If you are a tech-entrepreneur you must have heard about the startup visa programs.
Let me start for those who do not know what the Startup Visa Programs stand for.
A startup visa program can be defined as an all-in-one relocation pack for foreign entrepreneurs who have a strong business plan and have the potential to contribute to the economic growth of the host country. The strategy of the programs is almost the same; It is hunting the overseas entrepreneurs by providing opportunities to relocate their businesses into host country.
Since innovative startups started to dominate macro-economies in the last decades, they are considered to be very easy to structure and providing faster growth. The strategy is expected to increase economic activities and gross incomes. Especially the developed countries are offering seeding funds, investment opportunities, visas, residency permits, and even citizenships to catch the wave and gather entrepreneurs for their economy.
I’ve had some application experiences of some startup visa programs that I want to share with the post aimed to be a quick guide to if you plan a similar journey.
Before continue to read, I need to point out that: since every entrepreneur has a unique perspective and different objectives this post can not figure out a universal consensus. E.g. I’m looking for the best location for a fintech company. The best location may not be the same for someone who develops robotics. Defining the best location is also depending on the budget, investment status even the marital status of the entrepreneur.
I also mind reaching business networks, ecosystems, and events from the programs. So the efficacy of the programs varies from the entrepreneur’s perspective.
Please read it just as a roadmap brief an entrepreneur with my following criteria list:
Must allow me to establish a doughter company and keep current.
Must be able to reach the EU market.
Must be a suitable location for fintech.
Must not have ethnocentrism (discrimination).
Must be a stable economy.
Should not require physical residency (I do not want to move permanently)
Should have a high ease of doing business index.
Should have a high quality of life index.Ref 1. Ease of Doing Business Ranking https://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Ref 2. Quality of Life Ranking https://www.numbeo.com/quality-of-life/rankings_by_country.jsp
1. Startup Lithuania Visa
Benefits: EU member country, quality of life (ref2), fast-growing ecosystem, stable economy, provides guidance, visas, residency. (I’m not sure but they provide citizenship after a while)
I’ve applied to the program two times and all approved but unfortunately, I had to postpone because of the pandemic. It is on my desk. I’ll revitalize it.
Application: The application process is relatively easy because they provide great guides, reply to your emails, organize video reviews, etc. that make everything easier than expected.
Assessment: The team members were really hands-on experienced professionals. I appreciated that they double-checked everything, found every risk hidden very deep, noted down every detail. It was hard but I really enjoyed it because I learned a lot. I was really impressed when an expert had read very specific banking legislations for me then gave me a great brief about my plan. She even offered to get an appointment from their central bank to get more information.
Final: It was the best program that I’ve experienced.
2. Startup Denmark Visa
Benefits: EU member country, quality of life (ref2), stable economy, the 1st ease of doing business(ref1), provide visas, residency.
Application: Program had partial application processes when I experienced it was taking too much time. I’ve just seen that they improved their application web panel.
Assessments: I’m not sure how they evaluate because I did not get any notification for six months then I canceled my application. But it seems they’ve improved their process.
Final: I’m not sure that is the best option for my plan.
3. Startup Singapore Visa
Benefits: one of most developed countries, high quality of life (ref2), stable economy, expat-friendly, the 1st ease of doing business(ref1), provides visas, residency.
When I visited Singapore with my tropical island fan wife, we just realized that Singapore was provoking us with its beauty to move there. Pluss: It is at the center of all tropical paradises of the planet.
Singapore is one of the most peaceful and safest places we’ve ever been.
Application: The program is relatively complicated and has a long roadmap. After a typical online application and pre-approval, the entrepreneur must get an agreement with an incubator, founded by a VC or a business angel.
Assessments: I do not have enough experience. But I’ve registered to the Startup SG Network, an ecosystem, and met with tens of professionals and online events. It is on my desk.
Final: It is the best of the bests for a fintech startup. But it is relatively far and can be costly too for me.
4. Startup Portugal Visa
Benefits: EU member country, stable economy, residency.
Actually, they have a well-planned flow for handling applications. Also, Portugal is one of the best countries. But my application process has been just disappointing. I guess it is enough to say that they’ve never replied to any of my emails.
Application: The application is relatively simple but has not have enough guides. The lack of guides plus impossible communication makes the application really painful. The first step is the entrepreneur shares the application with the incubators. At least one of them must be interested before the next step.
Assessments: After getting the interest, the IAPMEI (governmental agency) starts the evaluation process. It was as hard as others, but the point is IAPMEI forces you to find a lot of unnecessary, unrelated documents.
In addition, they may reject even governmental/public documents without any reason that can smell bad enough to be the breaking point for investors/entrepreneurs.
Summary: I’m sure that Portugal is a wonderful country, with wonderful people. But could not sure that the program is a good idea. From an entrepreneur perspective: I could not invest in a country while I even haven’t succeeded to communicate. It is possible that the agency management may not aware of the value of the program for a country’s economy. I’ll think about it later.
I’ve chosen to share only the above four countries that met with my EU market plan. Singapore was not an exception for the EU due to they signed some international banking conventions with EU members. There are more and more startup visa programs from Australia to Chile, from Japan to the UK. Some of them like Canada or Ireland are more popular destinations as a result of being immigrant-friendly.
What is Next ?
I’m currently waiting for the end of the pandemic for starting my EU market plan. On the other hand, I’ve already initiated my US plan simultaneously. I’m changing the mother company’s structure to be more international compatibility. The US doesn’t have a startup visa program and actually, it is not necessary. It is really easy to start a business even without a residency permit. But that’s another post subject.
I’ll update you with new posts.