Today, access to affordable housing presents a significant challenge. Ivan Fernandez de Casadevante is part of a team of recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduates that thinks they have a solution to the problem. The Spanish native is a co-founder of OriSystems, a company that grew out of a research project at MIT’s Media Lab. The project, MorphLab, uses robotic technology to allow users to reconfigure a space on demand, transforming a bedroom into a living room, office, or kitchen. “This technology drastically improves the affordability and efficiency of micro-apartments by allowing for the reconfiguration of space in a magical and joyful way,” Casadevante says.
After graduation, Casadevante and his co-founders were eager to bring their technology to market. “We saw an industry with real potential for innovation, where very little innovation was happening,” he says. And yet, the U.S. immigration system stood in the way. “The U.S. has no startup visa, and this makes it really hard for talented people to stay in the country after graduation.” Luckily, Casadevante was able to secure a visa for high-skilled workers through the Global Entrepreneurs in Residence (GEIR) program. GEIR issues visas to high-skilled entrepreneurs who are in a collaboration agreement with a university or institution of higher education. “If not for this program, I would have had to go back to Spain,” he says
The U.S. has no startup visa, and this makes it really hard for talented people to stay in the country after graduation
Today, OriSystems is growing rapidly. They have eight employees—including five Americans—and hope to double in size by the end of this year. Casadevante likens the company to the iPhone, which changed the entire mobile phone industry: “We want to create a new era in the housing industry,” he says. “We’re a really ambitious team and are working hard to make this dream a reality.” Currently, real estate developers in Seattle, Boston and Washington, D.C., are testing the product, and the commercial version should be available within the year. And yet none of this progress guarantees that Casadevante will be able to remain in the United States for the long term. It’s a frustrating paradox of the U.S. immigration system: Casadevante is working diligently to improve American cities, and yet he may be forced to leave this county—and the company he built—behind.
This post was produced by NAE in partnership with the Global Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program at the University of Massachusetts. It is cross-posted here.