Valley entrepreneurs share job-creation ideas

Welcome entrepreneurial immigrants, transform schools, get more engineers, panelists say

To create jobs America must welcome entrepreneurial immigrants, transform education and get more students to choose engineering, leading Silicon Valley entrepreneurs said Tuesday.

AOL co-founder and former CEO Steve Case, venture capitalist John Doerr, Netflix founder and chairman Reed Hastings and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg shared their job-creation ideas at a "listening and action session" convened in Palo Alto by the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

The session drew about 150 local business people to the Stanford Research Park campus of VMware, a virtualization software company that has quadrupled its local workforce in the past four years.

Panelists stressed the job-creating potential of educated immigrants and the job-multiplying effects of companies they launch.

A quarter of venture-backed startups between 1995 and 2005 had at least one immigrant among its founders -- accounting for billions in capital valuation and tens or hundreds of thousands of jobs, said White House Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, also a member of the panel.

Panelists said they welcomed reforms announced by the Obama administration Tuesday to clear visa red tape for so-called "immigrant founders" as well as for "immigrant investors" -- people willing to invest at least $1 million and create at least 10 new jobs.

In the "global war for talent," America can't afford to wait for comprehensive immigration reform but must hasten "entrepreneurship reform" to slash barriers for immigrants who will create jobs now, Case said.

Allowing the right immigrants to work here creates jobs, rather than taking them away, said Sandberg, telling of a Spanish-born Facebook executive who has led the firm's internationalization initiatives.

Had the employee not recently "won the lottery" for an H1B visa to remain in the United States, Facebook was prepared to relocate him and his entire team abroad.

"At Facebook we have 86 people held up in the visa process right now," she said. "If we can't keep them here, we'll move them, and all the ancillary jobs, elsewhere."

The "know-no-bounds, risk-taking attitude" of entrepreneurs –- combined with great universities and risk capital –- is a uniquely American asset, said Doerr, whose venture successes have included Google, Amazon, Intuit, Sun, Compaq, Cypress Macromedia and Symantec.

"They do more than anyone thinks possible with less than anyone thinks possible and they surprise us all the time, whether in technology, neighborhoods, education or social entrepreneurs," Doerr said.

"What looks like risk to me, or perhaps to others, doesn't look like risk to them -- it's the obvious new disruptive way to do things.

"We've got to double down on those advantages and use them for growth."

Doerr cited the example of local education entrepreneur Salman Khan, whose online, nonprofit Khan Academy has delivered more than 67 million free lessons to users from around the globe.

While the United States does pretty well in information technology, it's falling behind in biotechnology, Doerr said.

"Those industries were invented here, but now, to get trials done, the regulations are hard. The companies I back are testing in Europe, and the government can do a lot about that."

In green technologies, thanks to the Recovery Act and the U.S. Department of Energy's investment-oriented ARPA-E program, America gets a "C" rather than a "D" or an "F," Doerr said.

Government has a role in developing and growing a sustainable clean-energy market, he said.

"When California says, 'We want 30 percent of our energy to be renewable by 2020,' that creates market demand.

"When the administration gathers automakers and signs them up for a 54.5 mph strategy, that's a huge change as contrasted to the assisted suicide which was basically the legislative strategy in Michigan," Doerr said.

Panelists agreed on the need for major education reforms.

Right now, "we're not investing for the future," Sandberg said. "We graduate only 70 percent of our kids from high school –- that's too little. Of those who graduate, only 30 percent can do college-level work."

And less than one-third of America's degrees are in the critical fields of science, technology, engineering and math, as opposed to more than 50 percent in China, she said.

"Engineers are the new currency," Doerr said. "We need them now.

"We've got to find ways to get kids who've decided they want to become engineers to see it through to the end."

Technology will transform education to such an extent that, "20 years from now, we'll look back at someone lecturing to a class and say, 'That's so antiquated," said Hastings.

The Netflix founder and chairman formerly chaired California's State Board of Education and is a major education philanthropist.

Transformation of education will come not from rule-bound school districts but from entrepreneurs around the world, including Khan and others, he said.

"Every student should be learning on their own, at their own pace with their own virtual instructor," Hastings said, citing companies such as Headsprout and DreamBox Learning, in which he has a stake.

