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.