My name is Emerson, and I’m an entrepreneur from Peru. I first came to San Francisco when I was 17 to attend college and study computer engineering. I took two jobs to pay for school, but that was nothing compared to what came next.
After graduation, I had only one year to stay and work. I made the most of the time by earning the Apple WWDC scholarship and launching my first startup, inClass. But that didn’t matter with my visa deadline looming in May 2011.
Thankfully, I was able to get a 17-month STEM extension on my visa and continued working to grow my company. My product reached close to 3 million students around the world with the goal of helping every student stay more organized in school.
After successfully starting inClass, I moved on to chase a bigger fish. It was surprising to see that the most connected and social generation ever was not able to connect fully with the people they see everyday in class. I co-founded StudyRoom to connect as many college students as possible with their classmates so that they could help each other and share knowledge and resources. Unfortunately, my visa extension was set to expire again in October.
No further extension was available, and no green card was possible for at least 3 more years. Every lawyer and expert I talked to about my situation simply replied with an “I’m sorry” until I heard about an especially difficult visa, the O-1. It was my only option, so I went for it. I was literally 24 hours away from being forced to leave the country, but was able to submit an application which left me in limbo for about 3 months.
In March 2013, I finally received the good news: I had secured my O-1 visa and I would be able to stay for another 3 years, and continue successfully building my company, StudyRoom. This semester we launched at 100 universities, reached close to half a million college students and now all of those students are able to increase their learning outcome through social learning which puts us one step closer to creating a self-directed economy. I see this as just the beginning of a long journey to hire a lot of people, close the achievement gap and make education a real society equalizer.
I feel that my story exemplifies the need to fix our broken immigration system, and I hope you’ll take a moment to share it.