"We need every kid in Brazil, in China, in India to get a good education, because that's going to increase the world GDP.

"A hundred years ago, very few people went to high school. If you look at the last couple hundred years, the spread of education has been phenomenal, so I'm pretty uniformly optimistic."

Tuesday's panel was held in partnership with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, TechNet and the National Venture Capital Association. It was moderated by Wired Magazine Editor Chris Anderson.

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Like this comment
Posted by Fluffy
a resident of another community
on Aug 2, 2011 at 6:12 pm

Guest worker visas must be severely cut back and companies must face real penalties for not even considering American workers. You know those company web sites where you can see and apply for their jobs? Pure window-dressing in most cases. Usually the big companies hire all or mostly from bodyshop vendors and your application gets ignored. And who does the bodyshopper send them? H-1Bs. So the company heads go to DC and tell the Congress we need H-1Bs. Americans are not even being considered for these jobs.

Like this comment
Posted by light
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 2, 2011 at 11:32 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by P Henry
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 3, 2011 at 6:40 am

When will the H-1B visa be featured on "The Real Hustle" exposing it as the scam it is? Here's how it works. Hire shills to write about a non-existent tech shortage and recruit tech CEO's to complain about access to a non-existent foreign genius pool. Also, create fake "think tanks" with fabricated "studies" on how access to cheap, foreign labor supposedly creates jobs out of thin air for American tech workers. When American Tech workers complain about it, simply hire more shills to scream even louder about how we need more foreign tech workers. If members of Congress start questioning any of this, throw some lobbying money their way to shut them up.
With this scam set up the way it is, everyone wins except American tech workers. The tech CEO's get access to cheap, foreign labor. The shills have a job based on selling out their fellow Americans and members of Congress get lobbying money to look the other way. The H-1B recipients get to come to America and learn how to do jobs they are supposedly "experts" at to begin with and then take those jobs back to the third world when the time comes.

Like this comment
Posted by Daveo
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 3, 2011 at 11:16 am

I would have to concur with what P Henry wrote. The only thing he forgot to mention is that the the H1-Bs work for about half the salary of American tech workers; and they're happy to do it too, as their alternative is to live in a country of high unemployment (such as France), or live and work in a dangerous & war-ridden tech backwater (such as the middle-east).. It's a simple decision to try to make it and attain citizenship in the US, for a possible long-term stay, as many countries allow dual citizenship. (i.e. They can always go back, with a nice line on the resume.)

In the end it all comes down to this: Business does WHATEVER adds to their bottom line, and is void of any sense of responsibility to America or American workers. Ironic, since the Supreme court gave them the status of citizens for the purpose of spending to create speech and thereby political influence.

Some political idealogues will try to tell you that the weakening of the American family structure is the cause for the changes in America. That is incorrect; it is the rapid rise of unabashed greed becoming the main principle of American capitalism.

Americans to compete in this more hardened environment are themselves becoming less caring, empathetic and more cutthroat.

Put it all together. Where do you think we're headed.

Like this comment
Posted by Steve C
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 3, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Not much to add to the previous comments, except that it shows how utterly clueless these techie CEO's really are, if it doesn't involve their personal benefit(read:bottom-line related bonuses). Try training some of the people who were born and raised here and have been thrown over-board economically. Give something back instead of constantly being on the take, looking for cheapo labor. You all should be ashamed of yourselves. And yes, the Supreme Court is a BIG part of the problem. Anyone paying attention knows now what the real objective is in politics. Sheesh, whatever happened to the concept of treason?

Like this comment
Posted by Jane David
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 3, 2011 at 2:38 pm

"Every student should be learning on their own, at their own pace with their own virtual instructor," Hastings said. Where will they learn teamwork, social skills, civic responsibility, and all the other skills employers crave in their workers?

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 3, 2011 at 7:02 pm

I wish the CEO's and HR departments would get a clue. Mark Z. and friends - Please read this.

We have the workforce in the U.S.! Graduates in IT, computing, and biotechnology are looking for jobs, and they are highly skilled! Hundreds of schools across America have graduates trained in computing, coding, data storage, all areas of IT, and biotechnology. The graduates are from the U.S. Additionally they have completed public speaking to graduate from these technical programs.

