Startup Visa – Should you want one?

Startup visa is a recent proposal from Senators John Kerry & Richard Lugar. The origins of this proposal can be traced back to some prominent angel investors and venture capitalists. If you have been reading recently, you probably saw a lot of discussion on the related posts from Vivek Wadhwa.

Most of the discussion on startup visa, that i have seen, centers around the value of such visa for american economy. I am an immigrant into this great country and i can see both sides of the arguments. I have seen how H-1B program has immensely contributed to innovation in technology field and consequently spurred growth in US. I have also seen how this program has been (and continues to be) abused by employers to bring cheap – and often untalented – labor into US.

My main purpose here is not to add to that debate. Instead, I want to look at this visa from the viewpoint of a foreign worker/student in USA who is looking at this as a potential opportunity to obtain a green card. Is this better than sticking with current employer and get green card through them? When should one opt for a startup visa?

First up, a deeper look into the proposal and some details

  1. The minimum round the company has to raise is 250K.
  2. The minimum PER EACH FOUNDER should be 100k. This means, that if you have 3 founders all seeking greencard, they have to raise atleast 300K.
  3. The wording says “a qualified venture capitalist or a qualified superangel investor has invested not less than$100,000”. It is unclear if the entire 100K has to come from only one investor. Let us hope not. I think this will be clarified.
  4. In exchange for giving an entrepreneur a green card, the expectation is that their “commercial activities create not fewer than 5 new full time jobs in US”. I am assuming that the inherent assumption here is that these jobs are not h-1b jobs :). What is unclear is how they plan to decide which jobs are attributable to which founder. If there are 3 founders, should they create 15 jobs? If so, what happens if they create 13? Which of the 3 founders loses their green card?
  5. Next, the expectation is that they would raise 1M dollars in follow on financing in 2 years or generate 1M $ in revenue.
  6. Lastly, if this startup doesn’t do too well, by the end of 3rd year, they  are obligated to terminate the green card.

So, you are a H-1B worker at google, yahoo or, and you have a brilliant idea. Should you try to raise money and go for a startup visa?  I can envision several scenarios which this visa does not address. Usually such scenarios means that USCIS would define them later. This is often unpredictable and can change rapidly based on a lot of random factors. Just look at how h-1b workers are treated today by USCIS. Folks stopped in Newark airport and questioned for compliance! Here are some scenarios

  • If your company gets acquired in a year, what happens? back to h-1?
  • In case your company fails, how many days/months do you have to find a new job and change visa status?
  • Are you allowed to do other jobs while on this green card?
  • If there are 3 founders and let’s say the expectation is that the company creates 15 jobs. If the company only creates 12, you could be the one that is left high and dry.

Overall, this seems like something that’s great on paper. This has been drafted from the view point of a VC/Angel.  At this point it seems way too risky to opt for permanent residency through this channel. I would say NO, donot pin your hopes on this visa. Getting a green card through a steady employer might still be your best bet.

Update on 2010 goals

I published my 2010 goals on the web in late december. At that time, I did not spend a lot of time setting goals. I committed to those goals, because those seemed right and those goals were somethings i have been aspiring to do for a while. Since i did set the goals, I want to continue tracking them. The best way to reach goals is to start working towards them early on and tracking them aggressively. Early on when you set the goals, you feel the enthusiasm and energetic, it is best to get started then. If you don’t track them, it will be easy to loose motivation and forget.

Here is the update at the end of january.

  1. GOAL 1. “Live Happily Everyday”. I think I did a good job. There was good work/life balance, happy times, loving times which helped handle the pressures very well. There were a lot of pressures 🙂
  2. Goal 2. “Apply and enroll in eMBA”. The deadline for eMBA programs was feb 1. This contributed to a lot pressure during the latter part of month, but thanks to great support from madhu, i was able to pull it off. I took GMAT, finished up essays, completed app process. Hectic but felt great accomplishing it. I hope i get accepted.
  3. Goal 3 . “Start a non-profit in India focused on education”. To be honest, I was not able to make much time for this. However, last month was great time for some ideas, and crystallization of thought on certain core principles for this org.
  4. Goal 4. “Run a marathon in less than 4 hours”. This is one goal towards which i made no progress. No time to walk, let alone run. Gotta make more time.
  5. Goal 5. “See that my weight is a number  that starts with ‘1′  most days”. No progress here. In fact, i regressed and gained about 3-4 lbs.

