This June, MWR Legal has been pleased to partner with FWD.us and Welcome.us to recognize Immigrant Heritage Month, an occasion that allows us to celebrate our country’s origins as a nation of immigrants. Part of this celebration of our diversity involves sharing stories of those our country has welcomed and who have contributed to our rich heritage. Today, we share the story of Samy Fodil, an established tech entrepreneur in his home country of Algeria, and CEO of Sage Hero, Inc., a San Antonio-based startup, who is seeking to tap into the virtual teacher market.
Before arriving in the United States, Samy was a successful tech entrepreneur in Algeria. His company, INODE, provides Linux operating system support to businesses and organizations developing information technology projects, from conception and design to deployment, training and support. INODE’s customers have included the Algerian Ministry of Justice, Bank of Algeria, and Algerian Gulf Bank. In 2012, INODE was recognized as the most innovative startup in Algeria.
Samy first visited the United States in 2013, where he attended Scale 11x, an event dedicated to Linux and open source technologies, in Los Angeles, California. During this visit, Samy met many foreign entrepreneurs that had experienced success in the U.S.; this began to provide inspiration to Samy about forming a new business in this country. He recognized that, despite some of the challenges that the U.S. immigration system may present in starting a new enterprise here, the United States also provided a unique and dynamic ecosystem where a new company could potentially thrive.
Samy later returned to Austin as a speaker at the Linux Texas Festival. There he met the founder of TrueAbility, an alumnus of the TechStars program, who informed him about an amazing co-working space in San Antonio, Texas, called Geekdom that would be a perfect place for Samy to start his new business.
In late 2014, Samy took this advice to heart, applied for and received an L-1A intracompany manager transferee visa, and moved to San Antonio. He set up an office at Geekdom, which provided him with access to mentorship and resources. His business began to develop, and in November 2015, his company Sage Hero, Inc., was accepted into the selective TechStars Cloud program.
Sage Hero has developed an innovative approach to software training by providing a unique online platform where training is 100 percent hands-on and where the user is guided in real-time by an advanced artificial intelligence called the “Virtual Trainer.” Sage Hero also empowers training and team managers by providing detailed analytics.
Samy’s L-1A visa was only temporary; therefore, he needed to seek an alternative that would allow him to remain and continue building his company in the United States. Based in part on the success of being accepted by TechStars--which is often touted as the premier tech accelerator in the world--Samy applied for the EB-1A, “Extraordinary Ability Visa,” that was approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in February 2016.
Samy’s journey to the United States was not without its challenges as he tried work within the existing immigration framework, and at times this required him to be out of the country and away from his growing business during crucial times. Based on his experience, Samy believes that the National Visa Center should offer expedited processing of approved visa petitions, and that the consulates abroad should provide for priority or expedited appointments for First Priority (EB-1A) immigrants to address these issues. He advises entrepreneurs desiring to move the United States to consider San Antonio as a rising community in the tech industry, but to bear in mind that the immigration processes involved in starting a business in the U.S. can be slow and may take many months.
Samy’s story illustrates the type of talented, dedicated and inventive individuals that this country has always attracted and welcomed, and whose talent and skills continue to enrich our country. For these reasons, it is in our common interest to continue to welcome individuals who will contribute to our diversity of origins, and to provide pathways for foreign entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams of building companies in the United States while strengthening America in the process.