America: Diversity in The Land of Opportunity and Innovation
The United States of America is the most diverse and successful nation on earth, an engine of liberty and prosperity. It is a nation founded on the opportunities that freedom represents to all who sail to its shores. Since time immemorial, America has been THE "promised land" – a Mecca for people of various nationalities, races and religions, and economic origins to come and become settlers. From east to west, north to south, it is unparallel in its resources, natural beauty, people, and most of all, its alchemic way of turning dreams its reality.
It’s said that immigrants are the truest Americans, because it is by choice, not birth that they are here. A quick glance will reveal that today's most successful high tech companies have been founded and headed by "immigrants". Eminent examples to name a few: Intel's co-founder & former CEO Andrew Grove was born in Hungary; from Taiwan, came Yahoo's founder Jerry Yang. From Russia, Sergey Brin, who co-founded Google, while Krish Prabu, CTO of AT&T and President of AT&T Labs, Sanjiv S. Sidhu, the founder of i2 Technologies, and George Brody, founder and chief technology officer for GlobeRanger Corp. all hail from India. Further, it is estimated that close to 50 percent of current venture-backed companies were founded by immigrant entrepreneurs. These individuals all chose to become Americans, I believe for the underlying reason that the genius of the United States is principally an environment that fosters innovation and creativity resulting in unrestricted opportunities, which coupled with the concerted action of a progressive, open-minded self-governing people, presents a fertile breeding ground for entrepreneurship. Like the tens of millions before them and millions after, they chose to become part of our progressive society pursuing the "American" dream grounded in success and prosperity.
The attribution to diligent work ethics is what drives some immigrants to success, constantly striving to improve the quality of life for themselves and family. As a venture capitalist involved in the high-tech sector, I understand the need for technology companies to secure skilled, experienced workers. Many of these come from other parts of the world bringing with them their skills, unique points of view and culture.
The issue of outsourcing, off shoring, and visas for skilled workers remains controversial. As an American, I support creating and preserving jobs, all which contribute to America's and the global economy. I do also care about "American Innovation". We cannot become complacent and outsource "American Innovation" and "American Ingenuity" to other countries. Instead of trying to figure out how to beat Asia or Europe, we need to try to "beat ourselves" and help other nations to succeed. The improvement of economies in other parts of the world results in an improved quality of life and creates other large sellers markets for America.
For the U.S. to maintain its edge in technology innovation and job creation a huge mental shift in the American psyche is required -- we must think globally! Second, we must improve our academic infrastructure, especially by promoting scientific and engineering programs, beginning at the elementary school level. We need to bolster both academic research and development with a clearly defined path to commercialization. Academic institutions are chartered to educate and conduct research but should also contribute to economic development. We need to get wireless communications and computers with high-speed Internet access -- mobile broadband into every household. Americans would be dismayed to learn that Japan, Korea, Singapore, Finland, all have household penetrations greater than the U.S. Furthermore, China has twice as many cell phone users as the entire population of the U.S.!
We need to support free-trade-after all, this is a global economy. It’s interesting that some of my Texas’ based portfolio companies' initial customers where outside of the U.S. Both government and industry should provide for an improved organized health care system that reduces the costs for both employers, and employees. This is a major concern for start-up companies and employees. We also need to design an achievable plan for lessening U.S. dependence on foreign energy sources. America must lead the effort for a secure world, providing for a long and prosperous quality of living. In the short term, we should eliminate restrictions on an immigration system (such as the H-1B visa) that places limitations on the high tech industry (and other professions) bringing in the best and the brightest foreign talent. We should replace it with "conditional green cards" permitting the high tech industry a short-term relief to the current shortage problems facing U.S. high-tech industries (as well as health care) that rely on skilled workers. These tax paying workers would provide the high tech industry with the urgent hires they need, and would serve to protect U.S. workers more than the current visa approach that still is failing.
America is indeed a great land of opportunity and the immigrants of the new "mobile" economy are no different from the immigrants of the industrial revolution or the 20th century. Like the popular bumper sticker I see driving around Dallas: "I wasn't born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could", this applies to lots of us, and we are all seeking to be part of and contribute to the American dream and success story.
Roman Kikta is the Managing Partner & Founder of Mobility Ventures, a Texas-based venture capital firm and the author of the “Wireless Internet - Crash Course” and 3 other technology books published by McGraw-Hill.