I’m a big fan of Paul Graham’s advice essays, especially “What You Can’t Say,” so I don’t want to be too hard on him for parroting the standard talking points on immigration. But it’s worth recalling that he has stated that successful Silicon Valley start-up CEOs likely grew up in America simply because of the accent advantage it gives them.
Several years ago, Paul Graham — whom everybody calls P.G. — began to film the interviews he and his partners held with prospective Y.C. inductees. When reviewing the footage, he focused on the interviews with start-ups that ultimately failed. Like any savvy marketing executive, he wanted to isolate patterns that portended ill, which he called “negative predictors.” He was already aware of a few — investors tended to be biased against older founders, for instance. “The cutoff in investors’ heads is 32,” Graham says. “After 32, they start to be a little skeptical.” And Graham knew that he had his own biases. “I can be tricked by anyone who looks like Mark Zuckerberg. There was a guy once who we funded who was terrible. I said: ‘How could he be bad? He looks like Zuckerberg!’ ”
… But after ranking every Y.C. company by its valuation, Graham discovered a more significant correlation. “You have to go far down the list to find a C.E.O. with a strong foreign accent,” Graham told me. “Alarmingly far down — like 100th place.” I asked him to clarify. “You can sound like you’re from Russia,” he said, in the voice of an evil Soviet henchman. “It’s just fine, as long as everyone can understand you.”
This was bad news for Strikingly’s David Chen, who moved in 2005 from Guangzhou to the United States to attend high school at Houghton Academy, in upstate New York. He spoke English fluently but struggled to pronounce words like “build,” “mobile” and, most ominously, “strikingly.” Yet Chen had clearly established himself as the fledgling company’s impresario and spokesman. …
One week before Demo Day, Graham told the Strikingly founders that Chen’s accent was too strong. The quiet, reserved Bao — who spoke less frequently than either of his partners despite being the group’s only native English speaker — would have to deliver the pitch instead. Bao denied that he was anxious, but as he tried to memorize the pitch, he grew even quieter than usual. “I haven’t gotten to the point where I’m comfortable with public speaking,” he admitted.In other words, it’s a myth that tech billionaire entrepreneurs are magnanimously bringing poor Asians to America to start companies to compete with them.
The reality is that billionaires just want code-fodder. The number of H-1B visa workers who will prove competition for the Zuckerbergs is negligible.