It’s been over 26 years since I first emigrated to the United States. Johnson City, Tennessee, to be exact. While I’ve spent well over two-thirds of my life as part of the American fabric, every day I see the reflection of that immigrant face looking back at me. Many who pass me or interact with me may not immediately realize that I am not American by birth, but this face is sometimes the one signifier that gets another immigrant in the community comfortable enough to ask me just a little more about myself beyond what I do for an occupation.
In those conversations, we may chat a little about where our families are from and how we got to this country, but more often than not, it really comes back to something else: our love for America. We talk about the sense of freedom we feel in our bones and our hearts, this feeling that cannot be truly conveyed to those who’ve not experienced it. This mindset also isn’t necessarily tied to any financial success we may or may not have experienced; I’ve had this conversation before with those who may never find themselves speculating on tech startups, as well as those who are fully engaged in forming them. For whatever reason that brought us to this land and in whatever life station we’re at, we are equally in awe of that American spirit and know that we’re better for having experienced it. This land that makes me feel freer also makes me want to be braver. I love this country.
In a way, Startup Southerner is a product of that love of America. We are focused on our mission to bring access to the information that creates opportunity for all, and we are passionate about the region that shaped us. Our commitment to a more inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem is really rooted in that call to create a more perfect union. I, as the founder of this venture, may possess an immigrant’s insight, yet this publication is not about that. Then again, the immigrant insight is very much alive because this country has made it so. Until this past weekend.
It is precisely because of that love for America that made it ever so painful to read about the course of action that was taken by the new administration. While plenty of policies are set in place over the years that have immediate consequences (with the most recent on immigration obviously being one of them), it struck a chord beyond that of anger, but one that seemed to damage what I believed to be was at the heart of America. Despite its flaws, this country is built on the audacity of those who chose to leave their homeland to set a new course in life and claim another land as their own and then ask others to join them. The American spirit is one by entrepreneurial immigrants.
In the entrepreneurial communities today, the loudest reactions, or at least the most publicized ones, are those from Silicon Valley, most in opposition to the executive order. Some of these founders are immigrants themselves, and we have a general understanding that tech as an industry requires and encourages a global exchange of commerce and talent. Though this may be the case, I don’t believe the concept of inclusion and global thinking belongs to just the tech arm of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. In fact, innovation through inclusion belongs to entrepreneurship as a whole. It is in the local grocery shops and manufacturing plants. For example, the cuisines we have come to love from our neighborhood restaurants did not arrive because of tech startups. The families who opened those businesses shared their food and cultures with their local communities long before food-delivery apps were built.
In short, these values exist here in the Southeast, too, and the Startup Southerner team is fully invested in making clear that the American spirit of entrepreneurship and inclusion belongs to every part of this country. Our mission is focused on entrepreneurship, but our cause is for America.
We hope to hear from you: yourstory [at] startupsoutherner [dot] com.