Some entrepreneurs would look at the anti-immigrant sentiment currently coming from American leaders and run the other way. The co-founders of Seattle-based Legalpad decided instead to jump right in, recently launching a startup to assist companies eager to secure U.S. work visas for employees.
“Legalpad recognizes that when a person can move to the place where they want to pursue their dreams, that person can unlock an enormous amount of human potential,” said 36-year-old CEO Todd Heine. “We are simplifying the work visa process for businesses to unlock human potential.”
Heine is an attorney with nearly nine years of experience advising businesses on cross-border employment, tax, immigration and corporate law. He also speaks five languages.
Legalpad is one of 10 startups selected to participate in this year’s 2018 Techstars Seattle, an accelerator program. Its other co-founders are Brandon Bloom, chief technology officer, and Sara Itucas, director of product and operations. The company has two additional employees.
It’s similar to another Seattle startup, Boundless, which helps people navigate the U.S. immigration process.
This is Bloom’s second startup to be selected for Techstars. In 2010 he co-founded Thinkfuse, one of the original startups to move through the Techstars Seattle program. The company, which provided business collaboration tools, was acquired by Salesforce.com two years later.
We caught up with Heine for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Legalpad makes the work visa process more efficient by helping businesses collect, compile and submit work visa applications.”
Inspiration hit us when: “Inspiration hit when I saw that the work visa process exhibits all the three indicators of an institution that is ripe for drastic change. First — immigrants, businesses, lawyers and the government are all very unhappy with the current work visa process. Second — the industry’s technology is decades behind. And third — stakeholders feel relatively powerless. Throw in a massive market size, and we had ourselves a business!”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We’re currently talking to VCs and angels to raise funding so that we can start solving this problem in a meaningful way, right away.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “We’re unique in the space for a few reasons. One strength is that our team understands the problem intimately, based on years of experience working on the front lines of the industry. Another strength, which is nuanced, is that we fundamentally think about the solution as something that brings all stakeholders together on a process that delivers universally beneficial outcomes. Overall we’re different because we care deeply about the the people we serve, and because our team and our team’s families have immigrated, run businesses, been lawyers and worked for the government, so we bring a holistic and empathic perspective to serve everyone involved in the work visa process.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “We’ve started by delivering our initial product to businesses through a core group of visionary lawyers. As the layer between businesses and government in the work visa process, lawyers are the ideal early partner to build an efficient and thoughtful solution for all stakeholders.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “I wish we would have launched two years ago!”
Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “None. I’d want Richard Susskind, a leading authority on technology and law.”
Our favorite team-building activity is: “We’re obsessed with this solution, so we bond most by respecting and leveraging our respective areas of expertise to solve this really hard problem.”
The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “Our work impacts lives, businesses, careers and our nation’s strength and security, so we place a high value on thoughtfulness and empathy when hiring.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Launch!”
Editor’s note: GeekWire is featuring each of the ten startups in Techstars Seattle leading up to their Demo Day on April 18. Techstars is a worldwide network that offers 40 mentorship-driven accelerator programs around the globe.