Tech and immigration: ‘PJ’ stays for now, but Echo Labs’ fate up in the air

You might have heard about the campaign to “Let PJ Stay.” Well, PJ — a Belgian entrepreneur whose student visa was set to expire soon and who had recently become the face of tech’s push for immigration reform — gets to stay. But he and his company may have to leave the U.S. anyway.

Pierre-Jean “PJ” Cobut, co-founder of Silicon Valley health-wearables startup Echo Labs, received an H-1B visa a couple of weeks ago. But co-founder Elad Ferber, who’s from Israel, is facing a June 30 expiration date of his student-visa extension. Cobut won’t go on without Ferber, a former head of engineering at an Israeli space startup that Cobut calls “one of the most talented technologists I have ever met.” So the two Stanford MBAs may be forced to pack up their 2-year-old company and leave the country.

They would be leaving an employee behind. And the five jobs they had planned to fill in the next several months would go elsewhere — perhaps Canada, Cobut told me this week. (I also was among his interviewers last week on the TV show Press:Here. See video below.)

“We are looking mostly for PhDs with 5 to 10 years of experience in research, mostly in math, physics, or engineering,” Cobut told me by email. “These are people that are hard to come by, even in Silicon Valley… so I get nervous thinking about hiring people with the same level outside of the valley.”

Silicon Valley has pushed hard for immigration reform, including for raising the cap on H-1B visas — this year, there was a record 233,000 applications for 85,000 slots — because companies say they need more qualified workers. It’s a controversial issue: Not everyone agrees there is a tech-skills shortage in the United States; companies are being criticized for bringing foreign workers in so they can pay them less than American workers; the program has been called a gateway to offshoring jobs.

Cobut has his own company but secured an H-1B visa because technically, the board could’ve fired him. There is no visa specifically for entrepreneurs, but not for lack of trying. The Startup Act, which among other things would create a visa for foreign-born entrepreneurs, was introduced in January by Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia — for the fourth time. In the House, Rep. Robert Dold, R-Illinois, introduced in February a similarly named bill that would grant permanent residential status to foreign-born students who earn advanced degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering or mathematics) and keep working in the field.

For now, though, the fate of Echo Labs — which is building a health wearable that measures blood composition as opposed to just counting steps — is unknown.

“This technology opens up a whole new field of medicine – continuous monitoring,” Cobut says.

Cobut’s passion for his company seems matched by his love of Silicon Valley: “We know it’s the best place in the world to build our company. We have established a great network of entrepreneurs, investors and business partners. We know we wouldn’t have the same chances of success elsewhere.”

Photo at top courtesy of PJ Cobut


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  • Judee Wudruff

    This PJ guy could do what he does anywhere in the world. Let him go back home and make $$ there. His friends are using him as a poster boy for the H1B visa system which is and has categorically stunted American jobs, wages and employee development. H1B is madness. There are many talented individuals in this country. All they want is a decent wage and to be treated with respect and dignity.

  • StopTheLies

    What a load of crap. Sixty percent of all H-1B visas go to off-shore outsourcers even as 50% of this nation’s STEM graduates cannot find technical work and hundreds of thousands of laid-off professionals remain unemployed.

    And this story is a LIE. The H-1B visa controlled by an EMPLOYER. And as these two are founders (as so described), they are NOT ELIGIBLE for this visa. Tech corporations have already over $2B on “lobbying” and propaganda to sell their falsehoods.

    Meanwhile there is not a shred of evidence supporting their falsehoods and their skilled labor “shortage” has been widely disproven by multiple independent and government studies.

    Make no mistake — this is about CHEAP LABOR, corporate profits and GREED.

    • Allthatidontknowisalie

      YO have no Idea about US immigration system. You only believe in white only chain famiy migration. period.

      • Jobs4 Us

        You have little respect for Americans

      • Glob Design

        White people built the modern world and America.

        Where were India and China when Americans were inventing all the good things the whole world now enjoys.

        India and China owe the world some new industries for Americans to enjoy if they want to be respected as real countries equivalent to USA.

      • Glob Design

        Why aren’t white Americans allowed to go take jobs in China, India, Mexico, or Russia? Can’t have it both ways job robber. You want to come here and rob us, you have to let us in to your countries to take jobs also.

        Just see how many white American techies are allowed to immigrate to India to take jobs.

      • Glob Design

        Crowdfire only hires Indians! They can come to your country to work and take jobs,

        but you can’t go work there. How’sTHAT for racism and intolerance?



