GW OIE Announces GW x Penn West Global Build Fellowship to Provide H1B Visa Solutions to Foreign Startup Founders in D.C.

Through the Global Soft Landing Initiative, GW to collaborate with the D.C. government, Open Avenues Foundation and the Golden Triangle BID to attract international entrepreneurs and startups to downtown Washington.

April 24, 2024

GW x Penn West Global Build Fellowship

Jim Chung (r), GW associate vice president for research, innovation and entrepreneurship, addresses the gathering at the announcement. (Lily Speredelozzi/GW Today)

Officials from the George Washington University, the D.C. mayor’s office and the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District last week announced the launch of the Global Soft Landing Initiative, a collaboration aimed at developing an area west of the White House as a hub for international businesses.

The initiative will seek to draw foreign clients and startups to the Penn West Equity and Innovation District, an area that includes the White House, the State Department, the World Bank and other international financial institutions as well as the main GW campus—all within a few blocks of each other.

“The Global Soft Landing Program is a dream I’ve been working on for several years,” said Jim Chung, associate vice president for research, innovation and entrepreneurship at GW.

The GW x Penn West Global Build Fellowship’s unique H1B visa offering is made possible by the partnership between GW and the Open Avenues Foundation, and through the Global Soft Landing Program. It provides H1-B visas, access to nearby institutions that shape global business policy and micro-internships for GW students.

In addition, Chung said that the GW Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIE), through its U.S. market discovery programs, helps Soft Landing participants explore the commercial viability of their businesses and network with industry experts, mentors and investors.

Chung mentioned the Wells Fargo Foundation funded Entrepreneurship Development Network DC, the National Science Foundation I-Corps, and other training programs they run that have supported entrepreneurs locally, nationally and internationally, making GW one of the most innovative universities in the country. The Global Build Fellowship provides another avenue for OIE to have impact, he said.

“We provide long term, milestone-based support for startups entering the D.C. market through an advisory board that will provide industry and subject matter expertise to the startups that are participating in this hub here as well as training programs around customer discovery and understanding what you need to do to be successful in the United States when you are coming from overseas,” Chung said.

D.C. Deputy Mayor for Planning and Development Nina Albert, during the initiative’s launch Thursday evening, said she envisions that the initiative will draw businesses to the area west of the White House.

“When people think about coming to the United States, they think about where they want to land and where they want to grow a business,” Albert said. “They want to be part of a community that is welcoming, that is understanding, that is multilingual, that is multicultural, and we are that authentically in Washington D.C.”

The Global Soft Landing program takes advantage of its location at Studio by Tishman Speyer to offer discounted office space. Not only does the community offer amenities such as restaurants, shops and parks, Albert said the city possesses technically oriented talent that exceeds metropolitan areas such as Boston, Austin and San Francisco. Indeed, Leona Agouridis of the Golden Triangle BID, noted in her opening remarks that D.C. was ranked as the #1 most innovative jurisdiction in the United States for 2024 by WalletHub.

The GW OIE has helped students and faculty launch over 350 startups, raised more than $1.8 billion and created over 2,500 jobs. It also runs one of the largest student venture competitions in the country.

Also in attendance at the launch was Jasjit Singh, executive director of SelectUSA, a Department of Commerce program aimed at facilitating direct foreign investment in the United States. The Global Soft Landing program comes at an opportune time in economic development history, Singh said. “With the Chips and Science Act, the Inflation Reduction Act, we are having unprecedented interest in our country,” he said. “For the 12th consecutive year, the Kearney Report announced the United States is the number one place to invest.”