Irish billionaire issues warning over Silicon Valley’s future

Irish billionaire says that President Trump's plans could put Silicon Valley under threat

An Irish billionaire has said that President Trump will harm America if he follows through with his plans to restrict immigration.
John Collison is thought to be the world’s youngest self-made billionaire – he made his first billion at age 26 thanks to the online payment company Stripe that he founded with his brother Patrick.

Now Collison is worried that President Trump’s plans will have a devastating effect on Silicon Valley, as the USA’s huge tech industry is so strong thanks to the efforts and innovations of immigrants.

He said: “The U.S. is sucking up all the talent from all across the world. Look at all the leading technology companies globally, and look at how overrepresented the United States is.
“That’s not a normal state of affairs. That’s because we have managed to create this engine where the best and the brightest from around the world are coming to Silicon Valley.”
Collison and his brother set up their company six years ago in San Francisco. He believes that the environment they worked in was crucial to the huge success of their company.
Collison told the NY Times: “In the early stages of a start-up you usually have a very specific set of things you need to do, and there’s a very short list of people who are able to do them… the talent is here or that we can bring the talent here, that’s what makes the whole thing work.
However, President Trump has vowed to clamp down on H1B visas – which is used by most immigrants who work in the tech industry.
When Trump was still a candidate for the Republican nomination he said: “I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program. No exceptions.”
His former rival – the Congressman Ted Cruz – is a likely ally in the issue having brought in legislation that restricts access to the visa.
President Trump also has support from California Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren who wants to limit the H-1B visas to people with earning a minimum of $130,000.
They argue that too many companies are using the visas as a way of bringing in cheap foreign labour at the expense of American workers. They say that there are plenty of American college graduates that could fill the positions.
However, while college graduates may have the intellect to work their way almost to the top, it is the added spark of genius that can be the difference between a moderate success and a global phenomenon.
While the United States have produced plenty of these incredible talents – such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg – research suggests that a disproportionately high number of America’s most successful start-ups were founded by immigrants.
Over half of the 87 US start-ups worth more than $1 billion were founded by foreign born entrepreneurs. Nearly three quarters of those start-ups (71%) employed immigrants in top management positions.
Collison believes that this combination of Americans and immigrants have helped the USA lead the world in the tech industry and that a huge part of America’s economy could be put at risk by President Trump’s plans.
He said: “Silicon Valley is unlikely, as a phenomenon — it is not the default state of the world. I go all across the world, and every other place is asking, ‘How do we replicate Silicon Valley where we are — in London, in Paris, in Singapore, in Australia?”
If Silicon Valley is starved of the world’s top talent in the future it could mean that America’s loss will be a big gain for another of the world’s emerging tech centres.

Written by Michael Kehoe @michaelcalling