      • Glob Design

        You only want to “migrate” here and take over what we built after we did all the hard work of creating everything for you. How about you do the hard work of creating something in your own country and then letting us “migrate” there and take it over and kick you out?

    • Jim M

      Even the CEO can be fired by the company so technically the CEO is an employee hence the H-1B qualification.

      Also they only applied H-1B because they simply have no other option. That is the stupid part of the system. This guy has a Stanford MBA yet he is not allowed to stay even as he already secured venture capital for his company.

      All right.

      So we are not interested in these guys? Who start businesses (despite of their chance of success)?

      So your idea is to kick him (and others like him) out of the country? Are you serious?

      • Glob Design

        If you have no other option then leave the country. H-1B is a TEMPORARY measure for TEMPORARY workers when Americans can’t be found. 90 million Americans are out of work. Fix your own countries instead of robbing others you loser.

        • Jim M

          So a dude comes to the US, does an MBA/PhD, creates a company and your suggestion is to kick him out? How is he “stealing jobs” when he is the founder of his own company? Any country needs people like that, you are letting your emotions affect your judgment

  • ellafino

    Does it really matter if he leaves or stays, his company is probably going to be bought up by a mega-corporation anyway.

    • Glob Design

      Yes it matters. If he stays he and all his buddies will siphon our capital via remittances when they send their paychecks home instead of spending it here.

  • Jobs4 Us

    The United States is a country of laws, and no one is above the law. Break the law, face the consequences. Pretty simple justice for all.

    • Glob Design

      India is above the law, so is China, so is Israel due to the Israeli lobby and NASSCOM buying influence in DC.

  • Sankalp

    No-one is addressing the real problem here. The confusion about H1Bs is because we have the same visa for:
    1) Employees with advanced degrees (mostly earned in the US)
    2) Foreign employees with bachelors degree and seeking employment in US.

    The more sensible thing to do would be to have separate VISA categories for above two. Category 1) candidates being denied work VISAs is non-sense. When we have spent so much money educating them (it exceeds tuition and fees earned), it’s a gross waste to just let them go.

    • Jobs4 Us

      It is a gross waste for companies to exploit loopholes in H1b visa law that allow companies to bypass highly skilled American talent and replace American citizens and legal permanent residents in their jobs.

      • Sankalp

        I’m talking about removing those loopholes to begin with.

        Major beef tech companies have is them being unable to pick students from US schools owing to visa issues. Why do students from the same school be required to be hired differently, esp after schools have spent that much money educating them?

        Once foreign candidates with a degree from US university are put in a separate bucket, companies will have no point to speak against H1B visa cap.

        • Glob Design

          There are no loopholes. You agreed to go home in 2002 after Y2K was over. That was 13 years ago. Why are you still here. H-1B only allows for foreign labor when Americans can’t be found. We have 90 million Americans unemployed.

          Stop the lies you fraud.

          Learn some English while you’re at it.


          ALL foreign workers are ineligible to work if Americans are unemployed.

          Fix your own country. It’s not our fault you need our jobs so bad you’ll lie, cheat, and steal to get them.

          • Sankalp

            That’s a very ignorant statement. Once H1B expires, Indian workers DO go back to India. Some of them do stay here, but that’s after they have obtained LEGAL PERMANENT RESIDENCE. Stop spreading this ignorance.

            For facts, I work for a startup, strength:150, non-citizens:~30 engineers.
            So on an average every immigrant engineer has created 4 jobs each (2nd grade math?)

            As of 2000, I don’t know how descriptive these stats are, (I was 12 in 2000, not even in high school). But realistically, most, if not all of people who came in 2000 are either back in India or have naturalized by now (Just like most of our parents or ancestors?).

          • Glob Design

            Go home job robber. As someone who worked in IT for 16 years writing software, including at Apple and Sony, I know a lot more about it than you.

            How does someone who is supposed to be here TEMPORARILY on a work visa get naturalized at all? You’re supposed to come here, work, steal our $, then go home, not get naturalized and stay here permanently.

            There is nothing so permanent as a TEMPORARY guest worker.

          • Sankalp

            Wait, then why is there a LEGAL provision for petition for immigrant worker (PERM/I-140/I485)? This makes people LEGAL IMMIGRANTS. If you think laws are not flawed, then why don’t you go and fix these provisions first? You cannot. I can clearly see very plausible, repetitive scenario:
            A bright young student comes to US school, studies, goes back and sets up a business abroad. US gains tuition fees, but loses schooling expenses, jobs and revenue. Who’s the real loser and who ruined their country?
            To say you know a lot by working for a tax thieving, arrogant and anti open research company about this matter is speak of a turtle in a pond. In whole life, it learns nothing about the vast ocean.

