Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

As a Professor of entrepreneurship at NYU's engineering school (that VC Fred Wilson called a jewel -- http://avc.com/2014/03/the-value-of-an-engineering-degree), I can summarize the problem in one phrase many of my students said when describing their goals after graduation:

"... but I have to get a job at a big company to sponsor my visa."

They're brilliant, motivated, and capable, but almost none are citizens. To start new companies they have to leave the U.S. To stay they have to work for a big company even though more than half are continuing their entrepreneurial class projects after the course ended. There are options to jump through difficult hoops, but those options are much harder for most.

So we motivate potential entrepreneurs to start elsewhere or give up their plans. What if instead we motivated the world to start companies here instead of elsewhere?

(Incidentally, we're organizing an event in October for non-U.S.-citizens who found ways to start companies and stay here to help inspire others to find ways to do it. If you're interested, especially if you know non-citizens who found ways to stay and live near NYC, please contact me -- http://joshuaspodek.com/contactconnect.)

A corollary to that is that even if you work out the legal obstacles (it's possible to get a tax ID and even start a company without having legal status), it's difficult to accumulate the seed capital if you can't work a regular job.

That'a s bit less of an issue for people in tech startups - if you already have a laptop and internet service, then you may not need any additional physical capital - but it can be a huge barrier in other lines of business where you may need to invest in a fair amount of equipment in order to be basically competitive. Say someone wants to start a photography business, for example, which is pretty lightweight sort of business - you're still looking at maybe $10k of gear and a year of studio/office rental expenses, potentially much more. You don't have to go that route to succeed as a photographer, but absent that starting capital it's going to take considerably longer to get established. And while that's not a huge amount of money, many immigrants don't have access to credit or jobs that pay enough to accumulate savings.

I know i'm going to be slaughtered in downvotes, but have the top schools ever considered admitting more citizens?

My wife works in admissions at a top university... foreign students are extremely attractive them because they 1. Pay full tuition and 2. Have very high test scores.

Regarding 1, shouldn't it not matter to the university who is paying the cost of tuition as long as tuition is paid (i.e. loans are equivalent to a student personally bearing the burden)? Seems odd to favor foreign students for that reason.

It's a bit unfair to to US universities to suggest they made this situation. There is a huge demand from foreign families who have the means to pay for a quality education and who live where university capacity it not able to keep up with demand at home.

US schools can raise the quality of their student body, not to mention raise their income by meeting this demand. And on the other side of the ledger, it can be argued the US has too many university seats.

Maybe they need to better prepare students for not being able to stay in the US, via exchange programs with universities in students' home countries, for example. There isn't going to be an H1-B for everyone straight out of school.

certainly they arn't all the blame, but they are also not blame free. for some reason, engineering programs over favor test scores. In China, their schools prepare their students to take our tests such as the GRE. also in china, they take paper exams (because that makes it easier for them to cheat). As an engineering student, i met several chinese students who got perfect verbal scores for the GRE but could barely hold a conversation. i asked, they said they were lucky. i pressed, they said they bought the questions and answers prior to the test. I'm honestly perplexed that US universities even allow chinese GRE results.

with that being said, engineering programs want to have entrepreneurship in their programs, but 80% of their cohorts are from countries that are risk adverse. the above commentator's students gave up at VISA, you really think they have the chops?

How about just re-evaluating the acceptance criteria. look for other criteria besides standardized test scores instead of complaining that they gave up at VISA so thats why they're struggling to have alumnae who started their own companies. Americans are 'supposed' to be entrepreneurial. not sure if that's true but the top engineering/cs programs are eager to over look them.

I have seen where foreign students who are very well prepared by an excellent high school education but who would not make it into an elite school at home due to pretty much infinite demand for a constrained supply get a quality university education here, and I have seen both graduate and undergraduate foreign students cheat their way in, and in too many cases, through a US university education, and everything in between. Though it looks like the numbers favor the former being the majority.

I think we can agree any visa program would need a way to distinguish among them. But also consider that George W. Bush graduated from Harvard Business School. If you have the juice, anything can be made to happen.

If you don't have a visa, you can't stay in this country beyond a certain point. That has nothing to do with having killer chops for entrepreneurship.

I can attest to this. I had to leave US last September due to visa expiration.

i'll bet you if you gave an hour to think about it, even you who made that comment can think of at least 3 ways that statement is wrong.

entrepreneurs find ways.

what? no you can't "entrepreneur" your way out of govt policies. and no, marrying for the sake of greencard is not an option either as sooner or later govt will catch you on that as well.

They couldn't even if they wanted to, because where are these citizen applicants? If you are are smart enough to be an engineer you are smart enough to realize that it's an industry in terminal decline and that no-one is on your side - the government, the employers, the colleges, the professional organizations are all trying to flood the market and drive down wages.

Then you look at the other professions, medicine and law, and you see secure jobs and professional associations that fight for their members like crazed wolves. It's a no-brainer.

The top schools are private. They are only interested in their bottom line.

And under H1B building a company on the side is illegal because of all the rules forbidding to work for another company.

That's, in my opinion, one of the greatest problems with the world, the economy, and the education system today.

For one thing, we train people to be workers, so they can end up as cogs in the machine of the big corporate system.

Then, those that still want to be entrepreneurs have to jump through political and legal hoops to do so.

Isn't investment, velocity of money, and innovation what makes the system keep moving? Without these entrepreneurs and business owners/founders, where would the jobs be? Why not provide incentives to be business owners and innovators? Or at least nurture the ones who are predisposed to it rather than trying to stomp it out of them!

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact