Videos & Speeches

Thank you for the opportunity to be on the Senate floor today to continue to tell my colleagues about the issues of entrepreneurship and the global battle for talent, the opportunity to start businesses, and the challenges we face from other countries in competing in this global economy.

From our nation's earliest days, entrepreneurs have been the driving force behind U.S. economic growth and expansion. Yet the state of entrepreneurship in America is not as strong as it once was. In today's global economy, an entrepreneur has more choices than ever about where to start his or her business.

Over the last two years, at least seven other countries have taken action to better support and attract entrepreneurs. In the two plus years I’ve been a member of the Senate, seven countries have changed their policies, their laws, and their regulations to be attractive to entrepreneurs, while we have not. This map shows those countries—Russia, Singapore, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Canada, and the United Kingdom. I recently shared what Canada was doing to attract more entrepreneurs, and today I will share what is happening in the United Kingdom and explain why it is in our country's best interests to act quickly to retain highly skilled and entrepreneurial immigrants.

Much like the United States, the UK had a range of visa categories for immigrants with varying skills and financial resources. But in 2011, the UK Government made changes to simplify their visa rules in order to attract more talented entrepreneurs to their country. The UK recently created an entirely new type of visa for what they call “prospective entrepreneurs.” These individuals are allowed to enter the UK for a set period of time to secure funding and start the process of setting up their businesses before they begin the traditional visa process. Raising capital can be one of the more challenging aspects of starting a new business, and this visa gives entrepreneurs a running start.

The UK has also changed its top visa category, tier one, to be restricted to entrepreneurs, investors, and the exceptionally talented. Those entrepreneurs falling within the tier one category must have set up or taken over a British business. The initial investment in their companies can be as little as 50,000 pounds, given that certain criteria are met. By lowering the initial capital investment required, entrepreneurs can get set up and running their businesses sooner rather than just raising more money.

The UK has also revamped its Global Entrepreneurs Programme, which works to encourage innovative technology businesses to relocate to the UK. The program is aimed specifically at foreign entrepreneurs and offers a range of support to startups, from help in raising capital to providing mentors to offering networking opportunities with successful entrepreneurs. This program has helped more than 200 entrepreneurs and early-stage technology companies get established in the United Kingdom so far.

You can see from this poster, Sir Richard Branson is helping promote this program because he knows firsthand the value of entrepreneurship. Many people today know Richard Branson as the creator of Virgin Airways, but he got his start at the young age of 16 by successfully launching a new student magazine. Now, 45 years later, his investment group employs approximately 50,000 people in 34 countries and its revenues in 2011 were around $21 billion.

The UK's Immigration Minister said this about the country's recent efforts to attract more startup companies: “Entrepreneurs and investors can play a major part in our economic recovery, and I want to do everything I can to ensure that Britain remains an attractive destination for them. Last year we issued far too few visas to those who wish to set up a business and invest in the UK—I intend to change that.” That was the Immigration Minister of the UK speaking. And this is our competition.

We in Congress and the administration need to take note of this. Other countries are aggressively courting entrepreneurs and those talented individuals will not sit on the sideline with their good ideas. They will go to the country that welcomes them and set up shop.

A story I heard while visiting Silicon Valley recently illustrates this point. A large company that was just a few years ago a startup itself told me they had plans to hire 68 highly skilled immigrants but could not get visas for them to work in the U.S.  Rather than letting that talent go, the company hired them but in a different country. While it is troubling to me that we lost 68 jobs because there was no visa for them—we lost those jobs here in the United States and the visa program didn't work to attract and retain them—what troubles me even more than that is we know that someone—and maybe several of those 68 people hired—will go on to start a business that may result in significant job creation. Those are jobs that could have been created in the United States but now will be created in another country.

There is a global battle for entrepreneurial talent, and the United States is falling behind. When we lose those entrepreneurs and highly skilled immigrants, we lose the jobs they create. This is certainly about the entrepreneurs, but it is more about the folks who they will employ—folks here in the United States who are in desperate need of employment.

