December 14, 2017

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Silicon Valley Company Helps Immigrants Stay in US to Build Startups

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PALO ALTO, CA. — 

Inspired by the movie Terminator, Yingzhe Fu has wanted to make robots ever since he was a child.

That dream is now being realized in the form of a smart device for new homes, created by a startup called Togg that he co-founded. The computer would be built into the infrastructure for new homes, so it can turn lights on and off, respond to commands, such as giving a weather report, and even tell jokes.

“So we are basically making a mini computer. Home builders directly build our devices into the wall, and that device will help you to connect with your mobile phone, [and] with your other smart devices,” said Fu.

Being from China, Fu said there was little chance he could have stayed in the United States to start a company without the aid of an early-stage venture capital firm called Unshackled.

“Without their help, without them sponsoring me, I don’t think I would do that,” said Fu.

Foreign nationals

Unshackled was created to help immigrant entrepreneurs stay in the United States as they pursue their dreams of entrepreneurship.

A smart device, created by a startup called Togg, would be built into the infrastructure for new homes.

One of Unshackled’s founding partners, Manan Mehta, is an American, but he learned first-hand the challenges facing foreign nationals who aspire to be entrepreneurs in the U.S.

“Both me and my co-founder Nitin, respectively, had to shut our own companies down due to co-founders on visas, so for the last two and a half years,” said Mehta. “We’ve been putting our minds to how do we navigate and solve the problem that a lot of immigrant founders face which is, ‘How do I start my business and maintain sponsorship in the United States so I can dedicate every waking hour to my entrepreneurial desires?'”

Foreign nationals often stay in the United States by getting a job with a company that can sponsor a special workers’ visa called the H-1B. But getting this type of visa is not easy.

In 2017, there were 236,000 applications for a skilled workers visa. There are just 85,000 visas available, some of them requiring an advanced degree. H-1B visas also make it tough for foreign nationals to start their own businesses in the U.S.

“As a H-1B holder, you’re not supposed to be unemployed at any given point of time,” said India native Prateek Joshi. “You have to be under

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