Announcement: Resilient, a new venture studio program from High Alpha Innovation, wants to co-found and fund B2B SaaS companies with aspiring immigrant entrepreneurs

High Alpha Innovation

Resilient, a new venture studio program from High Alpha Innovation, wants to co-found and fund B2B SaaS companies with aspiring immigrant entrepreneurs.

Resilient, a new venture studio program powered by High Alpha Innovation, is looking to co-found, fund, and support B2B Software-As-A-Service companies in 2021 with aspiring immigrant entrepreneurs - regardless of their current work authorization status. Starting today, we have begun a search for talented immigrant entrepreneurs to join the team at High Alpha Innovation for a Sprint Week March 9-12 designed to convert their idea, if they have one, into a new company. We will be accepting applications for our initial program through January 31 and reviewing them as they are received. Interviews will be conducted on a rolling basis and final selection of founders will be made by February 15. 

If you or someone you know might be interested, please visit to learn more about the program and submit an application. If you have additional questions not addressed on our FAQ page, we encourage you to contact us at

Immigrants make great founders, but immigration challenges create barriers 

At High Alpha Innovation, we often find ourselves in awe of the grit and resilience of entrepreneurs, of their drive to overcome challenge after challenge. As a venture studio that builds B2B SaaS companies, we are fortunate to meet and form relationships with countless entrepreneurs, and as founders ourselves, we have a deep empathy and understanding for how hard it can be to start a new company. That is why we purpose-built High Alpha Innovation to attract and support incredibly talented entrepreneurs as they set out on entrepreneurial journeys.

Many of the most resilient entrepreneurs we meet are immigrants. There is perhaps no community more entrepreneurial than immigrants. Despite representing just 15% of the US population, 20% of US businesses are immigrant-owned, 23% of all new US patents come from immigrants, and 25% of all new US companies are started by immigrants. Most impressively, 55% of all unicorns ($1B+ valuation startups) have an immigrant co-founder. However, in spite of the clearly demonstrated impact immigrants have on the US economy there is no community for whom starting and scaling companies is more fraught with challenges.

While starting a company is difficult for every entrepreneur, we’ve come to realize how much more difficult it can be for immigrants, especially those in the US on nonimmigrant visas. On top of the million-plus questions every new founder must address when starting a new company there are many more critical immigration-related questions. Can my startup sponsor my visa? What do I need to do to ensure I meet all my visa requirements? If my startup fails, will I be able to quickly find a new employer willing to sponsor my visa? How much will all the legal fees cost me? Is starting a new company really worth it for me? 

We believe immigration-specific questions like these may be keeping the next generation of extraordinary immigrant entrepreneurs on the sidelines. Instead of starting companies, they are pursuing roles at established companies willing to sponsor visas (e.g. H-1B) or academic programs that make them eligible for other types of visas (e.g. STEM OPT extensions). Given what’s personally and professionally at stake, we understand why immigrants often pursue these “safer” paths.

But, anecdotally, many aspiring immigrant entrepreneurs tell us they feel “stuck” in their roles because the risks of entrepreneurship seem too high. At the same time, we see how immigration policy and requirements in America are creating more, rather than fewer, barriers to entrepreneurship. We felt compelled to do something. Then the idea came to us: what if we designed a venture studio program to support immigrant entrepreneurs? Could we help immigrant founders mitigate risks, overcome challenges, and increase the odds of success? 

Venture Studios can be great partners and entry points for aspiring immigrant founders

Just as we do with every idea, we started by listening. We talked to current and aspiring immigrant founders, immigration lawyers, venture capital investors, and others about their experiences and challenges. We conducted extensive research on immigration policy and visa-related processes and requirements. Nearly everyone we spoke with agreed that the venture studio model could be an efficient and effective way to support immigrant entrepreneurs in their leap into entrepreneurship.

Through these efforts, we discovered that many of the typical challenges holding back would-be entrepreneurs could potentially be addressed by the venture studio model. For example, immigration lawyers told us about requirements for a new entity to sponsor an H-1B for an entrepreneur and for an entrepreneur to maintain visa status:

To meet Visa requirements founders must: A Venture Studio could potentially:
Secure investors prior to incorporation in order to avoid owning greater than 50% equity Own more than 50% equity given studio is a co-founder that provides initial capital, back-office services, and strong network to help land investors, customers and talent
Establish an “independent” board to ensure there is an employer-employee relationship between company and sponsored founder
Serve on the board itself and source respected, relevant, and helpful independent directors
Define and remain in a qualifying “specialty occupation” role Provide studio services (e.g. HR, accounting, sales, etc.) that allow founders to play the “specialty occupation” role
Be paid their appropriate “prevailing wage” Pay founders a prevailing wage prior to launch (if needed) and ensure founders can pay themselves a prevailing wage at the new company
Transfer an existing Visa, apply for a new Visa, or find an interim sponsor if pre-launch (e.g. most universities do not support self-sponsored STEM OPTs) Sponsor an H1-B or STEM OPT Visa prior to launch (if needed) and ensure post-launch that the new company is set up to sponsor Visas

We also discovered that there are only a handful of venture capital firms (e.g. Unshackled Ventures), accelerators (e.g. Founders Embassy), and entrepreneurial networks or programs that are specifically addressing immigrant founder needs today. This insight gave our team conviction that an immigrant-focused venture studio program needs to exist and that there’s a big opportunity in this market gap. 

Just like any other idea we come up with, we always start by running experiments to test assumptions and iterate quickly. Before building a full venture studio at scale, we decided to run a Sprint Week in March with a small cohort of aspiring immigrant founders. This initial cohort allows us to test whether talented immigrant entrepreneurs find the Resilient Venture Studio program an attractive entry point into entrepreneurship, and whether High Alpha Innovation could successfully support immigrant entrepreneurs in overcoming both startup and immigration-related challenges.

There’s no better time to start a company than now

We believe there’s no better time for immigrant entrepreneurs to start a company than today. There’s significant “dry powder” to be invested in the innovation economy, unprecedented access to global talent as remote work becomes the norm, and vocal and influential leaders in society at-large, as well as within the tech community, pushing for greater diversity of founders.

Marc Andreessen of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz recently told the world that “it’s time to build.” We at High Alpha Innovation agree and are eager to build new B2B SaaS companies with immigrant entrepreneurs. Will you help us find the next great immigrant B2B SaaS entrepreneur?

We encourage you to help us get the word out by sharing this announcement. For more information and to submit applications, please visit, follow us on social media on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or contact us at

- The High Alpha Innovation Team


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