          • Glob Design

            Take your communism and go home, thief. “Open” is just an excuse for you to plunder our trade secrets. Why aren’t jobs in India “open” to US citizens, thief?

            If you were so “bright” as claimed, India would be a paradise and you wouldn’t need to come here and take over jobs WE created, thief.

            Without that “arrogant” company you speak of there would be no personal computers to provide you jobs. And BTW, it was created by Americans, not thief Indian job robbers such as yourself.

          • Sankalp

            Spoken like a true politician, not addressing the core argument at all!

            Can’t you see contradiction? You keep calling me thief whereas law doesn’t. And yet you say law is not flawed? I really pity your employers if you don’t know this basic logic.

            Apple did NOT invent PCs. Your arguments are flawed at so many levels.

            Plus, I am taking a job three Indians created (our founders). They are the real bright folks I was talking of.

            Do your research, jobs in India “are” open to US citizens. Company policies might be different, but legally, non citizens simply need to obtain work permit. Your fault for not applying or not taking them. If you claim to be a job creator, why not try it out in India before ranting.

            Please bring some concrete reasoning to the table, not this empty “thief” retort.

    • Glob Design

      “WE” don’t have anything. Indians on H-1B came here for Y2K and had originally agreed to go home in 2002 after it was over. Now you’re here claiming you’re one of us and “WE” have this or that.

      Go home as agreed originally job robber. You are destroying America just like you’ve destroyed your own country.

      • Sankalp

        Nope. Indians keep getting H1Bs after they have studied in schools here. There is a second category which is misuse of H1B by consultancy firms. What I said is simplifying and fixing laws so that second category is reduced significantly.

    • Mumbai Job Robber

      go home job robbing H1B scab lover, you’re not welcome here. We don’t have a problem to solve, our only problem is to get rid of H1B scab trash. It’s not our job to come up with a solution that makes you happy. And by the way, we’ve got tons and tons of college graduates here – with real degrees, not fake. Go back to your country Raja, you’ve worn out your welcome here

      • Sankalp

        Again, spoken like a politician. No concrete argument, just empty “job robber” crap.

        I have a degree from NC State, do you want to call NC State a fake school?

        One problem with these stats is, they are so misleading. I have not seen a single Computer Science graduate from NC State not getting a job. Now if people say STEM graduates are jobless, that’s a different story. STEM does NOT include computer science alone. If foreign Computer Science professionals are getting jobs at the expense of American Computer Science graduates, then that would be a problem. But that’s not the case here. An American Physics grad being jobless and a foreign Software Engineer getting a job are very much unrelated, even if they both are from STEM category.

        Plus, if you want to call me job robber, when law doesn’t, why not just accept that the law is flawed? Otherwise it’s just empty lip service.

        And, even if you find it hard to believe, I am not speaking of policies to please me. Only speaking of ways to get rid of H1B misuse, but logically, rather than with empty talk. Even if a logical solution ends up kicking me to no man’s land, so be it. So if you want to say anything, better make a constructive use of whatever little brain you have and propose a logical, legal solution.

        • Glob Design

          No concrete argument? How about this one: 1) originally you all agreed to come in here for Y2K and then go home. 13 years later you are still here and you’ve taken over. 2) That’s a violation of the original agreement. You were never supposed to be here long term, you were never supposed to take over, or export our jobs and tech back to India. You originally agreed to be here only temporarily and that is all. Now why are you still here.

          The argument is that you were supposed to be here only temporarily for Y2K originally.

          We ALL know the Indian Mafia is deliberately keeping white people out of IT all across the country and you know it too. Stop lying. We all know what you are up to.

          The law DOES call you a job robber TITLE 8, Section 1182 INADMISSIBLE ALIENS. You are working here while Americans are unemployed. That’s a violation of the law.

          No go home, you’re working illegally here.

          Just because you and your countrymen are desperate for jobs does not mean we owe you jobs.

          The law is the law, flawed or not. And you and your countrymen are going to obey it.

          Average Indian IQ is 81. Average American IQ is 98. It’s you who have little brains dummy.

          • Sankalp

            Cliched balderdash.

            The law pertains to a field of work as well. Why would law allow inadmissible aliens in to begin with? To hire a foreign national, employers have to prove that no American worker was laid off and they failed to find an American worker.

            As I said before STEM is much more inclusive term. Computer Science graduates “are” getting jobs. And a foreign Computer Science graduate getting a job has no bearing on an American non Computer Science graduate not getting a job.

            You are just making me repeat myself. Birdbrain!

