Global EIR Supports Launch of International High-growth Startups in Southeast Michigan


April 4, 2019

Contact: Kristin Palm

Cell: 313-618-2651


Global EIR supports launch of international high-growth startups in Southeast Michigan

Global Detroit-UM partnership connects entrepreneurs with visa pathway 

Global Detroit and the University of Michigan’s Economic Growth Institute (EGI) are partnering on a new program to help immigrant and international student entrepreneurs launch high-growth startups in Southeast Michigan. Global Entrepreneur-in-Residence places foreign-born startup founders at universities to teach and mentor. The founders, in turn, become eligible for an H-1B visa, enabling them to launch and grow their company in metro Detroit. 

The H-1B visa is available to foreign-born “specialty workers” in specific, largely high-tech fields and must be sponsored by an employer. The number of visas awarded to companies in a given year is subject to a cap. Since the cap was decreased to 65,000 visas annually in 2003, the demand for H-1B visas has far outpaced supply. Given the difficulties in obtaining the visa, the U.S. is losing international talent when, for instance, an international student with a promising startup may be unable to stay in the U.S. to develop their business upon graduation. 

Because the cap does not apply to universities, Global EIR provides participants with a clear visa pathway. Global Detroit, a regional economic development organization, recruits and vets applicants to the program, followed by a screening and assessment process with the Economic Growth Institute. Selected entrepreneurs are then affiliated with EGI, making them eligible for H-1B visas. While at EGI, the Global EIRs serve as mentors or instructors while working toward the successful launch of their own enterprises.

“Obtaining a visa is one of the most critical pieces of support we can provide to our foreign-born innovators,” said Millie Chu, Global Detroit’s Director of Startups and STEM Talent. “It’s imperative that we provide Michigan’s international student entrepreneurs and immigrant startup founders with a pathway to launch and grow their companies here.”

International entrepreneurs play an integral role in the U.S. economy. Over the last 25 years, immigrants have helped launch one-quarter of all the high-tech startups in the U.S. Of 87 startups in the U.S. that have grown to valuations over $1 billion, more than half were launched by immigrants. And almost half of those immigrant founders first came to the U.S. as international students. 

“Global EIR is an important component of a regional strategy for bolstering our economy by creating jobs, reducing the so-called ‘brain drain’ and narrowing the advanced-skills talent gap,” said Steve Tobocman, Global Detroit’s executive director.

Global EIR was founded in Massachusetts, with programs at Babson College and the University of Massachusetts. Fourteen colleges and universities across the U.S now offer a Global EIR program. An analysis of Global EIR’s flagship program in Massachusetts, conducted soon after the program launched in 2014, estimated the program had the potential to create nearly 9,000 new jobs.

“Global entrepreneurs are a great fit for the university’s entrepreneurship programs. While participating in and learning from the local entrepreneurial community, the entrepreneurs also provide a rare combination of technical and business expertise to help successfully launch university-based and regional technology startups” said Vikesh Chandrashekar, project manager for EGI.

The Southeast Michigan Global EIR program is launching with support from the William Davidson Foundation. For more information on the program, visit


Global Detroit is a regional economic development organization that develops and implements immigrant-inclusive policies, practices and programs to drive the revitalization of Detroit and the sustained prosperity of Southeast Michigan. 

The University of Michigan’s Economic Growth Institute has provided innovative economic development programming and applied research for more than 35 years.  Through this work, EGI builds more resilient businesses and communities, connects university innovations with small and medium-sized enterprises, and provides student learning experiences for the next generation of community and business leaders.

Global EIR partners with communities around the U.S. to generate economic growth and create innovation economy jobs by solving the startup visa problem.