Silicon Valley was a Mexican Valley.

2008 Billboard from Absolut Vodka. This ad is a tribute to Mexico’s original territory.

Less than 180 years ago, the United States army marched to Mexico and forcibly took half of its territory including what the world calls now California… And now everybody born in the southern states shares a piece of Mexican heritage that they should be proud of:

Given that this invasion was mostly a mixture and not an extermination, our cultures bonded together giving birth to one of the most progressive and pluricultural societies in the history: the cradle of those brilliant minds materializing the revolutions that shaped the last century and our future…

So in a way, leaving to Silicon Beach felt like coming back home…

Hassan Uriostegui & Brett O’Brien. 2017

In 2012 I joined Viddy, a video sharing startup cofounded by Brett O’Brien and JJ Aguhob. At the moment, the startup enjoyed an exponential growth with tens of millions of users and desperately needed an expert in the mobile visual effects field. When Ken Chung, the CTO found my research about “augmenting human skin on mobile devices” they contacted me right away.

There was only one test to pass: They asked me to recreate some of the Instagram filters but applied in a real time feed on the iPhone 5 camera. So, just forty eight hours later I made a demo app that overpassed the given expectations.

Thus the meritocracy culture of Silicon Valley has worked out better than any education or government to place talent in the right place.

As we collaborated under the J1 visa program , I effectively learned a lot about US startups and its culture. The company grow to a $400M valuation after raising $36M dollars and 45M users while we built an advanced video effects technology that many described as the “Instagram for video”.

Celebs makes us smile. Entrepreneurs disrupt industries.

Everything evolved really fast from here. Viddy was acquired in 2014 and I continued working on my immigration process.

The lawyers recommended me to switch to a special kind of visa, called O1; although it is meant for people with “extraordinary abilities” it is mostly used by celebrities as a quick way to stay and work in the US.

Ironically while a young talent like Justin Bieber can obtain an O1 (arguably in the basis of his success as a musical brand) the requirements would make almost impossible to approve for a young entrepreneur teenager like the one I used to be: this should raise questions about the effectiveness of this visa to support extraordinary individuals.

But many years later and with a solid career in my back, we were able to apply and be approved for the O1.

And while I acknowledge the talent required for the performing arts and the public figures, I believe legislations all over the world should offer better support to the individuals shaping the future and devoting their lives to innovation and economic development.

Making a point

Ultrakam promo . Produced by: Eric Deinzer & Mariana Acuña. Music: “Sons of Assagne” by Opercult.

While the O1 visa is enough to stay and work in the US we needed more.

Given the circumstances, going back to our country was something completely unpractical, so we had to find a way to obtain permanent residency in a short term.

When I asked the lawyers for an immediate way to became resident they asked me if I have won a Nobel prize…

They explained me about this really special visa called the EB1 created as path to offer immediate residence to extraordinary talent that can critically contribute to the US progress. Mostly used by winners of the Nobel prize and Olympic contests.

The other way to obtain it, is by fulfilling a very long list of extraordinary requirements that end up showcasing a comparable value with the contributions made by Nobel prize receivers.

I liked the challenge to demonstrate critical potential for the advancement of technology, specially coming from a person with my background as a way to make a point for all the brave kids willing to change the world as I was once.

So It was time to get back to work on revolutionary ideas.

Eventually I invented Ultrakam: an app that turned any iPhone 5S into a professional cine camera , effectively empowering millions of users to produce film quality video for less than ten dollars.

It was a global success with thousands of fans around the world and expressions of appreciation in tens of different languages. The evidence for all this global recognition added to my previous achievements allow us to create a solid case for the EB1 that was finally approved.

By following its rules the immigration system that once had rejected me has finally worked out a fair outcome. It took thirteen years and a very long ride to get there in that overnight success that immediately granted a green card.

And for all the entrepreneurs less lucky that had failed in this long process, you can feel content that we are now making a point:
We need a better immigration process for entrepreneurs or more critical talent will be lost for the US, Silicon Valley and any other country with outdated legislations around the world.

