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Does one-year long engineer hire from China appeal to startups?

I have a very experienced Ruby developer friend from China looking to come to the US for a year long developer position with a tech company in the bay area. He intends to work remotely afterwards in China for this company because he needs to take care of his parents.

I have been thinking about playing the role of bridging the excess quality/experienced engineering talent and the tech talent shortage here in the US. Visa issues are probably the biggest obstacle. But if I can take care of the visa issues, will the year-long on-site experience from top engineering talent in China plus potential subsequent transition to H-1B or remote work from abroad be appealing to companies??

10 Replies

Lee Ann Guertin
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Lee Ann Guertin Entrepreneur
Editorial Research Manager, Online Analytics
We have a lot of backlash building here and investigations into abuse of H-1b visa usage and offshore resource abuse, particularly in the tech and software development sectors. And it is a hot topic in the SF Bay area now. I would steer clear of it, if it were me, especially with the growing concerns around security,cyber-attacks, and hacking from China. It affects trust as well as willingness to share access to intellectual property. Many of us expect there to be more restrictions coming. If your friend wants to get here to the US badly enough, maybe have him go through an academic program and an internship route. If he is as good as you imply, then Stanford or Berkeley shouldn't be a problem for him to get to the Bay Area. Builds more credibility and opportunity for local resume experience. Or apply to a company that has a division in China/Hong Kong. Companies like Microsoft have been using resources from China for a long time. It isn't anything really novel or new and exciting, and in many cases not particularly cost effective.
Lane Campbell
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0
Lane Campbell Advisor
Lifelong Entrepreneur
I agree. No sane funded or monetized company will hire someone from China with the expectation they will leave in a year. You will only attract stupid owners and underfunded startups who will probably fail before the year is up. Not a good model.
Dirk de Kok
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0
Dirk de Kok Advisor
Founder and CTO Mobtest
Visas are a pain in the butt. This year in April they had 233,000 applications for 85,000 H1B visas available. So that's a lottery with a chance of 1 in 3. And even then, your developer can only start in October after successfully filing in April.

China is a huge time difference, and language is always a problem. Plus, Bay Area startups want to move fast so need good communication. That's why everybody is still hiring local talent.
Hans Li
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Hans Li Entrepreneur
Research and Development at Accenture Technology Labs
I agree with the consensus here. There are some tech companies that are already in trouble for H1B abuse and I'm sure the law makers are ready to pounce on this issue as soon as they get a chance. And yea as the previous posters mentioned - the time difference, language barrier, employee retention are all serious concerns.
Ben Zhang
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Ben Zhang Entrepreneur
President at SF China-US Entrepreneurship Club
Thanks for the feedback. Would love to hear other non-legal/visa related constructive ideas. The assumption here is that the engineer has a lot of in-demand experience, is trust-worthy, speaks respectable English and does plan to pursue further relationship with the company through H-1B, L1 visa or remote work. (Look up L1 if you aren't familiar. It is the best alternative to H-1B but requires the person to have worked for the company for one year abroad.) I know plenty companies do not like the idea of remote engineers. Then there are others like creator of Ruby on Rails, DHH and his company that believe in "remote" so much that they wrote a book called Remote. I see a growing trend in Increasing fluidity of global talent. Is that just my delusion?
Dirk de Kok
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Dirk de Kok Advisor
Founder and CTO Mobtest
Start a sales office in Silicon Valley/USA with a few great communicative engineers that can form a bridge between US clients and developers in China
Rob Gropper
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Rob Gropper Entrepreneur
Director at PetHero, SPC - Member at Eastside Incubator - Principal at Tuxedo Technologies Group
Off shore is hard. You have 2 huge hurdles to clear first. 1) The ONLY (for all practical purposes) benefit to your proposed model is lower cost. The benefit of reduced cost must outweigh the negatives by a substantial amount or it is simply a non-starter. So first you must convince the local market (bay area tech in this case) that the cost benefit is VERY significant. The next issue is the visa issue. You mention this as though this is something you can overcome with some elbow grease. This is not the case with one exception - if the visa prospect is willing to invest $500,000 or more in a US business then you can at least expedite the green card process which presumably will also expedite the H1-b process (i've not tried it). Even for large companies (like MS mentioned earlier) who have a presence in that country (China in this case) and therefor have a need for in-country resources, the "understanding" barrier is often the biggest barrier and it is a barrier that often outweighs even very significant financial benefits. It is hard to describe, but anyone who has outsourced to China or India knows what the "understanding" barrier is - in general it is the amalgamation of all of things beyond just language that affect a working relationship - things like communication style, work ethic, professional 'social' norms (like showing up to work on time, letting others know when you will be absent, etc.), when to speak up, etc. etc. The way MS and others have found to minimize this understanding barrier is to bring people to the US to work within their local teams for 1-5 years. The visa process makes that hard and it's getting harder given the abuses of the system. All in all it's a very tough row to hoe.
Jiemin Li
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0
Jiemin Li Entrepreneur • Advisor
Entrepreneur and Investor
Without considering the challenge of Visa, the communication is a big concern. Team works more efficient if everyone is in the same office. Working remotely or at home policy is practiced in some companies and Government agencies to reduce employee commute, save work space, and attract more special talents. In your case, you have more challenges in language and time difference. If your friend has some special skills that are hard to get here in US, and/or you can demonstrate significant cost saving, you might be able to do this. I have worked with many great Chinese software engineers, and I don't have problem with such hiring if the skill and the price is right. But you have a small market.
Lee Ann Guertin
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Lee Ann Guertin Entrepreneur
Editorial Research Manager, Online Analytics
Ruby on Rails is pretty common here now. Not as special as the market for data scientists, for example. Between local resources and a lot of Indians flooding the market, without even considering the security issues, I agree that cost and communication ease become a concern. Finding a staffing placement agency that works with employers who are sympathetic or inclined to hire from China, or who have existing client relationships and resource needs, helps. The onshore/offshore model is often done when large teams are managed and there is an onsite coordinator who acts as a liaison with remote resources. Otherwise most find the time difference and distance, which often result in delays and availability challenges, and the risk of intellectual property to be a big issue like the previous posts mentioned. If that isn't in place, which is the case in most small companies or startups like in SF area, then it can be very hard. And this is assuming that your friend wouldn't require relocation assistance, which can require significant investment. If not interested in the academic route, perhaps your friend could connect with a staffing agency that specializes in offshore projects and placements. Like Chinasoft? Placement companies often let resources specify where they would be open to relocate to. Sent from my iPhone
Joseph Wang
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Joseph Wang Entrepreneur
Chief Science Officer at Bitquant Research Laboratories
If it's something that has to be done in the United States, the company will want permanent employees. If it's something that doesn't have to be done in the United States, then the company will just outsource.

Also one possibility for him is to just move to Shenzhen, and take frequent trips to Hong Kong to interact with startups there. Another possibility is to start their own company, and then get accepted to an accelerator program.
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