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A word of advice for Australian startups in the aftermath of Trump’s “Muslim ban” – StartupSmart

If you’re operating a startup in or with the US, you’ll probably be aware of the chaotic nature of the current political climate.

US President Donald Trump’s recent executive order to ban people entering the US from seven Muslim-majority countries led to major unrest across some of the world’s leading tech companies.

Read more: Trump’s “Muslim ban” confronts immigrant-led tech giants with Facebook, Google and Microsoft expressing grave concerns 

If you’re a startup making a break into the US, currently operating there or hope to do so in the near future, here’s a word of advice from Startup Victoria’s Georgia Beattie and Victorian minister for small business and innovation Philip Dalidakis.

“As a nation built on immigration, Australian startups typically benefit from diverse teams from all across the globe, from refugee or immigrant backgrounds,” Beattie tells StartupSmart. 

“We’re now facing the very real situation where some staff will be unable to travel to US offices and where teams will need to plan around the visa and citizenships of their teams.”

Don’t put all your eggs in one country

“[My] advice would be to definitely not put all your eggs in the one basket with the US,” says Beattie.

“Probably make sure your global [headquarters] remains in a country where the sociopolitical climate doesn’t present such huge risks and where a hasty executive order can have real and damaging effects basically overnight.”

Customers don’t forget how you play politics

“I think the biggest lesson here for tech companies is that people won’t forget in a hurry who were the executives who tried to protect their own interests by playing nice or even overtly supporting the Trump presidency,” says Beattie.

“In any other country it’s normal for tech companies to work ‘with’ government to inform policy changes and work towards mutually beneficial economic growth, but clearly in this situation that’s not what’s happening and [Donald] Trump has no intention of working ‘with’ anyone, and so the compliance of these companies, like Uber [and others] has come across as cowardice and avarice.

“Particularly when Trump starts doing these insane things that have real impacts on real people.”

Don’t be alarmed, act consciously

“The events of the last really 48-to-72 hours is extraordinarily troubling but no one should be surprised. President Trump said he would do what he’s doing and its bringing out the very worst in society,” Dalidakis tells StartupSmart. 

“It goes against every grain of the Victorian government to be inclusive.

“This shouldn’t deter people from going to the United states if they need to.

“We shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water, we have an amazing relationship with the US and the actions of one man as serious as they are … shouldn’t also tar all Americans with the same brush.”

Entrepreneurs in banned countries invited to try San Francisco’s soul sister

With fast-growing tech companies like Stripe, Slack and Square setting up Asia Pacific headquarters in Melbourne, Dalidakis says entrepreneurs in any of the banned countries who had been hoping to start new lives in the US could find opportunity in Australia through the new entrepreneur visa in Victoria, for example.

Applicants must be nominated by a state or territory government or Austrade to be considered for the Business Innovation and Investment visa.

“In this particular instance, America’s loss should be Victoria’s gain,” says Dalidakis.

“Those founders that have been targeted from the seven countries identified by the US president, my suggestion is you work with us to grow your company in Victoria until such time changes where you’re going to be embraced in the United States.

“As a community we’re very similar to San Francisco both in terms of social attitudes and business. Anyone who has been affected should consider moving to Victoria and Melbourne, bring their jobs and investment and cultural diversity [here where] we’re not fearful or scared of it but embracing it.”

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