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Purdue, State Assist International Entrepreneurs with Visas
Indiana Ag Connection - 05/16/2018

The Purdue J-1 Exchange Visitor Program is assisting seven international Purdue entrepreneurs obtain their visas and build their startups. This program, a partnership between the Purdue Research Foundation and the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD), supports international researchers and/or students based at the Purdue Foundry.

Through the DWD, the J-1 Visa provides non-immigrant visas for international researchers and scholars in order to support collaborative, international research and cultural exchange. As a host university, Purdue uses the program to assist individuals pursuing their academic or entrepreneurial goals.

Greg Deason, senior vice president of entrepreneurship and place making at the Purdue Research Foundation, manages the Purdue J-1 Exchange Visitor Program.

"Entrepreneurs from Indiana share a common desire to innovate and create with other global entrepreneurs," Deason said. "When they find an environment they can thrive in, they stick around. The Purdue entrepreneurial community has been fortunate in retaining outstanding and talented individuals who prove themselves to be job creators and leaders."

Through the program, internationals can stay in the U.S up to five years to research or pursue entrepreneurial ideation processes, business model generation, business plan creation, customer discovery and new venture launching.

"As you can imagine, the visa process is slow, but we've had five visas issued with two more in progress," said Arnold Chen, managing director of the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship. "Many of Purdue's international students are entrepreneurial and do not desire to return home after graduation. This program allows them to stay local and start a company."

Purdue expects participants hold an undergraduate degree and sufficient funding to support living expenses. Additionally, they will need to demonstrate their commitment through participation in educational business events, entrepreneurial networking and activities and Purdue Foundry supported location.

Already, five Purdue entrepreneurs have gained their visas: VeoRide's Candice Xie, Edwin Tan, Li Zhou; We-You Bond's Bobby Wen; and WYRE's Rick Li.

VeoRide Bike Share offers a sustainable, smart bike sharing program co-founded by Purdue graduates Candice Xie of the Krannert School of Management and Edwin Tan of the School of Mechanical Engineering.

VeoRide's chief technical officer, Li Zhou, has also received a visa through the program. Unlike other bike share programs, this startup allows riders to retrieve and return a VeoRide bike from the nearest bike rack.

We-You Bond, LLC coaches Chinese international students and their parents on Purdue available resources easing their transition into life as Purdue. Bobby Wen, also a J-1 visa recipient, co-founded the startup with Joyce Zhao, both Krannert graduates.

"International students face an obstacle when they arrive at an American university. They aren't aware of enough resources available to them," said Wen. "The language barrier also heightens this problem, but we want to resolve both issues at once."

We-You Bond has assisted 35 students through their direct services. An additional 200 Chinese international students received support through a pre-orientation program in China.

The fifth visa recipient, Rick Li, founded WYRE Inc. This startup provides a mobile platform, UPrint, allowing users to print PDF documents without computer access. His co-founder Lawrence Lee is one of the two J-1 visas that are in process.

The other J-1 visa that is processing is for Krannert graduate, Lancer Lin. Lin founded Pacific Trading, LLC, a startup that buys high-quality luxury vehicles internationally such as the Maserati Levante.

The Purdue program assures participants a two-year initial support period, successive and annual extensions (totaling two years) and in exceptional cases, a final one year extension.

Purdue University is the second school authorized by the U.S. Department of State to host the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program. The Purdue Foundry provides the below privileges to the program participants:

- FireStarter is an ideation program providing commercialization support, such as business model creation and entrepreneur-in-residence collaboration.

- Events allow the Purdue entrepreneurial community to network with each other (e.g. WomenIN, FoundryX, Spirited Entrepreneur and Foundry Grounds).

- Educational seminars and programs teach startups how to successfully navigate common obstacles.

- Funding opportunities include the Trask Innovation Fund, the Elevate Purdue Foundry Fund, the Foundry Investment Fund and the Ag-celerator.

- Purdue Research Park provides co-working space and leasing opportunities, such as the Purdue Railyard.

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program assists non-immigrant workers and students obtain a visa and participate in work-related or school-based exchange programs. The US Department of State oversees this program in order to promote cultural and educational opportunities. For more information, contact j1visa@purdue.edu.

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