Category: Creative Economy By : Fina Desviyanita and Ardian Wibisono Read : 886 Date : Friday, February 13, 2015 - 18:55:21

    Ahmad Zamroni / Forbes Indonesia

    James Richards, now 27, was the youngest ever graduate of Columbia Law School and passed the New York Bar, one of the toughest bar exams in the U.S., while still 20. He then worked at Davis Polk & Wardwell, one of New York’s top law firms. Despite having a good job, he left it all to start his own firm Teleborder last year with his co-founder, Michael Smith, a Belgian citizen.

    Based in San Francisco, Teleborder creates a service for U.S. companies, which wants to hire a non-U.S. citizen without the hassle of the long process of managing visas, work papers and other documents. James’s startup immediately attracted two leading U.S.-based venture capital firms, Y Combinator—which funded names like Dropbox, AirBnB, and Scribd—and Khosla Ventures, which invested $3 million in the company. For his track record, James was recently recognized as a member of the 2014 Forbes 30 Under 30 list.

    As a long-time expatriate, James has firsthand experience doing the visa dance. “I want to solve the problem that I personally had. So we started by just trying to come up with better ways for people to manage visas,” says James. According to James, the market for immigration services in the U.S. is quite large—about $35 billion for U.S. visas alone. Teleborder is trying to get a piece of the cake by offering a cheaper and more efficient service to manage visas compared to competitors likes INSzoom and LawLogix. “The theory goes that if we make it easy to hire foreign people, in any country, than more companies can do it. The difficult phase is not in the legal stuff but it is the project management. If we can make the project management easy, then hiring a non-U.S. citizen will be the same as hiring a U.S. citizen,” James says.

    Nevertheless, Teleborder is not really focused on the competition. The focus of Teleborder is on immigration problems and making customers happy. “So, it is bottom up instead of top down, the way we approach the market,” he says. So far, Teleborder has handled about 55 companies representing over 210 expatriate employees. Its first proper customers were small startup companies hiring their first non-U.S. citizens. However, in July 2014, Teleborder got a deal with Jawbone, a 600-person company in San Francisco that makes wearable devices. Another prominent big customer is Twitch, a company acquired by Amazon. For now, most of Teleborder’s customers are companies who comprise around 30 to 40 employees.

    Teleborder applies a per-transaction price for every service, delivered by the network provider. “We collect cash from our customers and we pay the provider and we keep the data,” says James. The price for every service depends on the type of visa. Teleborder will charge $2,000 for visa that is relatively very easy, such as a visa for Canada. On the other hand, if the visa is from a high-risk country, needing many different transactions, it could cost $5,000 to $10,000. The net margin to Teleborder is a thick 50%. Teleborder has already passed a million dollars run rate on a booking basis, and nearly a million on a billing basis. Teleborder grew its booking by 33% every month over the last three months, grew 10 times in 2014 and is looking to grow more than 10 times this year.