Massachusetts Entrepreneur Visa Program Brings $185 Million in Investment

1 Dec

By Bill Brah, Assistant Vice Provost for Research and Executive Director, Venture Development Center


In March, we shared an introduction to the Global Entrepreneur in Residence (GEIR) Program at UMass Boston’s Venture Development Center, which supports entrepreneurs in the life sciences and other sectors by providing H1B visas for founders. As GEIR has gained traction, LSN is excited to revisit GEIR to track its progress.

First report on how the program is working

With national startup visa legislation stymied in a bitterly divided Washington D. C., Massachusetts is showing that something constructive is possible. Two years ago, it created the Global Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program to retain foreign grads of local universities who are launching startup companies. The program was developed by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, and formed as a public-private partnership by Governors Deval Patrick (D) and Charlie Baker (R), working with members of the innovation community including Flybridge Capital Partners, Silicon Valley Bank and Goodwin Procter.

The University of Massachusetts Venture Development Center, which is leading the pilot program, has released statistics (below) on how the program is working. It provides the first concrete evidence of how a national startup visa is expected to benefit the country.

The Global Entrepreneur-in-Residence program gives entrepreneurs H-1B visas sponsored by the University of Massachusetts. Unlike private employers, a university is exempt from the annual H-1B visa quota. The university sponsors an entrepreneur for part-time work at its Venture Development Center and the entrepreneur spends the rest of their time advancing their startup company to the point where the company can sponsor the H-1B visa.

Strong demand among entrepreneurial grads of many universities and countries

The program has been selective. It reported that 67 entrepreneurs applied to the program; 23 or 34% of the entrepreneurs were accepted. All received visas. Seven entrepreneurs have already “graduated” from the program with visas independent of the University of Massachusetts.

The entrepreneurs represent 16 different countries, India leading with 37%. The entrepreneurs attended 15 different universities, with Harvard and MIT leading with 35% of the entrepreneurs. The program has also drawn entrepreneurs from universities outside Massachusetts including Stanford, Columbia and Carnegie Mellon. Ten of the 23 entrepreneurs are software engineers. The rest are finance, marketing and management majors.

Entrepreneur’s companies have had fundraising success, and are adding employees

The entrepreneurs’ 20 companies have raised a total of $185,512,265 in private investment, and have a headcount of 416 employees. The companies include both newly formed and growing companies. All have had fundraising success, and are adding employees. Fourteen or 70% of the 20 companies are newly formed; the companies have raised $10,313,000 in private investment and have 61 employees. Six companies are at the growth stage. They have 355 employees and have raised $175,199,265.

Other states following Massachusetts lead

Encouraged by the potential, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has proposed a new rule which would allow certain international entrepreneurs to be considered for temporary permission to be in the US. However, investors are pushing for more flexibility before the rule is adopted.

Meanwhile, the Venture Development Center has opened its application process for 2017 and plans to accept 15 more entrepreneurs. And other state universities in Colorado, New York and California have followed Massachusetts in adopting global entrepreneur programs.

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