The Game Changer
CEO of Teleborder James Richards shares with Indonesia Tatler some insights into the startup
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.”