Videos & Speeches

Thank you, I have only been a Member of the Senate for two years, but in that short period of time at least seven other countries have taken actions that we’ve not taken to better support and attract entrepreneurs to their countries' economies. The map beside me shows those countries: the United Kingdom, Russia, Singapore, Australia, Brazil, Chile, and Canada. Those countries have changed their rules, regulations, passed laws, changed their policies to make their country more friendly to startup businesses and to entrepreneurship.

I want to focus on and visit with my colleagues about what is happening in one of those countries-our neighbor to the north, Canada-and explain why it is in the interests of our own country to act quickly to retain highly skilled and entrepreneurial immigrants.

In 2002, Canada announced plans to create a new visa to attract foreign entrepreneurs to their country. Canada is developing a plan to admit foreign entrepreneurs who have received capital from venture funds to start businesses in Canada and to admit them to Canada within weeks. A spokesman for the Canadian immigration agency was quoted in September as saying: “Canada seeks young, ambitious innovative immigrants who will contribute to Canada's job growth and further drive our economy.”

But Canada is not just changing its laws to attract entrepreneurs; its advertising and trying to lure talent there. The ad that we’re now showing-this is a full-page ad that appeared in a publication called Fast Company. It’s an American magazine dedicated to startups, to technology and innovation. The advertisement for Ontario highlights R&D incentives and innovative and dynamic business environment and the top talent needed to grow new businesses.

We in Congress and in the administration need to take note of this. Other countries, including our friends to the north, are aggressively courting entrepreneurs and talented individuals and they are luring them from here; they are trying to get them from the United States. Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said: “We need to proactively target a new type of immigrant entrepreneur who has the potential to build innovative companies that can compete on a global scale and create jobs for Canadians.”

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 be welcoming to those who want to create a business in the United States and employ Americans now. With respect to Canada, America is the country of entrepreneurs, a place where those with good ideas who are willing to work hard can come and make something for themselves.

There is a global battle for entrepreneurial talent and the United States is falling behind. A story I heard while visiting California, Silicon Valley, last year, illustrates this point pretty well. A large company that just a few years ago was a small startup told me they had plans to hire 68 highly skilled immigrants but could not get a visa for them to work in the United States. Rather than letting this talent go, the company hired them but hired them at their location in Canada. And it’s certainly troubling that 68 jobs went outside the United States. They were lost in our country because the United States does not have a visa program that works. What troubles me even more is that some of those 68 people hired in Canada will go on to start a business that may result in significant job creation in Canada. Those jobs that could have been in the United States are now in another country and those individuals who may start a company are no longer in the United States but are now in Canada. When we lose entrepreneurs and highly skilled immigrants, we lose the jobs they create.

The good news is there are steps we can take to attract and retain foreign entrepreneurs and highly skilled immigrants. In a bipartisan effort, Senator Warner, Senator Coons, Senator Rubio, and I introduced Startup Act 2.0 last year. Senators Blunt and Scott Brown of Massachusetts joined as cosponsors, and an identical bill was introduced in the House of Representatives with an even number of Republican and Democrat supporters. Again, this year, I am working with those colleagues to reintroduce a bill very similar to that in very short order.

Startup 2.0 makes changes to the Federal regulatory process to lessen government burdens on job creators, modifies the Tax Code to encourage investment in new businesses and capital formation, seeks to accelerate the commercialization of university research that can lead to new ventures and, most importantly, provides new opportunities for highly educated and entrepreneurial immigrants to stay in the United States where their talent and new ideas can fuel economic growth and, most importantly, create jobs for Americans.

Startup 2.0 creates an entrepreneurial visa for foreign-born entrepreneurs currently in the United States-legally in the United States. Those with good ideas, with capital, and the 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.

Take the story of Asaf Darash. He was born in Israel and came to the United States in 2007 after being awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study at the University of California. After completing his doctoral thesis, he founded a software company called Regpack. Asaf raised $1.5 million in financing for the company and hired more than a dozen Americans. His company has the potential to grow quickly and to further create additional jobs. But Asaf, the founder of this dynamic company, is no longer in the United States. My staff contacted him this morning and he said that because of the difficulty in obtaining a visa and the amount of time and effort it was taking, he decided it was easier to move to Israel and take the core of the company, including its jobs, with him. Now as Regpack grows, new jobs are going to be created in Israel-jobs that could have been in the United States if we had a visa dedicated to foreign entrepreneurs such as Asaf.

Sadly, his story is far from uncommon. Immigrants legally living in the United States who have a good idea and want to start a business have few options available to them. With very few ways to stay, these entrepreneurs, just like Asaf, are forced to move and take their businesses with them and take the jobs that they have created and will create to other countries. I want to make certain America is the best place for entrepreneurs who want to build America and hire Americans. Passing Startup Act 2.0 will help make this happen.

Entrepreneurial immigrants have long contributed to the strength of our economy by starting companies and creating jobs. Of the current Fortune 500 companies, more than 40 percent were founded by first- or second-generation Americans. Today, 1 in every 10 Americans employed at a privately owned U.S. company works at an immigrant-owned firm.

In our mobile world, entrepreneurs have a choice as to where they start a business. For decades, there was no better place than the land of opportunity-the United States of America. But things are changing. Other countries are aggressively seeking the best and brightest, those with entrepreneurial talent, as a way to grow their economy.

I believe that most-in fact, I would say at least 80 percent-of my colleagues in Congress agree with the visa provisions in Startup Act 2.0. They understand that retaining highly skilled entrepreneurial immigrants will lead to economic growth and new jobs for Americans. Unfortunately, there is an approach in Congress it’s been here for the last several years that says if we can't do everything, we will not do anything. I urge my colleagues let's pass what we can agree now and keep working to find common ground on issues that still divide us.

Canada and other countries are creating new opportunities for entrepreneurs, for startup companies, but the United States is still the home of the American dream. We need to pass Startup 2.0 so that individuals can pursue their ambitions in America.

Millions of our citizens remain out of work. Our economy is barely growing. One would think, common sense would suggest we would work hard together to deal with the issues that we have agreement on that would help jump-start the economy. Let's do that. Let's jump-start the American economy through entrepreneurship and allow those with talents and skills we need to pursue the American dream in the United States of America and thereby strengthen our economy.