SHAYAN ZADEH, the co-founder of Zoosk, a popular online-dating service based in San Francisco, is worried.
In the current debate on immigration, few realise that foreign-born entrepreneurs create jobs for locals.
“It’s a real public-relations problem,” bemoans Mr Zadeh, who came to the country as a student from Iran and worked at Microsoft before establishing his own firm, which now employs almost 150 people.
On May 2nd Innovate for America, the new brainchild of Scott Sandell, a venture capitalist, launched a plan to get American firms with at least one immigrant founder to publicise the number of people they have hired in America. Some 40 companies, including Zoosk, BloomReach, a start-up that analyses data to help firms maximise online revenues, and QBotix, a robot-maker, have already signed up.
At innovateforamerica.org, companies can submit the number of jobs they have added since their launch. They can also show support for the group’s aims by downloading a widget, or tiny piece of portable code. Once installed, this displays an icon on their websites showing the total number of jobs the group’s members have collectively created in America. The figure will be updated as new firms join and existing ones add workers. Mr Sandell says he is talking to auditors about verifying the data regularly to ensure they are robust.
To get the initiative off the ground, he and his colleagues have recruited smallish firms, many of which they have invested in. That explains why the total number of jobs showcased on the widget at launch is a mere 3,700 or so. But they are hoping many other start-ups–and behemoths with at least one foreign-born founder, such as Google and Yahoo–will sign up too, quickly boosting the total.
Their site urges immigrant entrepreneurs to post their personal stories. It also asks those who were refused visas to highlight the number of jobs they have gone on to create elsewhere.
Innovate for America may initially attract less attention than FWD.us, a pressure group recently launched by Mark Zuckerberg, the boss of Facebook, and other prominent Silicon Valley types to lobby on immigration and other issues. But if its widget spreads, it could invigorate a debate that is vital to America’s future prosperity.
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