How can early-stage startups compete for talent? –


Sophie Alcorn is the founder of Alcorn Immigration Law in Silicon Valley and 2019 Global Law Experts Awards’ “Law Firm of the Year in California for Entrepreneur Immigration Services.” She connects people with the businesses and opportunities that expand their lives.

More posts by this contributor

Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

TechCrunch+ members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.

Dear Sophie,

As a first-time, early-stage startup founder, I find it difficult to compete against other startups on compensation.

We’ve had some interest from individuals who need visas or are demanding green cards, but paying the government and legal fees would be a stretch for us.

Any advice for reducing the cost of recruiting from abroad?

— Fledgling Founder

Dear Fledgling,

Thanks for your question. In a recent podcast episode, I chatted with Jen Holmstrom, an associate partner at GGV Capital who leads talent and recruiting support for startups in the GGV portfolio. We talked about fallout from a paradigm shift happening right now with respect to work and the unprecedented talent crunch, and how that is affecting sourcing, attracting, hiring, retaining, and developing employees.

Ms. Holmstrom offered her take on recruiting, which may be helpful for you to consider: Look beyond compensation when recruiting. “Companies are more effective at attracting and retaining talent by focusing on creating a work environment where people want to work, where people can grow, develop, and do the things they truly love to do rather than focusing on compensation alone.”

She emphasized that startup founders need to be prescriptive and intentional, paying attention to their company culture and each employee’s journey. That’s not easy, especially in today’s world of remote work teams. With clarity on vision and values, a startup can help candidates make the changes they want to see in the world through their job.

In addition to creating a great company culture where employees can do the work they love, here are a few more tips to help you with hiring from abroad:

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

Saving money

Although your startup’s runway may not be as long as you’d like it to be right now, think about talking with an immigration attorney. An experienced immigration attorney can help you devise a strategy for recruiting international talent to meet your growth plans while staying within your budget.

While most business immigration attorneys charge flat fees for their services, those fees can vary significantly, so look around. For instance, government and legal fees for filing an H-1B can range anywhere from $5,000 to $30,000, according to the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP).

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