        • Glob Design

          Why don’t you go home and concentrate on building some toilets first?

    • Alice Blue

      You have failed to address the looming scandal concerning the preferential recruitment of foreign students by American universities. Not because the foreign students are better, but because being foreign they pay full price with no financial aid. This is robbing qualified American kids of university seats. It’s especially scandalous when done by the public universities (taxpayer subsidized) and the land grant colleges. It happened to people I know. Watch this scandal erupt before too long – it is already getting buzz in higher ed.

      • Sankalp

        Alice, a good point. This is where schools are trying to mint money off foreign students. But what public universities fail to realize is, tuition and fees is just a part of real cost of educating a student. So overall, it turns into a loss.

        What would be ideal is to reduce the tuition and fees. This would make schools more affordable to American students. Plus, the difference between resident and non-resident tuition should be regulated, so that schools do not have incentive to mint money off fees paid by foreign students. Moreover, student (F-1) visa could be subject to an annual cap.

  • jakeleone

    The thing about this company is that are probably going to develop the products here, and then ship the work offshore. And on wearables, hey there are dozens of companies in that space right now, including the heaviest of hitters. This guy’s company is more of a capital sucking operation than a viable tech company (but I hope I am wrong).

    As for the H-1b visas. Well H-1b visas are being hijacked by the Offshore Outsourcing companies in order to remove jobs from the United States (primarily to India). The reason why we run out of H-1b visas is because Offshore Outsourcing companies stuff in an excess number of requests, and this forces a lottery.

    That’s why PJ had a hard time getting an H-1b visa, and that is why his partner (on an OPT visa) is similarly having a hard time.

    The lottery doesn’t affect the Offshore Outsourcing company’s business model (it actually enhances it) because if H-1b candidate A or B doesn’t make it in, H-1b candidate C will do just fine, because they are all just trainees anyway.

    Offshore Outsourcing companies are enhanced by the lottery because it gives them a U.S. Federal Government provided monopoly on cheap STEM and IT labor in the United States.

    Offshore Outsourcing companies aren’t in the business of creating jobs for Americans. And they sponsor, literally, only a handful of people for Green Cards each year, yet are taking up hundred of thousands of H-1b slots. Why on Earth we allow them to use our visa system is Beyond All Reason.

    If you are libertarian businessman, you’ve got to be for a revised Green Card system. One that would allow low capital entrepreneurs into the country and one that is sufficiently expedited.

    The H-1b visa is basically the “Indenturement Visa” and as such it suits the Offshore Outsourcing model perfectly. And the Offshore Outsourcing companies are the reason for the job-less recovery. One trainee liaison engineer can remove 10+ jobs each year, in overnight conference calls.

    PJ’s business model will not result in a big American employer. The reality is he is busy hiring only Phd for all positions (including marketing). He will likely use our local Phds to develop a product that will be mass produced overseas. That’s not going to get us to full employment.

    We need to be kicking the Offshore Outsourcing companies out of visa programs. And instead use the visas only for businesses that will actually consider the resumes of Americans. The Offshore Outsourcing companies all have internal programs to deliberately disqualify Americans on the basis of their nationality, and for no other reason, they won’t even read your resume if you are an American. And that is all documented in U.S. public court documents.

    Again, why on Earth we allow the Offshore Outsourcing companies access to our U.S. visa programs, IS-BEYOND-ALL-REASON.

    • Glob Design

      I’ve worked in lots of these ahem…. “companies”. Most of them are nothing more than remittance scams in disguise. Some wannabe conman comes over from some lazy country, gets a pile of American VC cash, “starts” a “business”, then he, his family, and buddies all occupy the jobs for 5 years. They SEND all of their paychecks right back to their home countries, which, in the case of “poor” countries such as India, turn the USD into a fortune due to the exchange rate differences. OUR VC capital which could be used to pay Americans goes right out of the country, and out of our banks, and the conmen make out like bandits when they return in 5 years back home. Our banks are left siphoned, Americans remain unemployed, because the VC is not being invested in them, and our banks go belly up as the cash is drained out.

      Americans spend their $ here, foreign workers send it all home. Get it?

      Sandeep and Raj are here simply trying to recover “wealth” they claim white people “stole” from them centuries ago (because of British colonization). India cannot even build enough toilets for its own people, let aloe write software.

      This is nothing but a case of jealous lazy countries wanting to be like Americans and make $ like Americans.

      Americans invented IT long before any of these lazy conmen ever set foot here.

      This massive swindle on a huge scale is what is killing the American economy.

