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When I first went to Ireland, I worked hard on a business plan & got a business visa for many years through the Justice Department. It was a long process but it was doable. I had been trying to get funding for an online matchmaking business in London for 4 years and finally had to close the business down last year due to the difficulties in achieving that goal. It appears that English & Irish investors are incredibly conservative and do not seem to be comfortable with technology or online business. One Angel investor suggested I apply to Dragon’s Den on the BBC – they also had told me to come back when the business was making money????? (Remind what Angels are for anyway???) Being committed to doing whatever I had to give my business a chance at success, I duly obeyed. I got a screen test and had to pitch as if I was in front of the ‘Dragons’. I fluffed my figures as I had feared beforehand due to only being given 24hours notice for the screen test. However I even managed to turn that around. The camera man suggested that the ‘Dragons’ would love my pitch. When asked on a scale of 1 to 10 where would he place me, he said at the top. I gathered they had originally thought I would be ‘humiliation material’. In the UK going on Dragon’s Den is the only way to get attention for many startups from venture capitalists, however the show really exists to humiliate entrepreneurs & make ‘good television‘. One young girl I spoke with said that that is the only reason they watch the show is to see entrepreneurs humiliated. This is the reason why I had never considered doing it – too much pride I guess & morally wrong in my book. However there I was at the screen test and I was told that they would now need much more time to film my pitch (because it wasn’t humiliation factor stuff) and that I could give it a shot next season.
Soon after I saw the ad for the coming shows. The Dragon’s appeared as giants & the female Dragon squished a tiny ant entrepreneur into the floor with her stiletto?????? WTF No way Jose not for me. I make life hard for myself being so principled! However I figured life & business can be challenging enough for entrepreneurs but I wasn’t going to support a show that made went out of their way to make fun of entrepreneurs. Life can do that easily enough, without stepping into a setup like that. I had heard stories from other entrepreneurs who had gritted their teeth & bared it & gone ahead with the show. Apparently at one point they were running entrepreneurs up a few flights of stairs so that they would be puffed & out of breath & not prepared & then walked them immediately in front of the Dragons & the cameras????
So this is one BIG reason why English & Irish entrepreneurs need access to a Startup Visa for the US. It seems that particularly in Silicon Valley vcs are more educated about technology & online business & therefore know what opportunities exist. They also appear to be more willing to take risks well at least more willing than say European ones. After all there is meant to be some sort of risk with venture and therefore high returns at exit? Read some of the articles related to the Startup Visa like Techcrunch ‘The Startup Visa: Create Jobs, Get a Green Card’ A number of US vcs presented the bill & you can support & read more at their website.
I got a place on TheFunded.com Showcase to pitch for a dating site in January this year. I noted that of all 12 entrepreneurs most were originally from other countries apart from the US. I was the only one who came for the event but there were a myriad of backgrounds amongst the pitchers. We all had different challenges pitching. Initially I couldnt get the microphone to work properly. Then I had set my powerpoint to automatic pilot & of course it went out of control. I had sacrificed, worked hard & was determined to make the best of this opportunity so I pitched on & at the end finally caught up with the powerpoint??? Despite that many people congratulated me on a good pitch & Adeo Russi even came up at the after party & said that I was ‘a woman with balls’ because I had not wavered & continued to pitch despite the obstacles. This was a precious opportunity for me to be finally in front of Valley entrepreneurs & vcs, I surely wasn’t going to ditch my attempt.
So think of all the European entrepreneurs who struggle to get their startups recognized. They are just counting the days until they too have choice to join the more enlightened businesses in the US. So I would encourage all US people to support this bill.