Why Silicon Valley is Losing Its Foreign Talent

As immigration laws make it harder for foreigners to stay and work in the US, Silicon Valley is losing some of its most promising talent — and its unrivaled reputation as ground zero for tech innovation. Those who came here for education or to take a stab at fame and fortune are no longer waiting around for a local job and visa to start their careers. Theyre going home — to India, China, Brazil, or other countries courting them. With the growth of global tech hubs and the capital available abroad, some immigrant entrepreneurs are wondering why they should bother to stay.

Kunal Bahl, who got his engineering and business degrees at the University of Pennsylvania, made money on campus by charging students to watch cricket games. Bahl was hired at Microsoft for what he calls a super-exciting role traveling the globe, selling their products in Asia and Latin America. Bahl’s steady climb was halted in 2007, after his professional H1B visa was not chosen in the immigration lottery system.

But Bahl didn’t pine to stay in the US He declined Microsofts offer to place him in another country and try again. After losing the lottery, Bahl was ready to place a new bet.

“Maybe the time is now getting to a point where it would be right to start a business in India,” Bahl said. “Earlier than that, there was just no meaningful internet penetration to start a technology business.”

Today, at age 29, Bahl is the CEO of Snapdeal, Indias largest e-commerce company (much like eBay) and employs more than 1,000 people.

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In the global market, two big shifts have made it possible for Bahl’s business to grow: First, people in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East are going online and buying things at breakneck speed, and what were considered “developing countries” are now called “emerging markets.” Secondly, its a lot cheaper to build an internet company than say, a semiconductor plant.

“This is a wave, and this wave is not stopping,”Bahl said.

AMERICAN INVESTORS FOLLOW THE TALENT

American money is following the foreign talent. Leading venture capitalists are opening offices in Asia and Latin America in order to more easily scout start-ups, and funds that buy start-ups are promoting foreigners to be partners.

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