Y Combinator co-founder and Dropbox investor Paul Graham estimates that 95% of the world’s top engineers live outside the United States.
But immigration laws are strict, even for brilliant engineers who start companies and create a lot of job opportunities in America. A lot of founders and top engineers are either not allowed into the country or they’re turned away after creating businesses for Visa reasons.
Graham cautions that if politicians don’t majorly reform immigration laws, and fast, the United States could be, well, “f—ed.”
Graham spoke with one founder who leads an engineering team of 70 people. This person said he’d hire 30 top engineers tomorrow if he could find them. But he can’t, because talent is scarce, and it certainly isn’t rampant in the United States.
A few startups are trying to solve this problem and connect tech companies to tech talent abroad. Power to Fly, for example, was created by a technical executive Milena Berry and a serial startup executive Katherine Zaleski to vet talent overseas and place engineers with U.S. companies in need of their services.
Matt Shampine is the co-founder of WeWork Labs, a company that incubates hundreds of startups around the world; WeWork just raised money at a valuation that exceeds $US1 billion. Shampine says a number of founders in his startup work spaces are having visa issues, including Handshake’s Australian founder, Glen Coates, who has grown his mobile order processing application to about 60 employees over the past few years.
Right now, top programmers would like to come to (or continue living in) the United States, Graham notes. But if the U.S. makes it too difficult for them and another country makes it easier, all the top tech talent might migrate there instead. If that happens, the United States could fall from being a technology super power. Graham also warns that not fixing immigration laws could become “the defining mistake this generation of American politicians later become famous for.”
From Graham’s blog:
The more of the world’s great programmers are here, the more the rest will want to come here.
And if we don’t, the US could be seriously f—ed. I realise that’s strong language, but the people dithering about this don’t seem to realise the power of the forces at work here. Technology gives the best programmers huge leverage. The world market in programmers seems to be becoming dramatically more liquid. And since good people like good colleagues, that means the best programmers could collect in just a few hubs. Maybe mostly in one hub.
What if most of the great programmers collected in one hub, and it wasn’t here?…We have the potential to ensure that the US remains a technology superpower just by letting in a few thousand great programmers a year.”
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