Startups Speak: Marker Founder Talks about People and Places


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Places add context and color to a life; where you came from, where you’ve been, where you are and where you’ll go. Countries and cities and neighborhoods build your character and a life with character. But right now, if you don’t come from America, staying here to build a company is very difficult. That needs to change, says Marker co-founder Michael Molesky.

Marker is all about collecting the remarkable places in your life. When users capture the places they want to go, as well as the places they know and love, Marker becomes home to the living stories of the places around you, from the people you care about.

While talking to Michael, it became clear that he believes strongly in the power of people to edit and transform a place, and the power of places to shape people as well. Staying true to the second point, he left the United States to study at Oxford (in England) for his undergraduate degree.

Why? Michael believes that an education is more than just the classes we attend – we get an education from our fellow students too. “In a global economy, it’s important for Americans to have an awareness of other cultures,” he explained. “Silicon Valley is a particularly special example of the best that can come of this global economy, all because of its openness to people from different places with new ideas.”

Ultimately, Silicon Valley believes in the power of diverse information sharing, and the importance of the ability to partner with the smartest people from any country to build the next life-changing company – on American soil.

Unfortunately, the way Michael sees it, current immigration policy is holding back the dreams of Americans by not exposing them to global talent - and he nearly had his dream shattered. For his first company, his co-founders were Romanian and British -- and because of this national diversity, Mike admitted that they almost failed at the starting line. Luckily, Michael successfully sponsored visas for his co-founders, but it still took a year after getting funding to get everyone over and “we scaled more slowly as a result.” Fast forward and LiveRail now employs fifty Americans.

This is why Michael is involved with Engine. “It’s outrageous that there is no visa class for entrepreneurs,” he said, “but we need to think carefully about how we, as a community, want to make our argument.” Michael joined Engine to lend his face and his voice to otherwise anonymous policy issues because “in the end, all politics is local. In order to communicate goals, we need to demonstrate the effects of action and inaction on real people.” And that includes real people outside the Silicon Valley bubble.

In his post on Quora, Michael argues that “the Startup Visa legislation represents the most effective jobs bill on the table in this Congress, fostering the development of America's next great companies from the best talent around the world”, but he also says that to “mount an effective lobbying effort in the US House, we need to find a way to present a more broadly American story, highlighting stories in other cities and colleges around the US which also hold the key ingredients to foster entrepreneurship.”

This brings us back to the importance of places and faces. There are many faces of immigration, and many regions across the country that benefit from global talent, so as a community, this is a story we need to do a better job of telling. High-skilled immigration reform is not simply a pet project for the sole benefit of Silicon Valley. We need to support comprehensive immigration reform to expand America’s potential for growth and our competitive culture of invention.