Innovation for immigration.

Here’s my story. I was born in Estonia, a small nordic European country known for producing quirky tech stuff like Skype. When I turned 16 I went to a boarding school in Germany and since then lived across the world — from Indonesia to Ecuador to England, and many places in between. Eventually I landed in the US where I studied at Harvard University.

While there I watched some of the brightest people from all around the world become friends and work together on making the world better, healthier, happier… One of the last projects I witnessed there was developed by a team of 5 (all foreigners) and if it succeeds - chemotherapy would be a thing of the past.

A few years later I saw it again when my company was going through Techstars in Austin — a team from Chile, a team from the Netherlands, a team from Australia… All of us working on innovation that would be there for American companies and people to make use of.

But this is not a phenomena that’s just applicable to the modern technology community. This is actually how this country was built — by generations of hard-working immigrants. Being the most culturally diverse country in the world, the US became a breeding ground for innovation, discoveries and new technologies. And this is not a coincidence — new ideas arise as a result of collaboration of people from very different experiences, life paths and perspectives. The problem today is that the US immigration laws have not been optimized to take advantage of foreign innovators that are willing to contribute.

There’s a chasm between the business visa and the next level of visas that would allow a foreign entrepreneur to effectively build US companies. The irony is that although we pay US taxes, have attracted capital from US investors and are looking to hire American talent, we never know if we’d be allowed to come back in after we leave the country. This prevents us from making more serious investments in the US until we get a more secure legal status here. We’re looking at every option, but the system is not entrepreneur-friendly.

It’s a small detail with massive economical implications. For this reason I strongly support the work of FWD.US and their efforts in pushing the immigration reform through the Congress.

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Martin is the CEO at Wonders, a visual narratives app for hand-picked visual stories about travel and outdoor culture. Wonders helps companies such as Canada Goose, Poler Stuff and Topo Designs with content marketing and mobile commerce solutions. The company is located in San Francisco, CA.

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