Main illustration: Sahar Afshar
The events of the past few days have saddened myself and my cofounders, and many of our colleagues at Intercom. We feel compelled as humans to see if we can try to ease the new suffering of some, by even a small amount. And as immigrants ourselves, we’d also like to make a statement on the topic.
Please know that this is not about politics for us. We have love for everyone in this broad conversation, no matter how they voted in the recent election. This is a very fundamental, human issue, something far bigger. We abhor this and any policy of hate and discrimination, and that’s why we’re getting involved.
First, I want to explain what we’d like to do. And then I’ll share some quick thoughts.
Intercom is a dual-citizen company of a sort. We’ve had two offices from day zero. I moved to San Francisco from Ireland in 2011 and now hold a green card and live here. I set up our headquarters here, which contains all of our business functions. My cofounders set up our Dublin office, where our research and development teams are based. And we have over 150 people in each office now.
We’d like to use this special position we’re in to try help anyone in our industry feeling unsafe and hurt right now. If you’re in tech, and you’re from one of the newly unfavored countries, or even if you’re not, but you’re feeling persecuted for being Muslim, we’d like to help you consider Dublin as a place to live and work.
To be extremely clear, I know moving anywhere is probably the very last thing you want to do, and to that end I will be fighting against these policies right beside and for you. I deeply and truly hope that this can get resolved without getting this far, but I hope that at least knowing you do have options is useful, and perhaps comforting in a very small way. And I think it’s important to show this administration that none of us are desperate either.
I’d also like to be clear that this is not a recruitment drive for Intercom. This is us doing what little we can, in accordance with our values, to help those we care about. We will explicitly not be pitching anyone on working for Intercom.
Dublin is a small city, but about the same size as San Francisco. Like San Francisco, it’s home to hundreds of technology companies. From tiny startups we’ve not heard of yet, to later stage ones like Stripe and Slack, to large sized tech companies like Airbnb and Dropbox, and even bigger ones like Facebook and Google. It’s multicultural, and in our opinion, quite welcoming and open. It’s far from perfect, and there remains some conservative hangups, but you’d be surprised to discover how insignificant that influence is today. For example, it was the first nation in the world to vote in a referendum to legalize same-sex marriage. I spoke with some Muslim Dubliners yesterday—their feeling is that the community there is significant and real. There are now over 50,000 Muslims in Dublin, with multiple mosques around the city.
I deeply love the United States, California, San Francisco, and the incredible people here. I’m grateful to be here, and to be allowed to chase my dreams like I have. But I don’t think that should preclude me from helping those not lucky enough to be born where I was. And I even feel some degree of obligation to do so, because I’ve been made special by people I never asked to make me special.
So here’s our offer. Simply drop us an email (email@example.com), and we’ll do the following:
– We’ll advise you on moving to Dublin. Help you understand what it’s like. Even connect you with our Muslim friends there.
– We’ll connect you with tech companies in Dublin who are very hungry for new talent.
– If you decide you want to look into moving seriously, we’ll retain our Dublin immigration attorneys for you, and pay your legal bills with them, up to €5k. We’ll do this for as many as we can afford. We should be able to do this for at least 50 people.
– And if you end up moving there, we’ll pair you with an Intercom buddy to show you around, help you learn about the different neighbourhoods and schools and fun things to do.
We’ll have a small team of people waiting to hear from you. They’ll keep all their communications with you completely confidential.
Secondly, a message to the new administration in the US.
I believe you know you need immigrants. It’s clear where so many of the people behind the most successful tech companies here come from. And I believe you know you need tech companies. Tech is innovation, and innovation drives wealth creation in your biggest companies. I believe you know that when Apple says “designed by Apple in California, assembled in China”, it translates to “the big margins go to California, the leftovers go to China”.
But I don’t think you can pick and choose. I don’t think it will work to play favorites—saying no to some, hoping the rest will still show up.
The irony is that fundamentally, I don’t believe we immigrants come here for any reason other than the fact that it is the land of the free. That’s what makes America so wonderful. From the different types of people, to the different types of opportunities, it is the richness of open diversity here that attracts immigrants. If you make it the land of the free no more, you kill the allure. And eventually, not only will you no longer have Muslims, but you won’t get the rest of us either.
And that’s before you consider the damage done to our ability to trust you. When you give us green cards and visas, you make an implicit, if not explicit deal with us: We’ll bet our careers and lives on you, and create a ton of jobs and significant tax revenues, and you’ll let us stick around, according to the terms of the contract. Except you just changed the terms for hundreds of thousands of people without warning. Can we trust you won’t do the same to the rest of us?
To everyone, long term, I believe we will get through this. I believe this is not an end to happiness and progress, or even sanity. This will be unimaginably painful for some people, and I’m worried that the pain might not end very soon. But I’m hopeful that eventually, love will prevail, and that this period will actually bring us closer and make us stronger.