Hours after Donald Trump’s shock US election victory, entrepreneurs who are Muslim are feeling scared and bemused.
“[Trump’s win] is definitely scary – and I feel that is applicable for all the minorities he’s been bashing,” says Waqas Ali, a #startup founder from Pakistan now based in Silicon Valley. “It’s clear a large part of the US doesn’t welcome or care for immigrants, including Muslims.”
With Trump now 71 days from his inauguration as 45th President of the United States, entrepreneurs are pondering how it will affect business and tech in America.
I was quite shocked. Like… really, America?
During his campaign, Trump vowed to ban Muslims from entering and to clamp down hard on the H-1B skilled worker programme. Silicon Valley will find it harder to recruit talented engineers from abroad, and founders looking to shift their businesses to the US might have their plans disrupted.
“I feel sad, very sad. Not just for myself but for many American people too who have worked hard for equality and tolerance in their own country,” added Waqas, who’s the co-founder of Markhor.
Plans in disarray
Similar nervousness was echoed by other entrepreneurs that Tech in Asia talked to moments after Trump’s trouncing of Hillary Clinton.
“I was quite shocked. Like… really, America?” said Gibran Huzaifa, co-founder of Efishery.
“But I’m a glass half-full kind of guy. So, after I heard the news, I feel that if someone like Trump, a very unlikely figure, can be president of the strongest country in the world, then my startup idea – as crazy as it is – can succeed too,” he stated.
Sameer Khan, co-founder of SocialChamp, is left wondering how his impending trip to the US might be affected.
“I’m in talks with many experts from the Valley and the next few months are very crucial. We have all heard about the plan Donald Trump has for Muslims, but I wonder whether those comments were just to gain votes. If the government imposes any law that bans our entry it will definitely affect my startup,” he explains.
Other startup people exhibited a steely resolve.
“It’s clear now that the average person is concerned they’re not sharing the prosperity enjoyed by industries like tech. A constructive response would be to try and fix that instead of fearing everything President Trump will do in the future,” he exhorts.
Americans voted for a new president, not a new constitution.
Zaki believes that the election results could be a “game-changer” for anyone considering moving to Silicon Valley. Tech ecosystems with proximity to the area – such as Canada – could benefit. But he urges founders to buckle up for the ride.
“As early-stage startup people we’re used to operating without really too much concern for the broader political landscape and how it affects us.”
Another Silicon Valley-based founder from a Muslim nation, who prefers to remain anonymous, doesn’t think the election will affect his plans in any way.
“America’s strength is in its constitution and values on basic human rights, liberty, and individual freedom. And more importantly the belief that if you work hard, you can achieve anything you want regardless of your background. I moved to the US for its values and I don’t think Trump being president will have a direct impact on me because Americans voted for a new president and not for a new constitution. The core of the US is still there and I am very optimistic about my future in this great country.”
Wifigen co-founder Bilal Athar counts American investors as his primary backers. He flies there regularly for work but says the election won’t impact his company.
He does, however, think it’s bad news for Silicon Valley overall.
“Around 40 percent of H-1B visas are issued to tech companies and the majority of their hires are from Asia. If there’s cultural discrimination, we’ll see fewer Asians moving to the US and more talent available for local startups,” says Bilal.