Economy, Sci & Tech

Iranian Businesses Deferring US Investment

Iranian Businesses Deferring US InvestmentIranian Businesses Deferring US Investment

Amin Shokrollahi was supposed to be in Silicon Valley last week to accept an award at a prominent semiconductor conference called DesignCon. He never made it.

President Donald Trump’s travel ban targeting citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries forced Shokrollahi, a resident of Lausanne to stay behind in Switzerland, home to his tech start-up Kandou Bus, according to CNBC.

A federal judge in Seattle on Friday granted a general temporary restraining order against Trump’s action, which would be welcome news for Shokrollahi and others if made permanent. However, Trump has vowed to overturn the judge’s stay, meaning the rules could change on short notice.

Regardless of the outcome, Shokrollahi is now rethinking his entire business plan, which had included hiring 80 to 100 engineers and designers in the US. 

Instead, that expansion is now likely to occur in Europe or Asia, places where Shokrollahi can easily travel and where the environment is more welcoming.

On top of that, Shokrollahi’s visa just expired, and he has been waiting six weeks for a new one. That is clearly not a priority for the new occupants in the White House.

His company raised $15 million last year from prominent Silicon Valley investment firm Bessemer Venture Partners to speed development of energy efficient technology used in semiconductors. He had traveled to the US five to seven times a year since moving to Switzerland in 2003.

Shokrollahi’s travel to the US was initially curtailed a year ago, when lawmakers implemented changes to the Visa Waiver Program.

The problems do not stop there. Shayan Zadeh, an Iranian-born tech entrepreneur in San Francisco, expects the administration to impose long-term restrictions against Iranians, beyond just the 90 days.

Zadeh, 38, is in decent shape. He attained US citizenship in 2013 while running Zoosk, an online dating site that reached $200 million in annual revenue.

However, his 28-year-old brother is in limbo. He is a medical doctor who’s been doing research at Cornell University and is now waiting for a visa so he can work at Harvard. 

Trump’s blanket fear of terrorism is creating a crisis for highly skilled and accomplished people, based solely on where they were born.


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