition has no place for prejudice, it simply gets weeded out.

Perhaps the only thing that can destroy the ecosystem here is the U.S. government going out of its way to mess everything up. In particular I’ve been concerned about H1B visa quotas that severely limit the number of foreign workers that can come here legally. It’s something that I asked each of the presidential candidates I interviewed about. Listen to the interviews here, and see each of their positions on H1Bs here. I was also very happy to see Congress starting to take action to increase the quotas.

So, the timing on this guest post is good. Peter Nixey is the founder of Y Combinator startup Clickpass, an idea born in the UK and brought to the U.S. with the Y Combinator funding. Clickpass launched last month.

Peter wrote the post below chronicling his 5+ month effort to move his company legally to Silicon Valley. It is my sincere hope that sometime soon, entrepreneurs will be able to avoid many of these administrative hassles, and focus entirely on growing their businesses.

While the Silicon-Valley v. Rest-of-The-World debate rages on and on there are still some companies for whom it’s essential to be in the heart of the industry. Getting a visa to come the valley is not easy though and with more first generation immigrants than almost anywhere else I’ve been, every San Franciscan foreign accent has a war story of how they battled their way into California.

This is the story of how we brought Clickpass to California and how a holiday turned into a pitch turned into a company and finally into a successful product.

Read the full story