As I went through the review, I realized there are quite few other things i want to accomplish this year and am really tracking to accomplish. I might pick few of them and add to the goal list in the next update.

New Apple iPad – some quick thoughts

As usual great keynote preso from steve jobs. I have to say i have mixed feelings about this new device from apple. I still can’t decide my overall opinion, but here  are few thoughts

  • Pricing seems decent, starting at $499 for wifi and $629 for wifi+3g models. This is definitely nice, not having to shell out another 1000$ as reported.
  • No camera! Lot of rumors about front facing vs back facing camera, possible login with face recognition etc. Sadly, there is no cam!
  • Nice dock with keyboard and charger! Looks beautiful, and much better than the soft keyboard. I wonder if has a soft keyboard as well.
  • Price is competitive to netbooks.
  • Looks like a big ipod Touch! If I buy an app on iphone/ipod, can i have it on the ipad too? or do i have to buy it again?
  • Even just being a color kindle is not bad.  Kindle has an iphone app and all iphone apps are supposed to be 100% compatible with iPad, so why buy a kindle? Can we order kindle books without a kindle?
  • I already have a kindle, but i wouldn’t buy a kindle anymore over an ipad, if i were looking at a ebook reader.
  • Borders seems to be the biggest loser here.
  • If I were in the market for a netbook, iPad would be near the top of the list as well.
  • Battery life seems to be a potential issue.

Overall, neat device, but nothing revolutionary. The key thing is that apple got their foot in two segments that are growing very fast – netbooks, ebooks. Let’s hope the next revisions of these devices are even that much better

Google Phone

Finally, the google phone – Nexus One – is available for purchase. I had a look at the phone few weeks earlier at a friend’s house and was quite impressed. As mentioned in all the reviews, great form factor, amazing voice recognition, beautiful screen! A full set of  nexus one demo videos available on techcrunch/youtube.

Everything seemed impressive and i was ready to pullout my credit card to order this phone at a hefty price tag of $530 but i noticed this fine print. It says,

The currently available Nexus One device is unlocked and will recognize SIM cards from any mobile service provider using the GSM standard, but is incompatible with the frequency band used by the AT&T and Rogers networks for 3G data (see below). Additionally, the Nexus One is incompatible with CDMA networks such as Verizon and Sprint.

What? Vat Vat? Come Again?

It will work with AT&T but no data — not useful

It wont work with Verizon, till they come out with a CDMA phone which then won’t work with any GSM network.

It wont work with Sprint, till they come out with a CDMA phone which then won’t work with any GSM network.

So that leaves it working with T-Mobile. So there is no point in buying this phone without T-Mobile service in USA.

So much for unlocked and open!

Goals for Next Year in Life (2010)

While people can always list a lot of pros/cons for being a late december baby, one advantage is that you can plan combine your birthday resolutions and new year resolutions into one 🙂 You can just have one set of goals that you miss  and rehash at the end of the year. Today is my birthday and i thought it would be good to take this day to think about what i want to do with next year in my life.

2010 Goals

  1. Live happily everyday (well most days).
  2. Apply and enroll in a MBA program (preferably emba) at a good school.
  3. Start a non-profit in India focused on education.
  4. Run a marathon in less than 4 hours.
  5. See that my weight is a number  that starts with ‘1’  most days.

Seem simple enough 🙂

Seperate state for telangana?

The fire has been restarted – separate state for telangana region of Andhra is once again a top of the mind issue for all telugu people across the world. People who argue for/against the state should really keep some simple things in mind – in my opinion.

  1. A state is really an administrative region in a country. Being a telugu person, or andhra telugu person, or telangana telugu person, in addition any other attribute one may associate with themselves (for example, telugu, andhra brahmin, male or female, engineer or doctor or business person, chowdary or reddy, indian, human) should not really matter which administrative area you live in. One’s identity is fully intact whether you live in india, andhra pradesh, telangana, united states etc. To that end to carve out states based on some sort of regional binding attribute would seem rather arbitrary. What if all the kaapus (or any other group) in andhra demand a separate state? Is their claim valid?
  2. The first statement is not against telangana. I am just saying it is not important whether telangana is a seperate state or not for a person’s identity to be preserved. So there is no reason why folks should be offended that some (or all) telangana people want a state of their own. It is indeed ok. Having 2 (or 3) telugu speaking states would not make telugu any less of a language, or telugu people any less entrepreneurial, adventurous, resourceful or any other great qualities we are known for.
  3. Agitating for Samaikhya Andhra (united Andhra) feels like yelling or screaming at a brother/sister/partner who wants to live a separate life. Whether one is right or wrong (may be being separate is better or being united is better), screaming at the other party is not going to help the cause.
  4. Tantrums should not be the reason for getting rewards. Seems like this is one rule most/all parents agree with. However, this is exactly what the indian government keeps ending up with. There seem to be a lack of genuine process for civil discussion, organized process, and voting to achieve these sizable goals. There are no provisions for referendums. Decisions are handed out by AICC president, who – if i may point out – is a not a representative of andhra pradesh, not a member of central or state govts. To achieve something sizable, the process seems to be to first get sizable people mind share (this seems right) win a few elections ( this seems right), wait for some higher power to approve (this is broken), and if they don’t approve “agitate” (this broken).

Full Disclosure: I was born to coastal andhra emigrant parents and spent 20 years in hyderabad since birth, before emigrating to United States. where I have been living for the last 19 years.

I am hoping that the future will be for the good for the next generation no matter how the regions end up.

My Suggestions For Yahoo Eng – circa 2003

Yahoo Eng Platform. It all feels like way back. In 2003, I wrote up bunch of suggestions for structuring engineering teams for yahoo. A lot of these suggestions made it to a “committee”. I feel that these are still applicable to yahoo! and yahoo can benefit from there.
After these, I tried to pitched that Hack Yahoo team should build an internal sourceforge like product. I could never convince product/eng leaders to invest that either – then google code came along

Amazon EC2 Goodness

recently started working with folks at EveryTrail. EveryTrail is a cool gps travel story sharing site. With the proliferation of GPS enabled mobile phones (iphone 3g, bb curve, etc), people can capture great information of where they go and what they do. EveryTrail has cool apps to do so. I am excited about this space, as more and more people are buying these devices. It is a great opportunity to build services to help those users.

As you can guess, the website traffic for is growing at a healthy clip. When i came in to help with engineering, the first order of business was to tackle that. We were hosting a grid hosting company The issue with this grid hosting company is that we had to pay for compute units we got “provisioned” and invariably it seemed that we had to provision a lot of compute and memory resources for our site. As we were growing we need to add more compute units. The idea seemed great but 3tera’s software which powered this grid sucked. We were ending up paying way too much money for the value we were getting.
I pressed early on to move to Amazon EC2, mainly because i knew how to set up things on there, and partly because 3tera’s system seemed like a lot of overhead. Somewhere the number of compute + memory resources and the performance we were getting from those were not adding up. It seemed ridiculously low.
The move to EC2 went way smoother than i thought it would. A lot of different software available, and easy to setup and upgrade! The results were even more amazing. We noticed significant improvement in the site performance as we measured it, and even just browsing to the site, but even more impressive are google bot stats from google webmaster site. As you can see, early december we moved amazon ec2 and the load time for each page is down and the number of pages downloaded is up

Needless to say, our servers have been humming since, and handling 60%+ month over month growth since december. All this at a cost saving of approximately 60%!! Moving to EC2 cut our hosting cost by 60% (this may quickly catch up to old number if we keep growing this way), and increased performance. It sounds like i am getting paid by amazon for writing this post, but really – no. I am just a satisfied customer.

Slumdog Millionaire

his week, after about 6 months – we (me&madhu) went to a movie in the movie theater. We heard so much about Slumdog Millionaire, given that this is set in india and supposedly an uplifting love story. Time magazine, Roger Ebert, and every other movie review i read was very positive. I saw jay leno show who was gushing about how “beautiful” the slums and slum folks are/were.

