You won the H-1B lottery: Don’t lose your ticket when changing jobs

Getting an H-1B skilled-worker visa is like winning the lottery — literally: With the number of new visas issued each year capped at 85,000, most of this year’s over 200,000 applicants face disappointment. But if you’re already working in the United States, then you’ve already won the H-1B lottery, and that makes you a hot commodity.

With H-1Bs in short supply, successful companies frequently poach skilled workers. Everyone knows the tech sector thrives on this free exchange of people and ideas, so if another employer needs your skills, why not start working for them?

Well, not so fast. H-1B holders can work only for the company that originally sponsored their visa application. So if you want to change employers, you’ll need to “transfer” your H-1B.

That process used to be relatively straightforward but not in the Trump era. (Boundless recently underwent this process with an employee, so we understand the pain.) The denial rate for initial H-1B applications spiked over five-fold to 32 percent just in the first quarter of fiscal 2019, up from 6 percent in 2015. Crucially, the Trump administration is targeting “continuing” H-1B applications used by existing employees to either renew their H-1B or switch it to a new employer. Even tech giants like Amazon are now seeing double-digit rejection rates.

The bottom line: The days of getting an H-1B transfer quickly rubber-stamped are long gone, and that makes it vital to do … Read the rest

How to negotiate term sheets with strategic investors

Three years ago, I met with a founder who had raised a massive seed round at a valuation that was at least five times the market rate. I asked what firm made the investment.

She said it was not a traditional venture firm, but rather a strategic investor that not only had no ties to her space but also had no prior investment experience. The strategic investor, she said, was looking to “get their hands dirty” and “get in on the ground floor.”

Over the next 2 years, I kept a close eye on the founder. Although she had enough capital to pivot her business focus multiple times, she seemed to be at odds, serving the needs of her strategic investor and her customer base.

Ultimately, when the business needed more capital to survive, the strategic investor didn’t agree with the founder’s focus, opted not to prop it up, and the business had to shut down.

Sadly, this is not an uncommon story as examples abound of strategic investors influencing startup direction and management decisions to the point of harm for the startup. Corporate strategics, not to be confused with dedicated funds focused on financial returns like a traditional venture investor like Google Ventures, often care less about return on investment, and more about a startup’s focus, and sector specificity. If corporate imperatives change, the strategic may cease to be the right partner or could push the startup in a challenging direction.

And yet, fortunately, as the disruptive power of … Read the rest

Graphene as an open-source material

The open-source model paved the way for significant advancements in the fields of software and programming, and has positively affected industries such as medicine, engineering and even fashion. The success of open-source methods that focus on decentralization and allows for open collaboration on projects brings to light the potential for its implementation in other areas.

Among these areas, the 2D wonder-material graphene could greatly benefit from the widespread experimentation of open-source use. In its current state, graphene is primarily researched by scientists in universities and labs, but by making graphene a material that is open to be improved upon by anyone, we might see the fulfillment of the potential that graphene has been hailed for since its discovery.

The benefits of open-source and what it can do for graphene

The collaborative nature of open-source coding has significantly boosted our software capabilities in a short span of time. Open-sourcing allows for companies to not have to start from scratch, using existing software and modifying it for their own purposes. This saves a large amount of time and resources and gives companies more room to experiment and accelerate their advancements. Open-source methods help achieve a broader scope of innovation, because the people researching and tinkering are not limited to the professionals in the lab, but can now include hobbyists or aspiring scientists looking to get more involved.

The journey toward graphene’s golden age is a slow but steady one.

For graphene, this level of experimentation could take it beyond its current limits. Graphene’s capabilities are … Read the rest

Drones are making a difference in the world and regulatory agencies are helping

About two months ago, in the middle of the night, a small, specially designed unmanned aircraft system — a drone — carried a precious cargo at 300 feet altitude and 22 miles per hour from West Baltimore to the University of Maryland Medical Center downtown, a trip of about 5 minutes. They called it, “One small hop for a drone; one major leap for medicine.”

The cargo was a human kidney, and waiting for that kidney at the hospital was a patient whose life would be changed for the better.

“This whole thing is amazing,” the 44-year-old recipient later told the University of Maryland engineering and medical teams that designed the drone and the smart container. The angel flight followed more than two years of research, development and testing by the Maryland aerospace and medical teams and close coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) .

There were many other ways the kidney could have been delivered to the hospital, but proving that it could be done by drone sets the stage for longer and longer flights that will ultimately lower the cost and speed up the time it takes to deliver an organ. And speed is life in this case — the experts say the length of time it takes to move an organ by traditional means is a major issue today.

This is one example of how small drones are already changing the landscape of our economy and society. Our job at the Department of Transportation … Read the rest

What can cities learn from Amazon HQ?

With the backlash from Amazon HQ fresh in our minds, it’s time to strategically think about how lessons from corporate innovations and digital technology services can improve and inform urban life in a way that puts people front and center. Doing so properly, however, will require an investment in structured engagement processes from the onset to ensure community buy-in, legitimacy and genuine co-creation with the private sector.

The move toward urban life

Increasingly, people are living in cities — with 55% living in cities today and the UN estimating more than two-thirds of the globe’s population moving to cities by 2050. Moreover, cities are also becoming hubs of technological innovation. Metropolitan statistical area data shows us that cities are becoming home to more and more STEM and high-tech workers.

And in 2018, New York City raised almost $11.5 billion in venture capital (VC) funding, second only to Silicon Valley as one of the highest-performing innovation ecosystems. Global real estate firm Savills UK and many others are even referring to New York and similar cities as “Silicon Alley.” The original Silicon Valley now has a lot of competition when it comes to VC funding, a more … Read the rest