Celebrating Immigrant Heritage Month with Building.co’s Startup Founders


During the month of June, BUILDING.co has partnered with FWD.US for Immigrant Heritage Month to highlight the contribution of immigrants throughout our nation. Many of our tech startup founders are immigrants themselves, which makes this movement close to our hearts. As a way to celebrate our amazing founders at BUILDING, we spoke to several about their experience as an immigrant in the #MiamiTech ecosystem.

Where are you from originally? When and why did you move to the U.S.?

Sushi Chanrai:  I’m from the UK. I moved here to be closer to my main client at the time (.CO), and started my own consultancy business to service them and other clients.

Alejandro Acosta-Rubio: I’m from Venezuela, and I moved to the US in 2009.

Ranald Schulz: Australia. I came to travel for 3 months in 2010.

Juan Lopez Salaberry: Argentina. I was moved by the opportunity of an amazing rising Entrepreneurship ecosystem. Also because I have loved Miami ever since the first time I came.


What was the hardest part about immigrating to a new country?

SC: Not having a credit history means you have to jump through hoops to get basic needs in place. Healthcare was a huge shock to the system especially since I emigrated from a country with free healthcare and health insurance providers that work on 100% reimbursement.

AR: Leaving part of family in Venezuela, and most of my friends. Also adapting to a new culture, regardless of Miami having the huge of mix of latin culture.

JS: The thought of going through the immigration process.


How did your family impact your decision to move to the U.S.?

AR: Half of my family was already here, and the one that stayed pushed me even more to move here.

RS: They support it but we do miss each other and it’s a long way to get back.


What are some ways being an immigrant has shaped you and your company?

AR: Because I don’t only focus on a US based vision of my app, I try to solve problems that the people from my country have. And also base some of my research on the latin culture.

RS: I have a different perspective and a good understanding of how to design a product that will be suitable for other international markets.

JS: It has had a tremendous impact. It has become my business 🙂


What are some pros and cons of being an immigrant entrepreneur in the U.S.?

SC: Cons: Establishing credit for your business can be a challenge, certain legalities particularly from a tax perspective could impact you negatively if you do not have the right setup for your business. Pros: Coming from a different perspective/background means you have a unique differentiator in how you relate to others and do business.

RS: The biggest difficulty is not having a credit history and dealing with the financial system that is built around credit ratings. The advantage is being able to combine a different approach to solutions with the US infrastructure and market.

JS: Being different is good if we are strong enough. We have to rise from that idea of having a different background, a different perspective and use all of this to our advantage. Specially being an immigrant allows you to connect different worlds and find innovative solutions to problem utilizing that knowledge and experience. As a con, I would say my English could be better – and this, language, affects many people. Also, as an adult, knowing people, making friends and feeling at home can sometimes be a challenge for some people, being this integration one of the main hurdles for most people who dare to migrate.


How does the #MiamiTech ecosystem compare to the tech ecosystem from your home city/country?

SC: It’s a different kettle of fish entirely. The level of work ethic and professionalism does not compare. On the other hand there is a wonderful sense of community due to the size of the ecosystem. I probably have rose-tinted glasses on however because I’m a Builder!

AR: Here are they’re more problem solvers, over there they’re more efficient but lean towards the good pay.

RS: Australia has a progressive banking system but capital is only just starting to show interest in assets outside of Real Estate and Mining. They are similar in that Australia is marketing itself as the gateway to Asia and Miami to South America. I think both markets are in their infancy and need some success stories.

JS: It reminds me of it. We have great opportunities ahead and it´s time to take all those learnings from these other places to build a self defined and strong local community.


What advice would you give to another individual moving to the U.S. who is entering the #MiamiTech ecosystem as a startup founder?

SC: Take everything with a pinch of salt. Get used to confirming your meetings the day before and on the day of the meeting. Build in additional time on deadlines. Be flexible and take time to understand the rich cultural backdrop that is Miami. Volunteer and make a difference in whatever way you can to support your network or local community – this City gives back if you commit yourself to it.

AR: Hustle.

RS: Find good American partners, learn Spanish, start building a credit history immediately and respect the culture.

JS: To be open. To look at challenges as opportunities and take charge. Don´t expect other people to provide rather ask yourself what you could be doing to help build this space. Appreciate the beauties of Miami, fall in love with the city, the weather, the people, the food, enjoy it. There is no shame in having a tan if you are doing exactly what you need to be doing. Be a leader, don´t wait to see who you could follow. Embrace what has been done and appreciate that you are here partly because of that – don´t forget that even if seems might not seem perfect at times, people are trying their best. Help others. Did I say enjoy? Welcome to Miami 🙂


To learn more about Immigrant Heritage Month and stories of immigrants from across the nation, visit welcome.us.

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