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America’s immigration policies are hurting startups, Stripe CEO Patrick Collison says

Collison says the U.S. has all but destroyed the conditions that led to a flurry of innovation in Silicon Valley.

 Stripe CEO Patrick Collison
Stripe CEO Patrick Collison
Asa Mathat

How America welcomes — or doesn’t — outsiders who want to work for American companies is “an even bigger deal than we think,” Stripe CEO Patrick Collison says.

Speaking on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, he declaimed against the “needless barriers in the way” of the U.S. remaining a destination for immigrants. Collison and his brother/co-founder John were born in Ireland, but founded Stripe, an online payments platform now valued at more than $9 billion, while they were students at MIT and Harvard, respectively.

“The insane, crazy benefit — the tailwind that the U.S. has, for decades and decades, gained from — is the fact that we are the preeminent destination for high-potential people all around the world,” Collison said. “It’s at multiple stages in their careers: The universities are the best in the world, so people want to study here and come here for that, and then the companies are among the most innovative companies in the world, and they want to hire the best people in the world.”

“Broadly speaking, the U.S. has not quite done its best to undermine that, but all but,” he added. “To the extent that universities can help students come here, or that companies can enable the best and brightest to move here, it is ‘despite’ rather than ‘because of’ U.S. immigration policy.”

You can listen to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Spotify (mobile only), TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud.

On the new podcast, Collison also criticized land and housing policies in the San Francisco Bay Area that have made it harder for people to live and work in the heart of America’s tech scene.

“Here in Silicon Valley, it’s almost like there was a devious spy who got here 30 or 40 years ago and was charged with the mission, ‘There’s too much innovation happening in Silicon Valley and San Francisco, how do you undermine it?’” Collison said.

He said most people forget that zoning laws are a product of the second half of the 20th century, and that before then, the cost of new housing was roughly equivalent to the cost of construction.

“This is not how American cities have worked for the vast majority of their history,” Collison said. “When you look back at American history, in the periods of growth in Chicago in the early 20th century and so on, they did not see the housing price increases that we are seeing in the Bay Area today. We are doing something historically unprecedented, deliberately doing our best to asphyxiate this growth.”

“I think it has a kind of symmetry to the immigration stuff,” he added. “Immigration policy prevents foreigners from coming here. And housing policy prevents Americans from coming here. We’re doing everything we can to make sure the spoils and the gains accrue to the existing landowners.”

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