The Game Changer

CEO of Tele­bor­der James Richards shares with In­done­sia Tatler some in­sights into the startup

Indonesia Tatler - - Faces | Close-up -

t was in­deed a beau­ti­ful evening, as we sat on the ter­race of Riva Grill & Bar at the Park Lane Ho­tel. James Richards was in Jakarta on a short home-visit be­fore head­ing back to San Fran­cisco. Look­ing ruf­fled from the day’s ac­tiv­i­ties, he pa­tiently gave us a glimpse of his start up.

James Richards, son of Bri­tish and In­done­sian par­ents, grew up in In­done­sia, at­tended King’s Col­lege in Lon­don and Columbia Law School in New York. James is so far the youngest grad­u­ate from Columbia Law, who passed the New York Bar Exam at age 20. James left a big law ca­reer to start Tele­bor­der, a global work­force ser­vice to fa­cil­i­tate em­ployee im­mi­gra­tion for com­pa­nies. While im­mi­gra­tion re­form con­tin­ues to be a hot topic of con­tention in the U.S., Tele­bor­der has de­vel­oped a ser­vice that aims to tackle the im­mense amount of red tape that com­pa­nies have to go through once they de­cide to em­ploy some­one from out­side the U.S.

The prob­lem, James ex­plained, is that when it comes to work visas—while a lot of com­pa­nies are keen to bring in top ta­lent to fill va­cant po­si­tions, even when the U.S. im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties have cre­ated chan­nels for them to do so—it is time-con­sum­ing to gather to­gether the dif­fer­ent doc­u­ments needed. And it’s easy to get the process wrong and to get the ap­pli­ca­tion re­jected; thus, ap­pli­cants in the end have to start the whole process again.

Tele­bor­der has come up with a way to dis­till the process, so that the doc­u­ments are gath­ered, tracked on­line, and ver­i­fied to make sure all the right boxes are checked, so to speak. This helps take some of the hu­man er­ror out of the process and by­pass the bu­reau­cratic bur­den.

Whether com­pa­nies are bring­ing in a chef or an en­gi­neer, they have to go through the same process. James added that Tele­bor­der has worked with a num­ber of tech com­pa­nies first, partly be­cause that’s the most im­me­di­ate in­dus­try around them, and partly be­cause “they have been the most re­cep­tive to this (is­sue) early on.”

“Tech com­pa­nies tend to be highly lever­aged,” he said. “Com­pa­nies like Google can make mil­lions of dol­lars per en­gi­neer, so they tend to search ev­ery­where for ta­lent and have the most acute need for us.” And when the com­pany in ques­tion is a startup, it could be staffing up fast, and of­ten with­out a large HR de­part­ment to han­dle the work­load. (Google, he noted, han­dles up to 1,000 work visa ap­pli­ca­tions an­nu­ally).

James him­self has had a first-hand taste of what it’s like to go through im­mi­gra­tion hoops. His fa­ther, as an ex­ec­u­tive in the ho­tel in­dus­try, moved and lived in a num­ber of dif­fer­ent coun­tries as James grew up.

James was born in Ade­laide, Aus­tralia, in 1987, moved to Jakarta when he was 4 un­til he grad­u­ated from high school. He then went to Lon­don to study Law at King’s Col­lege. Half­way into his Law de­gree, King’s Col­lege sent him to Columbia Univer­sity School of Law in New York. James said: “There are many ex­pats work­ing ev­ery­where around the globe, and ev­ery time they have to move some­where, they need to go through a te­dious process. It’s time that some­one en­ables a world with­out bor­ders for work.”

“Right now im­mi­gra­tion is a po­lit­i­cal is­sue, but if you fo­cus just on the ex­change of in­for­ma­tion, it doesn’t have to be.” In Jan­uary this year, James is among the young stars who pop­u­late the 2015 Forbes “30 Un­der 30” on the Law & Pol­icy list, con­sid­ered one that is “shak­ing the le­gal busi­ness.”

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