The legislation that led to changes in the UK's visa law was drafted by Cambridge venture capitalist Alex van Someren. Alex is aware that here in America there have been recent efforts to attract entrepreneurs to our country, but the barriers to entry are still higher than in the United Kingdom. Alex said this in a recent interview he had with Business Weekly: “We have beaten the American effort and that is fabulous news for UK entrepreneurship.” This might be good news for the United Kingdom, but it is not good news for Americans. I want to make sure that the first choice for entrepreneurs looking to start a company remains the United States of America, and Congress has the responsibility to make certain that happens.

In a bipartisan effort, Senator Warner, Senator Coons, Senator Blunt, and others introduced the Startup Act 3.0 yesterday and an identical bill is being introduced today in the U.S. House of Representatives. Startup Act 3.0 makes changes to the Federal regulatory process to lessen government burdens on job creators, modifies the Tax Code to encourage investment in new businesses, seeks to accelerate the commercialization of university federally funded research that can lead to new ventures and, importantly, provides new opportunities for highly educated and entrepreneurial immigrants to stay in the United States where their talents and new ideas can fuel economic growth and, most importantly, create American jobs.

Startup Act 3.0 creates an entrepreneur's visa for foreign-born entrepreneurs currently in the United States. Those with a good idea, capital, and willingness to hire Americans would be able to stay in the United States and grow their businesses. In many instances, foreign-born entrepreneurs, here legally, have an idea and want to begin a company that will employ Americans but are told their visa does not allow them to remain in the United States. With few ways to stay, these entrepreneurs are forced to move and to take their business with them where they will create jobs in other countries.

I want to make certain America is the best place for entrepreneurs who want to build in America and hire Americans. Passing Startup Act 3.0 will help make that happen by creating new ways for immigrants legally in the United States to open a business and to employ our fellow citizens. People come from all around the world to the United States. They come to study and they come to work. They come to live in a place where they can have the freedom to pursue their dreams. The entrepreneur's visa would allow these risk-takers to stay here and operate their businesses.

Each immigrant entrepreneur would be required to create jobs for Americans. If the business was not successful and the jobs were not created, the immigrant would have to go back to his or her own home country. While some immigrant entrepreneurs would fail, others would follow a path worn by many who came before them and succeeded. Entrepreneurial immigrants have long contributed to the strength of our economy by starting companies and creating jobs. I can think of the Russian immigrants, for example, who are entrepreneurs in a sense who came to Kansas and brought hard red winter wheat with them. What a true entrepreneur—an immigrant entrepreneur—who changed the face of our state.

Of the current Fortune 500 companies, more than 40 percent were founded by a first- or second-generation American. Not only are these immigrants entrepreneurial, but they are also disproportionately innovative. Foreign nationals residing in the United States were named as investors or co-investors in a quarter of all patent applications filed in the United States in 2006.

Today, one of every ten Americans employed in a privately owned U.S. company works for an immigrant-owned firm. While we work in the United States to continue educating our children with the skills for a 21st century economy and training the next generation of great American entrepreneurs, we also need to welcome those who want to create a business here in the United States and employ our citizens.

I believe that 80 percent of my colleagues here would agree with the provisions of Startup Act 3.0. They understand these are important issues for the economic growth and new job creation for Americans. I urge my colleagues to pass what we can agree to now and keep working to find common ground on issues that still divide us. The longer we wait, the farther we fall behind in this global competition for the most entrepreneurial immigrants.

While the United Kingdom and other countries are creating new opportunities for entrepreneurs, the United States remains the land of opportunity and birthplace of the American dream. We need to pass Startup Act 3.0 so foreign entrepreneurs can strengthen our economy. So American business men and women can pursue their dreams here in the United States.

Millions of our citizens, unfortunately, remain out of work. Many are underemployed. Our economy is barely growing. We can jump-start the American economy through Startup Act 3.0, and the skills we need to pursue the American dream can be here in the United States and we can strengthen our economy.