Xiao Wang (center), CEO of Boundless Immigration, co-founder Serday Sutay (center right) and colleagues want to build a software hub for the immigration process.
Immigration without borders
When the parents of Boundless Immigration CEO Xiao Wang immigrated to the United States from their native Nanjing, China, Xiao had to be left with relatives. At the age of three, he joined his parents, both of whom had graduated from Arizona State University. At the time of reunification, the family had paid about five months’ rent for attorneys and then put much of their savings into the hands of a fixer to guide them through the high-stakes naturalization process.
“All my life, I’ve taken it for granted that immigration should be difficult,” says Wang. “It becomes almost like a competition among other immigrants who have had the most ridiculous experience … that’s just what we saw as a rite of passage to get to America.”
Now Wang is the co-founder of Boundless, a Seattle-based startup, and wants to help others on a large scale. The basic requirement: software may eat the world, but not so much in immigration, where the wafer-thin error rate and the lack of transparency mean that millions are still dependent on references to “offices lined with mahogany and people in suits and ties”. ”
Boundless Immigration was founded in 2017 by Wang, Doug Rand, and Serdar Sutay and, according to their own information, has helped 70,000 clients with their visa and citizenship applications to date. (All but 10,000 come through Boundless, RapidVisa, a company acquired in September; Wang says the two also brought 10,000 people together in the past 12 months.)
The company also has significant venture capital support, with Boundless announcing that it has raised $ 25 million in a Series B funding round led by the Foundry Group. Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective and Yahoo Yaysaire Jerry Yang’s AME Cloud Ventures join Forefront Ventures with existing investors. Industry Ventures, Pioneer Square Labs, Trilogy Equity Partners, and Two Sigma Ventures.
“I’m not interested in building a company that will help a handful of people,” says Wang, who hopes to grow Boundless’ number of customers by a factor of ten over the next few years and use the funds to increase its workforce by 130 to triple to 130 near 400.
Boundless offers a flat-rate service that digitizes the hundreds of papers involved in an immigration application – now focusing on marital green cards and other citizenship inquiries – and then associates applicants with a licensed immigration attorney who is partnered with Boundless . Nowadays the service only covers applications in the United States. However, Boundless aims to add more countries and support more languages over time. Applications completed via Boundless have an approval rating north of 99.7%, according to Wang.
Wang graduated from Stanford University with BA and Masters degrees in 2014 and from Harvard Business School. During his time, he worked at McKinsey, the New York Department of Education, in private equity and most recently at Amazon, where he was Senior Product Manager in Seattle for more than two years. Where he worked nights and weekends interviewing “hundreds” of families, officials and lawyers, Wang was inspired to start Boundless.
For co-founders, he turned to Rand, now a senior fellow with the Federation of American Scientists, who served in the White House under the Obama administration as assistant director of entrepreneurship. He was President of Boundless until 2019 and is now an advisor to the company. Turkey-born Sutay, CTO of Boundless, previously headed engineers at Startup Chef for almost five years and was previously an engineer at Microsoft.
The Trump administration was not easy for Boundless, as implementing regulations restricted visas from certain countries and during the pandemic the issuance of new green cards was suspended at all. Boundless spent some of those years sharing research and advocacy work to demonstrate the economic and moral case for legal immigration. The startup estimated that Trump’s guidelines were causing a backlog of more than 350,000 green card applications.
And while the startup now faces friendlier administration of immigration policy under President Joe Biden, its biggest challenge remains convincing people to trust technology as the answer to a problem affecting generations of immigrants, Wang says. Boundless is also a for-profit company, which means that it wants to make lots of money with all of its efforts. But Wang says that for-profit status was the only way to quickly build a large company in the field and attract millions of investors looking for a return on investment. Boundless can then partner with nonprofits, he adds.
In 2018, the founders of Boundless helped organize an open letter to a number of private sector executives, including the founders of Postmates Shutterstock and Warby Parker, speaking out against a “public indictment” aimed at blocking immigrants, one of which is the government noted that they may need public support after entering the US The rule, which added complexity to the applications, was “very good for us as a company,” says Wang. Still vocal in its opposition, the startup organized and paid for an amicus letter signed by technology leaders like Reddit, Twitter, and Microsoft (separate from GitHub and LinkedIn, which had also signed).
“It was just really bad policy for America,” he says. “These difficult moments actually lead to questions like,” Hey, what do you stand for as a company? “
Wang’s ambitions for Boundless are oversized to match the startup’s name. Recently a father himself, he hopes the company can serve as a long-term partner for client families, not only guiding them through various stages of immigration over the years, but also connecting them as a hub with services and other immigrants for their ‘life journey the immigrant”.
The startup faces many rivals in this goal – not to mention the political forces it cannot control. Wang is not deterred by the opportunities. “We want to be the only destination for all immigrants around the world,” he says.