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Sharing Scheduler App Buffer Raises $400,000, Gets Kicked Out Of US (techcrunch.com)
55 points by joelg87 on Dec 21, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 16 comments

This is definitely not a failure of your immigration system.

They didn't even move to the US to start this, it started in the UK and then, let's be frank, they went off to the US for a jolly holiday. Now they're going to Hong Kong for a jolly holiday.

All props to starting a business, etc. but if you can't sell Buffer from the UK and you can't sell it from the US, you're not going to be able to sell it from Hong Kong.

To everyone saying the US lost a great team, they didn't need to be there. The company was setup in the UK already running, it started in 2010. Joel was standing in front of me practically a year to the day in the UK advocating bootstrapping and now he's suddenly raised $400,000 for a trivial twitter app. How on earth can you spend $400,000 on a tweet scheduler?

The guy's great, I think the apps great for what it is, yes they're having a great time travelling the world. I appreciate people can change their minds.

Also they're probably a UK company and pay UK corporation taxes, not US ones, but I'm not sure as their terms of service and their website don't explicitly say who the legal owner of the app is or their registration number or registration address (illegally I might add if they're from the UK). If he's running it as a sole trader he should explicitly say so in his terms of service.

EDIT: Joel's deck from Dec 2010 advocating bootstrapping:


Hi Matt,

You're absolutely right, it's not a failure of the US immigration system. We looked into all our options, and we were working with a very good and well respected immigration lawyer to apply for H1B visas. Unfortunately, they ran out of visas on the quota for the year just before we applied. So, we never even applied for a visa, and we certainly weren't rejected visas or kicked out of the country, so it's not a failure of the immigration system. I do think perhaps the system could cater a little better to people in our situation who were very keen to stick around in the US and hire US citizens to build our company. Nevermind though, we'll hopefully be back soon enough to do exactly that.

I'm glad you saw me speak at NottTuesday just over a year ago. That's right after I launched Buffer, and at that point it was me by myself and just a few paying users and perhaps 100 users in total. I was still learning a huge deal at that point, and quite frankly I'm still making all sorts of mistakes to this day, but I think that will always be the case. I do like to think that now with over 1400 paying customers (85,000 users in total) and a $200,000 annual revenue run rate, we did sell Buffer from the UK, we did sell Buffer from the US, and I'm confident we'll continue on our non-linear growth path whilst we are based in Hong Kong.

As for needing to be in the US, that's an interesting point to ponder. Shortly after the NottTuesday talk I brought on board a co-founder. Then, a few months later, being in the US enabled us to gain a place on AngelPad and with the investment hire our first employee much faster than we would have otherwise been able to. I still advocate bootstrapping, and indeed Buffer was bootstrapped for 9 months to profitability before we thought about funding. Without a previous track record, having that kind of traction is essential in my mind. We're a US company.

We're having a great time travelling the world, but we're also working pretty damn hard. In my mind, I truly believe both need to go hand in hand to be truly successful.

As an American, our immigration policies make me so damn mad. I know both Leo and Joel quite well, having went through AngelPad together, and they were building a solid company that should have stayed in America.

The fact that wealth-builders, and innovative startup founders that seek to create new frontiers can't legally find a way of staying in this country is preposterous.

This is so unfortunate to happen to such a good group of founders. When Buffer first launched, I sent Joel an email pertaining to cron jobs. I was just learning to code generic hello world scripts, and he not only got back to me, but his response was helpful and encouraging. The US lost a good team in this gaffe, unfortunately.

I actually now use Buffer regularly at my startup (I should actually start using it more), and to be honest, I never cared where you guys were based -- the product worked well. Just keep up the good work wherever you settle :)

How were they in the US in the first place?

Seems they just moved here to do a startup, then applied too late for a H1B visa. They don't seem too bothered by it. They get to live in Hong Kong! Sounds awesome to me. http://leostartsup.com/2011/12/why-we-are-taking-our-startup...

I didn't think getting a H1B visa was that easy, though. You just move to the US and apply? It doesn't work that way, does it? Don't you need to have a job and somehow justify that you need a visa?


Hopefully I'm not giving anything confidential away, but the answer is pretty straightforward:

Buffer was able to prove that they can convert x% of their users to a paid service, with a very viral, rapidly growing user base.

They proved that they could build something people wanted, get people to pay for it, and market it in such a way that it grows virally (keeping their costs low).

As an investor, that would be music to my ears - their burn rate is likely to be completely covered by the CURRENT revenues, and the rest is gravy. They have all the time in the world to figure out what additional services people want layered on top of their social media, and have proven that their team can both build and market their new ideas.

Well said Phil, that's exactly the reason! :)

Congrats guys! Sorry to see you go :(

Thanks a lot Rob! Not to worry, I am sure we will be back in a few months! :)

How did you move to Hong Kong? Are there any special requirements so you can setup your start-up there and get a VISA?

Could you move to the Chilli Startup. Seems interesting over there. I've been tempted to apply.

I for one am ashamed that my country has mistreated them.

Hold on. If the average person reads 10 articles in the morning and 10 articles at lunch, why is the optimal time to send your friends articles some other time during the day?

Does the average person do that? I've seen nothing to suggest they do, except you might.

Also, when is morning? people are in lots of different timezones that are following companies and celebs.

What I do has nothing to do with the article. It is the article claiming that.

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