A Call for Immigration Reform: Entrepreneurship is Unrestrained by Nationality

08/11/2016 12:33 pm ET Updated Aug 12, 2017

From Latin America to sub-Saharan Africa, innovators are coming up with brilliant ideas and launching new ventures. I know this firsthand, as Founding Partner of Future\Perfect Ventures and former Director of Mobile Investments at the social impact fund Omidyar Network. Under my watch at Omidyar, I guided investment toward an East African mobile tech incubator, invested in one of the fastest-growing Indian mobile classified ad websites (now valued at over $1 billion), and channeled $5 million worth of for-profit investment into a Latin American wireless company that creates credit profiles from offline and online data. Companies in Future\Perfect's portfolio include Abra, Andela, Open Garden, Blockstream, Bitpesa, FuseMachines, and Blockchain, all companies that have harnessed global talent to create the most innovative companies of the early 21st Century in areas including blockchain, distributed learning, and cognitive computing. It's clear to me that creativity, entrepreneurship, and success are unrestrained by nationality.

People from all across the world have great ideas, and we want those people to be formulating them, and founding their companies, in the United States. By doing so, they would be training and employing Americans as they grow their businesses. As an immigrant and venture capitalist funding entrepreneurs, I know firsthand how many men and women worldwide would prefer to locate their businesses in the United States, to learn from its long history of innovation and entrepreneurship. My family was able to move to the United States from Kenya in the 1970s, thanks to an immigration policy that recognized that immigrants were a key component of future growth. The established technology ecosystems across the United States, from Silicon Valley to New York City to Boston, provide an inspiration and jumpstart to all entrepreneurs. After working on Wall Street and launching an Internet startup, I started my venture capital career at Intel in 1999, a company founded by Hungarian immigrant Andy Grove. Without his talent, leadership, and a policy environment that allowed Intel to flourish, Silicon Valley would not have become the center of innovation it is today. We should be encouraging the next Intels of the world to establish their headquarters in this country. Instead, current U.S. immigration policy is making the process so difficult that these entrepreneurs are incentivized to go elsewhere - countries such as Chile, Singapore and Canada have created a number of successful initiatives to attract high-tech entrepreneurs.

That's why I'm supporting the Partnership for a New American Economy (NAE), the national bipartisan organization spearheading the new Reason for Reform campaign. Together with business leaders across the country, we're demanding change. Farmers, entrepreneurs, students, faith leaders, and others have come together to tell Congress, simply and clearly, why America needs immigration reform. Through hundreds of short, recorded video clips from cell phones and computers, we've each lent our voices in giving our unique reasons why reform is needed. You can submit your own video here.

Coinciding with the launch of the Reasons for Reform campaign, NAE has marked today as a National Day of Action and is holding events in all 50 states and in Washington, DC to call attention to the economic contributions of immigrants in America. The day will also include the release of new state-specific research. You can check out your state's report here.

Throughout my venture capital career, I have invested in countless entrepreneurs who have created hundreds, if not thousands of jobs, and innovations that we all benefit from - from better financial services and more access to information to better health outcomes. It's time for U.S. immigration policy to recognize these foreign entrepreneurs who have laid down roots here. If we want to remain competitive in the 21st-century global economy, we must bring their drive and talent to our shores.

We need to take a hard look at the outdated laws that currently define who gets to start a business here and who is forced to set up shop elsewhere. There's no question that immigrants, overall, are entrepreneurial by nature. Today, nearly 33 percent of entrepreneurs here in New York are immigrants. They provided jobs to nearly a half-million Americans in 2007 alone. Start-ups founded by immigrants generated $6.13 billion in annual revenue in 2014. And out of all of the Fortune 500 companies currently based in New York, over half--an amazing 56 percent--were founded by immigrants or their children. Those companies generated $797.2 billion worth of annual revenue and employed more than 1.7 million people worldwide.

America's future as the global leader in innovation will continue to hang at risk until we fix our broken immigration system. A reform package needs to focus on updating our system to better reflect the business landscape and market realities of today. Innovation knows no bounds and shouldn't be held back by antiquated rules or partisan politics. Until dedicated entrepreneurs, with their talent and their ideas, are welcomed to the United States, America's future as a global business leader is at risk.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the Partnership for a New American Economy (NAE) for the Reason for Reform campaign. Reason for Reform seeks to showcase how immigration impacts local communities all across America and the series aims to call attention to the need for a modern immigration system. For more information about Reason for Reform, visit here www.ReasonForReform.org.