International tech firms from around the world including from US will descend upon Hong Kong this week for three days of intensive pitching and networking at the RISE technology summit. Business cards will be exchanged, WeChat QR codes scanned, hashtags thrown around, some funds raised and maybe a few fortunes made.
One of the most prominent tech conferences in Asia, this year the number of RISE attendees from America have doubled, say conference organizers. Tech titans like Uber, Google, Airbus, Stripe will take to the stage. US firms are aware of the market potential in Asia through their Chinese challengers known as BAT: Baidu; Alibaba, and Tencent. At the same time, US firms are also looking to diversify their business operations because of the uncertainties back home.
Internet domain registrar and hosting company GoDaddy is one firm planning to make a splash at RISE this year. The U.S. web service launched in 11 countries in the region last year and their Asian customer base has grown 20% year-on-year. CEO Blake Irving credits much of its rapid adoption in Asia to the number of computer engineers educated at U.S. institutions. “The reason was mind boggling to me. Our visa policy in the United States ends up sending many students home after undergrad or graduate school — and they bring GoDaddy (back) with them.”
Trading information about GoDaddy Inc. displaying on a monitor on the floor of the New York Stock… [+]
While these repatriated students have helped his business, Irving is very outspoken about the damage done by US immigration reform. GoDaddy, like many American tech companies relies on foreign talent. In 2016, his company applied for 36 H-1B visas – which allow U.S; employers to hire foreign nationals for a limited period — but only half were approved.
According to a post on the White House Blog during the Obama administration; the U.S. has over half a million unfilled jobs in information technology across all sectors of the economy . Irving is an advocate of raising the cap. Last year the Department of Labor issued about a third of H-1B visas requested. 75% of those selected were through a lottery system. He specifically points to roles that require PhDs in mathematics, physics, and computer science. “We don’t have enough of those to fill our top jobs,” he said.