No one has the market cornered on good ideas.
We may identify specific parts of the world with skills and innate opportunities (we’d all agree it’s tough to start cruise line in Switzerland or run a ski lodge in Jamaica), but good ideas and the pursuit of opportunity itself knows no borders or boundaries. That reality has allowed many businesses to flourish across the globe, and it’s absolutely been a big part of at least one digital marketplace’s success. Ultimately, talent, skill and innovation can come from anywhere. To think otherwise is to limit our collective ability to solve problems and thrive.
It’s that belief in our global capabilities that makes President Trump's recent decision around DACA (Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals) so difficult to understand, and so dangerous. Entrepreneurialism is about taking a leap around a good idea, but it is just as much about having an ecosystem for those good ideas to surface into the light of day. Eliminating government-sponsored avenues for motivated thinkers and doers to join that ecosystem isn’t just a blow to today’s ecosystem, either. It’s the kind of short term-thinking that has long term consequences.
Let’s look at a couple of examples where immigration and entrepreneurialism have crossed paths. One is the current landscape in Silicon Valley. The other is the environment that’s developed in one of the more entrepreneurial countries in the world, Israel.
Solving the world’s problems requires...the world.
Google. Tesla. Yahoo. eBay. Some of the most well-known and impactful companies in the world call Silicon Valley home and were founded by immigrants. Companies that have lofty aspirations and grandiose missions statements spelling out their aim to make a major “dent in the universe.”
In Silicon Valley, meritocracy is considered sacred. Immigrant backgrounds and diverse nationalities have little to do with a founder's ability to strike gold executing on a vision. The only thing that truly matters is their willingness to take a risk and build their own businesses.
Believing in yourself and being willing to take a risk are the foundation of entrepreneurialism. Anyone who has applied for and received deferred action through DACA understands those concepts very well. After all, these are individuals who have chosen to participate in the system to better themselves and contribute to the society they live within, in the form of education and through work. If the country is genuinely focused on becoming great again, aren’t these the kinds of people that would seek out greatness? The damage ending DACA will do to the future talent pool is significant, not just because of the intelligence lost, but because of the unique perspectives gathered.
“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” -- Isaac Newton
The successes of a society generally has a lot to do with the opportunities presented to it. We tend to build on what came before us, and innovation is no different. In Israel, a huge influx of immigrants came with the ending of the Cold War, adding up to nearly a million emigrations in the 1990’s. Those who came to Israel came from many walks of life, including doctors, scientists and business builders of every stripe. Not everyone who came to Israel was met with opportunity. For many, that meant building a life anew. But a society’s willingness to welcome and nurture those who push for more pays itself out over generations and generations.
Those same eager individuals that came to Israel in the 1990’s have built families and businesses. They’ve fueled the high tech sector with bright minds and innovative ideas and concepts. The success of these immigrants extends far beyond their own immediate accomplishments, as their children make up a new crop of high tech workers and entrepreneurs making their way through school to flood the job market and startups of Israel with talent. Of course, the children of immigrants would never have had the opportunity if their hard-working, talented and motivated immigrant parents were not given the opportunity to succeed.
Aside from the injustices being carried out against those students and young professionals who played by the rules today, we’re creating an environment that limits new players to the select few. We’re creating an ecosystem that’s more closed than open, and one that doesn’t nurture the bold thinkers that will create the next crop of big ideas.
DACA may be treated like an immigration issue to earn political points, but it’s far more than that. Stripping away DACA is an innovation issue, and the impact on entrepreneurialism today and the entrepreneurial ecosystem down the road will be significant.