  • Jim M

    The real problem is that nobody in charge makes a distinction between a H-1B graduate student from an American University and a H1-B outsourcing individual.

    These are 2 very distinct cases and very different levels of contribution to the USA but yet they get the same visa category.

    This is beyond ridiculous and in the meantime people like PJ get to compete against the USA (after getting their degree paid for by the American Taxpayer) because our politicians are too idiotic to understand the difference.

  • H1BisTreason

    If all these Fake Degree H-1B/L1 and Illegal Aliens Job thieves scabs are so hardworking and so highly skilled and so smart, then why isn’t there own country bending over backwards to keep these people? Is India/China/Mexico or Euro-trash countries so well developed that it no longer needs its own hardworking citizens to maintain its economy and infrastructure? Of course not, this is really an attempt by the governments of India/China/Mexico and Euro-trash to shirk millions of its poor citizens off on another country (the US) without any consequences.

    • Glob Design

      A more important question is: if they are such sooper geniuses, then why isn’t the US booming? We’ve BEEN importing millions of them for decades. When Americans ran everything, USA was booming.

      Open borders and guest worker visas are just a new form of communism that’s all. From each according to his abilities, to each according to his need.

      Globalization is the new communism.

  • H1BisTreason

    We MUST DEPORT All 3 of these “American Hating Traitors” as of Today!
    Watch the video and see for yourself to how these “American Hating Traitors” commit outright Treason! Against ALL Americans

    Zuckerberg Ally On Americans Losing Jobs To Foreigner Labor:
    ‘This Is What This Whole Country Is Built On’

    A venture capitalist associated with Mark Zuckerberg’s immigration lobbying group insulted American workers who lost their job to foreigners at a recent immigration event, saying they got what they deserved.

    “You know, I’m relatively crude on that,” capitalist Lars Dalgaard from Denmark said at the National Journal event that was partly sponsored by, which lobbies for more legal immigration and a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. “It’s like, if you want the job, make yourself able to get the job, you know?”

    Dalgaard, who boasts is one of its “major contributors,” had been asked by the Journal’s Niharika Acharya from India to respond to concerns about hundreds of American workers who were recently fired by Southern California Edison and more or less forced to train their foreign replacements.

    “Like, nobody’s going to hold you up and carry you around the world,” Dalgaard continued. “You’re going to have to, this is what this whole country is built on.”
    He then explained he fell in love with the country at 16, while building houses in Martha’s Vineyard Island.

    “Seeing this construction worker just run his life, because, how you can in America with just having the freedom of doing whatever the hell you want,” he said. “There’s no place in the world that there’s freedom like this.”

    “And if you’re not going to work hard enough to be qualified to get the job, like someone who doesn’t even live here yet and doesn’t have the right to work, well then you don’t deserve the job. That’s how I look at the world.” (So who died and left you God) why can’t you find work in your country)?
    The SCE workers Acharya referred to were let go after they trained their foreign replacements.
    “Well that might be harsh,” Acharya said, turning to the other panelist, Pierre-Jean Cobut, a Belgian job thief with an American company that is working to increase the cap on foreign workers. “Do you agree with that?”

    “Actually, I do,” Cobut said to laughs from the crowd. “This is what this country was built on,” he added. “It’s a capitalistic country, you know, it is all about markets and jobs, you know.”

    The Department of Labor recently refused a request from a bipartisan group of senators to investigate SCE’s alleged abuse of its American employees.

    “Though such reports of H-1B-driven layoffs have been circulating for years, their frequency seems to have increased dramatically in the past year alone,” the senators wrote in the letter, asking the Obama administration to figure out whether SCE broke the law. (RELATED: Senators Ask Feds To Investigate Guest Worker Visa Abuse)

    In a stated effort to encourage guest workers to stick around permanently, the Department of Homeland Security recently said it will also grant the spouses of guest workers work permits. A group of SCE employees are suing the government, alleging that DHS doesn’t have that authority and that the rule violates federal labor protection law.

    Skip to 26:11 in the video below to watch the exchange.

    Read more:

  • Glob Design

    Americans invented IT. The rest of the world, including India and Denmark, have never invented anything. India cannot even build enough toilets for its own people, let alone create anything.

    Guest worker visas are a new form of communism for lazy people in other countries into the US to take over what Americans built.

  • Stop Treason

    Fake Degree Row: Asian Indian Sangeet Som threatens to hit streets over ‘conspiracy’! .
    So what else is new in India?

  • Stop Treason

    IBM Laid-off all their very Highly Skilled American workers and replaced them with Asian Indians!
    As Collapse of IBM Continues, CEO Under Pressure