National Program Supporting Immigrant Startups Coming to Ann Arbor’s U-M, Metro Detroit

Global Detroit and the University of Michigan’s Economic Growth Institute in Ann Arbor are partnering on a program to help immigrant- and international-student entrepreneurs launch high-growth startups in southeast Michigan.
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The Global Entrepreneur-in-Residence program is coming to U-M and metro Detroit and will offer international entrepreneurs the opportunity to launch startups in the are. // Stock photo

Global Detroit and the University of Michigan’s Economic Growth Institute in Ann Arbor are partnering on a program to help immigrant- and international-student entrepreneurs launch high-growth startups in southeast Michigan.

The Global Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) program places foreign-born startup founders at universities to teach and mentor. In turn, the founders become eligible for an H-1B visa, enabling them to launch and grow companies in metro Detroit.

The visa is available to foreign-born specialty workers in specific, mostly high-tech fields and must be sponsored by an employer. The number of visas awarded to companies each year is subject to a cap, which was decreased to 65,000 visas annually in 2003. The visa demand has outpaced supply, forcing international students or foreign entrepreneurs to take their startup ideas out of the U.S.

The cap does not apply to universities, so Global EIR provides participants with a visa pathway. Global Detroit recruits and vets applicants to the program, and the Economic Growth Institute screens and assesses applicants. Selected entrepreneurs are then affiliated with the institute, making them eligible for H-1B visas. Global EIRs serve as mentors or instructors while at the institute and working toward the launch of their own enterprises.

“Obtaining a visa is one of the most critical pieces of support we can provide to our foreign-born innovators,” says Millie Chu, director of startups and STEM talent at Global Detroit. “It’s imperative that we provide Michigan’s international student entrepreneurs and immigrant startup founders with a pathway to launch and grow their companies here.”

Over the last 25 years, immigrants have helped launch one-quarter of all high-tech startups in the U.S. Of 87 that have grown to valuations of more than $1 billion, more than half were launched by immigrants. Almost half of those immigrant founders first came to the U.S. as international students.

“Global EIR is an important component of a regional strategy for bolstering our economy by creating jobs, reducing the so-called ‘brain drain,’ and narrowing the advanced-skills talent gap,” says Steve Tobocman, executive director of Global Detroit.

Global EIR was founded at Massachusetts with programs at Babson College and the University of Massachusetts. Across the country, 14 colleges and universities offer the program.

“Global entrepreneurs are a great fit for the university’s entrepreneurship programs,” says Vikesh Chandrashekar, project manager for EGI. “While participating in and learning from the local entrepreneurial community, the entrepreneurs also provide a rare combination of technical and business expertise to help successfully launch university-based and regional technology startups.”

The southeast Michigan Global EIR program is launching with support from the William Davidson Foundation in Bloomfield Hills. More information is available here.

Global Detroit is an economic development organization that develops and implements immigrant-inclusive policies and programs.

U-M’s Economic Growth Institute has provided economic development programming and research for more than 35 years.

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