Baker budget proposes $100,000 for foreign entrepreneurs’ program

Charlie Baker presents the budget. (Photo: Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe)
Charlie Baker presents the budget. (Photo: Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe)

A month after cutting a $1 million program that would help foreign entrepreneurs grow new businesses in Massachusetts, Governor Charlie Baker’s administration has earmarked $100,000 to resurrect the effort, as part of the budget for the next fiscal year. 

Though the funding is a small fraction of the initial $3 million allotted to the Global Entrepreneur in Residence Pilot Program as part of former governor Deval Patrick’s 2014 jobs bill (that amount was later reduced to $1 million), venture capitalists have welcomed the news. The administration is inviting the private sector to match the rest.

“Everyone is relieved that Governor Baker has given the program his blessing,” said Jeff Bussgang, a general partner at Flybridge Capital Ventures, who has been a vocal proponent of the program. “Having the support and endorsement of the state is critical, because now it gives private and non-profit sector the green light to participate.”

The funding will be distributed through the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, and will sustain the program for one year.

“We think we can have real success this way structuring it as a partnership,” said Paul McMorrow, director of policy and communications for the Mass. EOHED.  “We believe there’s a demand for it, and we believe it strengthens the innovation economy and we’re willing embrace it.”

The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative has been running a pilot with a two entrepreneurs. The original goal was to match 20 entrepreneurs with mentorship positions at the University of Massachusetts Boston (or Lowell) campuses, funded by the bulk of the initial $1 million allocated to the program. In addition to running their own startups, these “global entrepreneurs in residence” would help students launch and develop their businesses.  

This joint appointment would allow the entrepreneurs to circumvent the annual cap that limits the number of approved work visas. Also, because startups typically lack the resources and administrative know-how to navigate the legal steps to secure an H-1B visa, part of the program’s initial goal was to provide this support.

Candidates who are considered have masters degree or above in a STEM or business field, though they needn’t have graduated from a university in the United States. Successful applicants will also be in a leadership position in a startup.

The overall structure of the program, matching entrepreneurs with universities, is expected to remain the same. But the number of accepted candidates and the partner institutions are yet to be determined.

Nidhi Subbaraman writes about science and research. Email her at nidhi.subbaraman@globe.com.
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