Hi everyone! I’m Spiffy, your favorite interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs making a difference in work and economy. Today I’m going to learn about the challenges immigrant entrepreneurs in the U.S. face, and how Unshackled Ventures is making the task less arduous. Join me as I welcome Manan Mehta, founding partner of Unshackled Ventures.
Spiffy: Hey Manan! Thanks for joining me! I’m super curious to know what challenge you’re addressing.
Manan: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Our goal at Unshackled Ventures is to help teams with immigrant entrepreneurs start businesses and build faster. By providing capital, full immigration support, and a large community of resources and access, our goal is to help day-1 immigrant entrepreneurs pursue their full American dream.
Spiffy: What motivated you to focus on immigrant entrepreneurs?
Manan: When I attempted to start my first business, my co-founder was in the U.S. on an H1-B visa. Little did I know, he was unable to leave his full-time job (also his visa sponsor) unless we were able to sponsor his visa at our company. In order to do that we had to raise capital, create the right corporate structure to make it work with immigration, and convince investors to take a bet on a team with a part-time co-founder. This proved to be quite cumbersome and opened my eyes to the reality of a systemic issue. Rather than continuing to complain about the problem, I teamed up with Nitin Pachisia to launch Unshackled — the very solution to the problem I was facing as a native-born American.
Spiffy: Personal experience is a great teacher! How are you working towards a more equitable world?
Manan: Well, Spiffy, as the son of immigrants growing up, I only knew of the American dream. It never seemed like something that was reserved for the most connected or most wealthy. What I have witnessed over the past two decades, unfortunately, has been a steady decline in opportunity, especially for non-connected immigrants. This is not how we build a society where all boats rise. Since starting Unshackled in 2015, we have invested in over 50 companies (nearly 100 immigrant entrepreneurs), completed over 140 immigration filings, and helped founders on 11 different visa types start their businesses in the U.S.
Spiffy: Wow, that’s incredible! Can you tell me about a recent milestone and what kind of impact it could have?
Manan: We are proud to share that our team made our first investment in a DACA status founder in 2020. This is a direct reflection of the strength of our strategy, team, and reach into the immigrant entrepreneur community. This singular investment opens the door to having many more immigrants in our communities create more American jobs.
Spiffy: Can you share about a time when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from failure?
Manan: Every day has a failure, Spiffy! Or conversely said, every day has an opportunity. As an entrepreneur myself, I am convinced that my life is about continuing to solve problems that I, or someone around me, have failed at. The very premise of Unshackled stems out of a situation of failure that translated into opportunity. This is what it's all about — fail fast, fail up, and in the process, you learn not just about the situation, but more about yourself, including what your breaking point is.
Spiffy: I have one last question for you, Manan. What is something you've unexpectedly learned from someone recently?
Manan: My 4-month-old daughter teaches me something every day. Most recently it was about the joy of living in the moment versus worrying about the past or present. Whether it's because she is unable to remember the past or predict the future, her ability to go from sad to happy reflects just how much the current moment matters. This is something I am trying to teach myself more and more.
Spiffy: Best of luck to you, Manan. And thank you for sharing your story; it’s been an honor.
Manan Mehta is a founding partner of Unshackled Ventures, a fund for immigrant-founded companies. Prior to Unshackled Ventures, Manan ran marketing for the ed-tech startup Kno (acquired by Intel in 2013) that raised over $90 million of funding from top Venture Capitals, including a16z and First Round Capital. Before Kno, Manan was an investment banker with $3 billion in transactions, including the $1.9 billion acquisition of Skype. Manan is a first-generation American and received a double major at UCLA.