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Tech Startup Can’t Find U.S. Engineers, Can’t Afford to Sponsor Immigrant Workers

Immigration status was never something Sandeep Ayyappan thought about. As a young Indian immigrant living in Omaha, Nebraska, his parents created a comfortable, stable home and made sure their son received a good education. “I wasn’t a part of my parents’ reality,” says Ayyappan. “My parents always reminded me not to mess up or get in trouble, otherwise we run the risk of getting deported. I understood that, but I was more focused on navigating high school than trying to think about the bigger picture.”

Ayyappan attended Yale University and then moved to New York City for a job in equity research, where he curated news coverage about clean energy. Despite his strong work ethic, it was impossible for Ayyappan to catch every relevant story and he wondered if there was a better, more efficient way to consume subject-specific news. So in 2012, he launched Wiser, a subscription-based custom news curation platform that helps companies find the most up-to-date news on any subject. In 2013, Wiser was selected for The New York Times business incubator, and today it has 30 clients.

For tech-based businesses, there is a serious shortage of talented software engineers.

Ayyappan would like to grow his company, but immigration policy stands in the way. He can’t find qualified Americans. “For tech-based businesses, there is a serious shortage of talented software engineers,” he says. But as a small startup, Ayyappan cannot afford the high cost of sponsoring visas for talented engineers from abroad. He advocates for immigration reform that would make it less expensive for small companies like Wiser to hire the talent they need.

Luckily, Ayyappan’s own journey toward citizenship was not as complicated as his parents originally feared. While he often felt like an outsider growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, “getting my green card changed that feeling,” he says. “For me, it was about officially being a part of the only life I knew. Getting that green card was a big deal in our family, and when I was in college, I applied for citizenship, but that paled into comparison to the day I became a part of this country.”

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