When the movie started, i was shocked how “real” the movie was. All movies/showbiz dress up reality. It is hard to believe that a UPS delivery man lives in a 2 story independant home in chicago or the sometimes unemployed friends can afford a spacious luxurious multi-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. Bollywood movies too dress up “slums” in india. Whether it is “Company” or “Satya” or “Kaho na Pyaar Hai” or any other indian movie, Poor folks in india seem to have decent, spacious apartments, clean, crisp clothes, nice hair & teeth, gorgeous bodies. Danny Boyle – for the purposes of this film – focused on the real real slums in india. So the movie’s initial segments focus on the slums, the dirtiest and trashiest parts of the slum specially. I have not seen another “real” view at the not-so-pretty parts of india since Salaam Bombay.
As the movie follows the early life of these two slum kids, the situations they face very harsh and shocking. All the scenes are shot with extra touch of cruelty and harshness. Even the brief moments of levity this movie provides are hard to laugh with. This is indeed the life (or very cloe to) of thousands of kids in India. It was very disturbing for us and what ever the uplifting part of the movie was, it seemed moot and trivial. I am not sure what has been bothering us more, the way this movie is shot, or the realization that this movie is not that far from the truth.
Everytime i remember that Jay leno called the slums and this movie “beautiful”, i just feel worse. What was beautiful about the challenges these kids are subject to ? I guess it is the way to justify the joy one feels (if one feels any joy) at the conclusion of the movie.
While danny chose to be “real” about depiction of the slums and the kids, he definitely chose to be bollywood about how the movie ends.

Mind Over Matter

When i read the book The Alchemist, I felt a connection to the concepts/ideas presented in that book. The first concept is that of a personal legend – a path, a story that drives person’s life journey. Intertwined into this, paulo coelho’s hero – santiago – connects with various elements of nature as he wills the universe to guide/help him along his path. This is quite an interesting concept. The idea is that through your mind/soul you can connect with the elements of nature in a profound way that bends the laws of nature and time. This idea resonated with me quite a bit. Mind over Matter manifested not as creating things out thin air, but as communication with powers of the universe and results through that.

Now the idea is works very well with in the story. But, Is this real? I am sure a lot of parapsychology and/or metaphysics debates cover the validity or invalidity of these ideas in real world. I don’t have any expertise or knowledge in those topics. However, the idea about connecting with the universe and harmony with elements of nature resonates with me. I can look back in my life where i feel that some seemingly improbable things happened for no apparent logical reasons. I can only point to my faith, harmony i felt with nature and a energy i feel about myself and my life as the potential causes.

Personally, at one level all this seems hokey. All the indications i can see in my life as connecting with nature and achieving improbable results in my life can simply be attributed to chance. Other indications where i felt that i could see what’s coming is not really premonition, but simply an educated guess at what’s to come and some glitch in my brain synapses.

In any case, the idea of being in harmony with elements or people or situations around me, the idea of approaching life with a great positive energy and happiness and strength seems very appealing. It is hard for me not to have faith. Sure i can’t find a scientific explanation. But faith in this idea does resonate at a deep level with me.

Having said all this, I came across a new book – “The Secret“. The Alchemist presented these ideas as a story/fable and leaves it at that. Just a part of a story. The Secret however is more like the “Millionaire toolkit” that gets marketed on infomercials late at night. “I have this great system that can make you millions if not billions of dollars and all you have to do is spend $19.95 to get it. Of course, i am selling this system to make $19.95 instead of making the billions using the said system because the system doesn’t work. ”

The Secret, reveals the secret of people who seemingly have what they want, by just using your thoughts. It is a clear, simple, succinct, manual to think your way to great success. You can use your thought to get women, houses, money, jobs, promotions etc.
Of course, they recommend that you start with parking spaces

Despite the sleazy, money making toolkit like feel to this book, the core ideas presented here are very similar to that of paulo’s alchemist. There is a lot of wisdom presented in this book. Some simple ideas that i like are

  • Like attracts like. The concept that one negative thought leads to other and one positive thought leads to other. Choose to think positive when presented with unfavorable circumstances.
  • Meditate. Clear your mind. We are constantly bombarded with inputs to our brain all the time – work, email, tv, radio etc. Good resting focus time for brain helps.
  • Gratitude. Appreciate what you have in life. Appreciate your family, friends and everything you feel you have.
  • Focus on your goals. Too much time in life is spent just hanging out on the couch and wondering why one hasn’t achieved. We are all caught up in the daily grind doing things that we do and really thinking about goals and if we are actually doing things to get to our goals.
  • A lot of great ideas, a lot of great concepts. I find a lot of value in this book. I just have a hard time handling the format and tone of the book.