The Trump violence in the U.S. Capitol on 6 January showed us one thing: It’s not going to be “business as usual” in the United States for a long, long time. That’s a big problem for the American tech companies – for all American companies – going forward as the only constant in business is the need for exceptional talent. So, this is yet another moment of opportunity for Europe, because not a lot of highly skilled internationals are willing to live in an unstable country where everyone is armed.
America is rapidly deteriorating into warring camps, and many of the most violent Trump supporters such as QAnon, Proud Boys and The Base are heavily armed and fomenting violence. Yes, there are far-right groups in Europe, but there is simply no analog here because the American groups are driven by the Trump cult of personality.
I suppose we owe Trump a debt of gratitude for exposing this ugly reactionary underbelly of American politics. But these people represent a significant minority, so this is a dynamic the incoming Biden administration is going to be dealing with for years. And it’s not clear the president-elect will be successful.
The European Union, and indeed all countries in Europe, including Switzerland and other non-EU countries, would be well advised to seize the moment and create new unilateral talent visas aimed specifically at Americans, targeting those with the most in-demand skills.
While European universities from Spain to Poland produce exceptional talent, they just don’t produce sufficient numbers to fuel the various efforts to hold off the Americans and Chinese in strategic emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing.
Countries such as the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and France need to take their shows on the road and get in front of talent with pop-up presentations to international students at major American universities and anywhere really smart people gather. I’ve been advocating this since 2017 but at that time, we hadn’t seen this ultimate manifestation of Trumpism.
I predict when we look back five years from now, 6 January 2021 will have been a inflection point, as we say in the startup world. As a Dutch friend texted me last night, America is now a Banana Republic. Businesses have always flourished in – and entrepreneurs have always been willing to invest in – the U.S. because it was a stable, dynamic and predictable business environment with rule of law. There was no Vladimir Putin or Mohammed bin Salman waiting to seize your business once it got “too successful.” There were no mobs trashing government buildings, threatening violence.
For decades, there was an open door to the world’s talents, many of whom now lead America’s most successful multinationals including IBM and Microsoft.
As I noted three years ago, immigrants from around the world have fueled the U.S. tech boom since 1957 when Andy Grove arrived in New York City as a refugee from the Nazis and Soviets. Under Trump, the U.S. shut down its HI-B visa program for highly skilled internationals and drastically cut the number of foreign students allowed to study at American universities.
Under President Biden, the door to immigrant talent likely will open again. But how many of the best and the brightest will still be willing to enter if the Trump violence in America persists … and a safe and stable Europe beckons?
About the author:
Terry Boyd is co-founder of Dispatches Media, based in Eindhoven, Netherlands. Boyd has been a military reporter, business reporter and an entrepreneur, selling Insider Louisville, a pure-play digital news platform, in 2010.
Boyd & Family are long-time expats and have lived in Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.