Immigration continues to be a hot-button topic, but for one venture capital firm, it’s a mission statement. Eveline Buchatskiy co-founded One Way Ventures with Semyon Dukach to invest solely in immigrant-run businesses.
“It was just such a no-brainer, one of those eureka moments you have,” Buchatskiy says of coming up with the name for the firm. “We are immigrants ourselves. We went through the process of buying that one-way ticket to America, knowing that there was no coming back. There was no plan B.”
Buchatskiy was born in Brazil and left to attend college in the United States, getting a degree in chemical engineering from University of California, Berkeley. An MBA program at INSEAD in France followed, then stints in Luxembourg and Ukraine, working as a managing partner for a tech accelerator and the CEO of cleantech firm APCT before she settled back in the U.S. to start One Way Ventures.
Why immigrants are a good investment
Buchatskiy explains that her firm’s mission statement is meant to prove a financial point: That immigrants are good for business, especially in startups. Her firm cites data that shows that while 25% of venture capital-backed startups in the U.S. are founded by immigrants, the share of unicorns — startups valued at over $1 billion -— with immigrants on the founding team is more than twice that of teams without immigrants.
So what is it about immigrant founders? Buchatskiy has some theories.
“It's all about the attributes of the immigrant founder — the grit, the determination, the ability to cope with change, and the fact that this founder took a big chance in coming to this country,” she says.
While One Way Ventures has only been in business for a year, it has already seen some impressive success.
“We do have some portfolio companies that are growing like crazy,” Buchatskiy says. Specifically, he mentioned Brex, which makes a credit card for startups and was founded by two Brazilian entrepreneurs who came to the U.S. when they were only 19.
“After just a couple of years of operation, the company has already reached a unicorn valuation of $1.1 billion,” she says. “The credit card is just the entry point, the initial product in their road map. But there's a lot more interesting stuff coming.”
Changing political climate
There are drawbacks to the One Way business model, though, and shifting immigration policies in Washington have not made life easier.
“Visas are one of the obstacles,” she says. “It’s a huge distraction.” Buchatskiy and her team find themselves dealing with visa issues on a weekly basis, noting that things have changed dramatically for the worse.
“We are feeling the pain now,” she says. “The number of denials has just exploded.”
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