GEIR Program Will Add 10 New Entrepreneurs
On Thursday, the Massachusetts Global Entrepreneur-in-Residence (GEIR) program announced a major gift from Silicon Valley Bank, its first corporate partner. The program, which is based at the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Venture Development Center, will also expand from two to 12 participating entrepreneurs this year.
According to William Brah, founder and Executive Director of the Venture Development Center, partnering with Silicon Valley Bank is a major validation for the GEIR program, an innovative approach to retaining entrepreneurial talent in the state.
SVB’s $30,000 donation will help UMass Boston continue to support these global entrepreneurs, who will have a unique joint appointment at the school — serving as university employees who mentor student startups in addition to running their own companies. Additionally, the GEIR program helps company founders and other early employees navigate the H-1B visa process.
“We believe that a global experience is an important part of our students’ education,” said UMass Boston Chancellor J. Keith Motley. “The donation from Silicon Valley Bank not only boosts job creation here in Massachusetts but prepares our entrepreneurial students for global success.”
The GEIR program was initially conceived by venture capitalist and Harvard Business School professor Jeff Bussgang, immigration lawyer Jeffrey Goldman, and introduced by former governor Deval Patrick in 2014, but had its funding cut due to a budget deficit. However, Governor Charlie Baker, working with members of the innovation community, eventually reinstated $100,000 to support the program as a public-private partnership.
Both Brah and Bussgang said that they hope that the involvement of Silicon Valley Bank will encourage other corporate entities to participate in helping scale the program.
“This is a great partnership between the public and private sectors to help smooth the path to visas for entrepreneurs,” said Bussgang, a general partner at Flybridge Capital Partners. “It completes the vision of Massachusetts as a global innovation magnet. The program participants would not be in Massachusetts today if it wasn’t for the Global EIR program. They would have started their companies elsewhere or not at all.”
“Access to talent is one of the biggest challenges faced by fast-growing, innovative companies,” said Dave Buxton, Managing Director for Silicon Valley Bank in Boston. “We aim to help increase the probability of our clients’ success and remove barriers to innovation and business growth. Through the great work of the Venture Development Center, we believe the GEIR program gives a significant boost to young companies and entrepreneurs, and we’re happy to be a part of it.”
Two program participants have been announced to date. Both Harvard Business School graduates, Bryan O’Connell is the founder and chief executive of online doctor’s office FirstLine, while Vivekdeep Gupta is the founder and chief executive of financial tech startup Covrd. Both of the participant’s companies have raised more than $2 million in funding since joining the GEIR program last year.
The program has also added new entrepreneurs to fill the GEIR role this year. One, Mohit Kansal, a graduate of MIT Sloan School of Management, led his financial tech team to the finals of this year’s MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition. Others include members of startups Perfetch, Potoo, MorphLab, REsurety, Inc., Vetted, and HSTRY.
“We are thrilled with the way the administration has embraced the program, especially given the budget challenges Gov. Baker faces. It shows that they are prioritizing talent and the innovation community as part of a larger economic development strategy,” Bussgang said.
“Public-private partnerships are key drivers for the Commonwealth’s economic success,” said Massachusetts Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash. “Massachusetts is competing for talent and business development globally, so it’s critical that the Commonwealth be proactive about welcoming, and nurturing, entrepreneurs, wherever they hail from. Programs such as the Global Entrepreneur in Residence provide a strong foundation for creative thinking and the innovative solutions required to grow businesses in Massachusetts.”
For more information about the program or to apply to participate, go to https://vdc.umb.edu/geir/.