Tech companies have clustered themselves too tightly within only a few areas in the US, with this area being the nerve center. We don't need to import more workers to do these jobs when there are bright and qualified graduates in the Midwest and other states looking for jobs in these areas.

A suggestion would be to move some of these offices to the Midwest and other states, where the workforce is, and housing prices are more affordable.

Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 3, 2011 at 8:08 pm

Resident - companies in Silicon Valley should relocate to Michigan, Illinois or Minnesota because they have talented unemployed people? I don't think so. There is a reason this area is a nerve center -companies feed off each others energy, talent and ideas. People are free to move here from elsewhere. Plus, have you ever spent the winter (or summer) in the Midwest?

Like this comment
Posted by SiliconValleyEngineer
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 3, 2011 at 10:30 pm

"We've got to find ways to get kids who've decided they want to become engineers to see it through to the end."

I'm a engineer with 18-year work experience and I am ready to give up my engineering career. With the H-1B program, American engineers are treated like a used kleenex. Companies are free to discriminate against American engineers. They prefer to hire younger and cheaper foreign workers. I tell my children, nieces, and nephews, and other American students to stay away becoming an engineer. There is no future in it for American professionals.

If CEO of tech companies and venture capitalists believe in a future in which American students can prosper as scientists and engineers, then treat us with more respect. The wage-busting program of H-1B that encourages discrimination against American professionals need to go. It's no use to say that they want students to become engineers when they treat our American engineers and scientists like dirt because young Americans are looking at us as examples to see how their future would be. And so far, they are looking at a future of long term of unemployment and disrespect.

Like this comment
Posted by Steve C
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 4, 2011 at 9:50 am

Not one positive comment about the article, except for the mom complaining about the weather in the Midwest. That in itself should tell these Tech Execs something. Of course, that would assume that any of them are actually listening, which I seriously doubt. When people propose importing cheap foreign labor, even as the country faces the most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression, you have to wonder what is going on. They seem as disconnected from reality as the Tea Party political fringe.

Like this comment
Posted by USTTNET
a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2011 at 11:30 am

Is there a reason why the US can't advocate an initiative that employs only US citizens for the design, planning and implementation of a large transportation and telecommunications network? In other words, we have the available work force an also technologcal know how to use all our public companies funded with subsidies and stimulus monies but with a much larger scope than just fixin potholes in our highways.

Imagine if we used all of our technological capabilities to begin the design, building and installation of a vast transportation network of the future which at the same time could house telecommunication infrastructure of the future.

The benefit;

1. We need it long term.
2. We can employee new transportation (human) by using new advances in high speed travel.
3. Reduce the need for air travel in certain regions.
4. Build future telecommunications fiber based networks inside of future people transportation systems.
5. You employee all US based corporations.
- technological companies can build the telecommunications networks
- car manufacturers could build the actual high speed transportation cars/trains
- Government could invest and subsidize the whole process.
- We use US Nationals for all jobs

I believe we spend too much time talking about leader who can lead but not really putting money to one major project that could redefine transportation and telecommuncation for the future which will really become a reality in the future. So why not start now.

Like this comment
Posted by Sam Costanzo
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 16, 2011 at 2:01 pm

The economy needs jobs and infrastructure, but we are broke (or so we are told).

Postwar Britain had a similar problem. The new Labour Government had plans to nationalize industry, but no money to compensate owners. Britain was really broke, no credit and its cities in ruin. They compensated owners with 2 1/2% consols, perpetual debt that never had to be repaid. We can do something similar.

In 2009 there was discussion of a special tax on large banks to recoup part of the cost of the financial meltdown. The idea evaporated, I'm not sure why, possibly because of political opposition, possibly because it was a higher priority to assist banks in rebuilding their capital. Meanwhile the Federal Reserve has pumped a large amount of liquidity into the banking system, but instead of expanding loans banks have allowed these funds to accumulate as reserves --- about $1.5 trillion at this point. We desperately need for these funds to work their way into the economy where they could be stimulating economic activity and jobs, but conditions have not allowed that to happen.

How can we unlock bank reserves and put a part of that money to work building the economy and creating jobs?