The future of interactive video

Two years ago I started Flyr with my partner Brett O’Brien. We raised $5M dollars and we have built a wonderful product that has some of the DNA of that retro idea of “bringing magazines to life”. We believe that video is changing the fabric of the internet by popularizing the adoption of a universal language based on short animated clips, and we want to empower every citizen of the digital world to use its power for their amusement and personal growth.

All we need is love

Ruth & Hassan. The original team.

Being a Mexican immigrant with a middle eastern name living in the US, I’ve felt connected with the suffering endured by the people being unfairly labeled ass less worthy humans just based on their race, creed or beliefs.

Judging them less worthy to share the land and the freedom, less worthy to be considered good people, less worthy to feel love and to be loved, less worthy to dream with a better future…

For those judging us as lesser… all I want to give them back is fraternal love.

I can see how your thoughts come from a deep fear forged in the misunderstanding of the current world, while all you really want is to feel safe and in control of your destiny.

Perhaps if we start by realizing that the vast majority of us want the same fundamental things we’ll bring back the essential connection that make us all equal: A struggling mother in Arkanza feels the same kind of pain than a struggling mother from Syria. A wasted young talent from Los Angeles deprives the world of innovation as much as a wasted young talent from Africa. A father loosing his job on an assembly line in Detroit, happens for the same deeper reasons a father is loosing his job on an assembly line in Mexico…

Our common enemy cannot be characterized by race or creed. That kind of angry souls are breed in all races. Falling on the darkness is non exclusive for any creed.

Instead we need to understand the real reasons of this fear to actually resolve it…
We need to look at how the world has changed: computers, internet and smartphones had bring us a tremendous power to further evolve as a united race.
But had also brought us tremendous challenges.

With such rapid changes it’s very easy to feel like the world makes no sense at all, and in that fear, to see ghost enemies in our neighbors and in all the beliefs that we don’t fully understand.

All races, countries and eras had featured their own monsters, but these individuals are just a tiny portion of any culture. The rest of us, we the people of the world, the poorest and the rich, the educated and the learner, we all want the same fundamental things and we shall feel no fear if we are together in fraternal love.

The truth is that to properly use technology and its vast potential we need to reinvent how civilization works.

And this new world can give us a chance to be more humans than ever: to actually be part of the education of our children, to properly spend time learning from the elder, to enjoy nature with respect and sustainability, to share more meaningful moments with our loved ones. All this while machines can help us take care of the most mechanic and elemental operations of our future society.

The creators, engineers, scientists and artists are already painting solutions in this new canvas. But governments and society has to embrace the real global challenges with daily compromise.

Because once we have named these challenges with the right words and devoted our lives to them, there’s nothing our scientists can’t harness, our engineers resolve and our artists write, paint and sing for everyone’s to feel: that we’ll be then such a powerful cosmic race…
We can drive this changes together. We must do it to survive.

I invite those who understand to spread the voice to the people in fear. Help them recognize we all share the same global challenges as a united humanity, and also share your love for the ones being pursued, to care for the ones unfairly judged unworthy.

While a single human is being treated lesser is the whole humanity what depreciates it’s value. And as the world is constantly evolving tomorrow that person could be you.
We don’t know where the world is going, so we can make it go wherever we want!

Afterwords

Wisdom tree. Image from the web.

Immigrants want a second chance to make a better life for their families and many have found a deeper spiritual motivation after passing over horrendous pains.

We are all immigrants somehow and there is a non intuitive power in acknowledging that. Once you recognize it you’ll hear that voice demanding you to be a better neighbor, a better citizen, a better friend, a better human being. Because it is humbling to recognize we are all passengers in this world.

Technology and society won’t stop evolving: revolution and disruption has to be the norm in the daily lives for the current and coming generations, and we shall embrace it with creativity and excitement.

Our motivation and our values have to shift from the main goal of economic wealth, and convert in a journey to our own personal and collective mission in the universe; deeper goals that will fulfill our thirst for happiness with the joy of being useful in the eternal flow of life.

This story starts here.

Mexican, Immigrant: innovating beyond walls.