Jim Chung (r), GW associate vice president for research, innovation and entrepreneurship, addresses the gathering at the announcement. (Source: Lily Speredelozzi/GW Today)
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This D.C. Program Attracts Foreign Entrepreneurs, Startups and Offers H1-B visa Sponsorship

George Washington University (GW) and The Penn West Global Build Fellowship offer H1-B visas for participants and micro-internships for GW students.

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International companies, startups, and entrepreneurs can now benefit from D.C’s Global Soft Landing Initiative meant to equip and establish them in the Penn West Equity and Innovation District, Washington  D.C. 

Launched 18 April 2024, the area of focus – which is west of the White House – is a good place for any business to gain global influence with the State Department, the World Bank, the main GW campus, and other international financial institutions all within walking distance of one another. 

The initiative capitalizes on Washington D.C.’s unique advantages. Leona Agouridis, President of the Golden Triangle BID, emphasized the area’s strategic location. “Where else in the country can you find the White House, the World Bank, IMF, IFC, EU, State Department, and a major R1 university within two blocks of each other?”

The opportunity is a collaborative effort between various city organizations, including the Washington DC Economic Partnership (WDCEP), the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED), the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District, and key academic and business partners: The George Washington University (GW) and The Penn West Global Build Fellowship by Open Avenues.

“When entrepreneurs think about where to locate and launch their businesses, they want to be part of a community that is well-resourced, supportive, and easy to navigate,” said Nina Albert, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, during the launch event at Studio by Tishman Speyer.

Startups and entrepreneurs can benefit from two separate tracks: The Penn West Global Soft Landing Program which provides international companies with discounted real estate solutions in the Penn West Equity and Innovation District; and the GW x Penn West Global Build Fellowship, which offers the competitive H1-B visa sponsorship visa solution that will allow U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in speciality occupations. 

Jim Chung, associate vice president for research, innovation and entrepreneurship at GW, expressed enthusiasm”The Global Soft Landing Program is a dream I’ve been working on for several years.” 

He also highlighted the efforts of the GW Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIE) in supporting the participant’s business journey in D.C.  “We provide long-term, milestone-based support for startups entering the D.C. market through an advisory board that will provide industry and subject matter expertise to the startups that are participating in this hub here as well as training programs around customer discovery and understanding what you need to do to be successful in the United States when you are coming from overseas.” 

Jasjit Singh, executive director of SelectUSA, noted the unprecedented interest in U.S. investment, citing recent legislation like the Chips and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. “For the 12th consecutive year, the Kearney Report announced the United States is the number one place to invest,” Singh added.

Washington, D.C.’s commitment to innovation is evident. The city was recently ranked as the #1 most innovative jurisdiction in the United States for 2024 by WalletHub. Furthermore, GW’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship has a track record of success, having helped launch over 350 startups that have raised more than $1.8 billion and created over 2,500 jobs.

As the Global Soft Landing Initiative takes off, it promises to further solidify Washington, D.C.’s position as a hub for international business and innovation. Audrey Polk, Vice President of Corporate Attraction for WDCEP, said, “We want the message to be loud and clear to the international community that Washington, DC is open for business and we are ready to support global companies expanding to the U.S. market.”

For more information about the Washington, D.C. Global Soft Landing initiative and how to apply, interested parties can visit https://wdcep.com/dc-global-soft-landing/.

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