Easy, instead of taxing the mega banks, require them to purchase a special issue of Treasury perpetual debt or consols in a total amount of say, $200 billion, a small part of the $1.5 trillion reserves they are holding. The consols are also a form of taxation, of course, but a very mild one. Holders of the consols will pay the "inflation tax" as they gradually depreciate over the years, but in the meantime they will earn 2.5%, not a bad rate in the current market, and they would be marketable so that banks could unload them anytime they wished. Bank earnings and capital would hardly be affected, but the government would now have $200 billion to invest in infrastructure.

What would this do to the government deficit and debt burden? The answer is very little. The 2.5% interest coupon would raise government expenditures by a paltry $5 billion per year. Debt would increase by $200 billion, but it is debt that never matures, debt that the government can pay off at the time of its choosing, or never pay, having no effect whatsoever on the sustainability of the national debt or the nation's credit rating.

Sincerely yours,
Sam Costanzo
Lovejoy, GA

Like this comment
Posted by Give Me A Break!
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 17, 2011 at 8:47 pm

"Every student should be learning on their own, at their own pace with their own virtual instructor," Hastings said...

wait for it...

..."citing companies such as Headsprout and DreamBox Learning, in which he has a stake."

Ah yea, more online-learning hocus-pocus - make a bundle charging students to take virtual classes with virtual instructors that result in virtual learning that is of little interest to real employeers!

Like this comment
Posted by Micah Belyeu
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Oct 24, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Jobs are created by the necessity of a company to produce a product or an idea. With out consumers the company has no need of hiring. For years our nation has been in the process of globalization. Which in essence has transferred much of our wealth overseas. Check out my plan for job creation:
Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Sandra
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 27, 2014 at 6:56 am

I see the right words, but I do not know if they will be implemented. Many reforms are need to be done, especially in the education. I think that young students who choose some engineering specialization must have advantage to attract people to this sphere. To say about job market I understand the necessity of the foreign workers, but I do not want them to take our jobs. Many native people have difficulties with work, they even use the help of the service Web Link to live to the next salary. So the reforms must be comprehensive.

Like this comment
Posted by Sea-Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 28, 2014 at 6:29 am

Here is my take on H1 Visas

- It is a good program; but there is a lot of abuse.
- We want to keep doors for 'bright' 'smart' students that one day will change the world with innovation. They are every where in the world; it is just good 'genes'.

- For the rest of the jobs, there is no reason to go to 'immigrants' to fill our jobs while the unemployment rate is high and our college graduates have to work at places for 3-5 years before they get a break.

- I may sound like a bigot; I came to the US in August 1973 as an entering graduate student in Industrial Engineering at Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas. My primary reason for selecting Texas out of 15 schools or so that admitted me was the $14/unit tuition that Texas schools offered.

- After graduation in 3 semesters; I interviewed for jobs using the campus recruiting; some big companies flew me to Houston; but no offers as I did not have permit to work.

- However, there was a 18 month training program; I interviewed at Ludlum Measurements a small start-up of Radiation Instruments Manufacturing and Assembly. I was hired; worked hard; got labor certification became an immigrant with permanent residence; and few years later a citizen by 1984,

So, US should have open door; but no cheats should be allowed. We have flat world; lot of smart people; admit 'smart, intelligent, highly educated and with lot of potential.

Close the gate for those that use H1 visa system to bring non-professionals.
We need tough scrutiny and governance.

In Summary

1. Manage current H1 visa program better with better governance
2. Keep the same quotas - manage with the numbers we have
3. Open arms to 'smart' people from all over the world; but not 'cheats'
4. For those that say 'we need immigrants' we need to say 'we need smart immigrants' and clearly define the process and path to get to US legally.


Like this comment
Posted by Jay
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 28, 2014 at 9:33 am

The real reason for the H1-B, is to suppress wages. Everything else is just camouflage.

Like this comment
Posted by Cynderfigg
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 28, 2014 at 11:51 am

What about giving educational priority ( that is, college and grad school education) to American born kids instead of foreign-born ones? How about the government financing those American educations as nearly every other nation in the world does?

It is sickening to see foreign kids getting the benefits of Americn universities because THEIR governments pay for them to go to our best schools--most of which were built for American students.

Student financial aid is a farce, since most who need it can't get it, and for those who qualify, it is not nearly enough. We have become like a third-world country, educationally speaking, especially since many third world and all second world countries pay for qualified students to go to colleges higher.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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