By Arlene Kiyomi Dennistoun
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Boundless is launching its first product to help U.S. citizens and green card holders apply for visas for their spouses. Xiao Wang, co-founder and CEO of Boundless, plans to expand services in the future to assist other family members with visa applications.
The idea of empowering immigrants to feel confident about the visa process gnawed at Wang for years. After talking with hundreds of immigrants like himself, he saw how the legal immigration process was fraught with common problems and stresses. Every immigrant had a story sharing common themes. It humbled Wang, listening to how hard it was for others to immigrate legally. In comparison, Wang said, “I had it easy.”
Wang became obsessed thinking about using technology to empower immigrants and ease the pain of the visa application process. “I would go to sleep thinking about this. I would be at my day job thinking about this, and I thought about it on the weekends. You should talk to my wife,” he said softly, laughing. “I talked to enough immigrants and heard enough stories to see how the process was broken. There came a time for Wang when he decided, “I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do this.”
Wang realized people were resigned to a process that was at best confusing, scary, and complicated, and at times, expensive. “All these negative adjectives — they were almost like a rite of passage for people coming to America. Not only do you have to create a new life and leave everything behind and come to this new country, but you must also navigate the immigration system.”
The more Wang talked in depth with people about their journey through the immigration process, the more Wang saw the same “pain points” over and over again. The realization consumed Wang, and he began formulating the idea for Boundless with Greg Gottesman, fellow Stanford alumni and managing director of Pioneer Square Labs (a startup studio). Pioneer Square Labs partnered with Boundless late last year and began creating technology to change the way people apply for visas. There was no single event or “aha” moment for Wang that compelled him to leave Amazon to build a startup company designed to empower immigrants. “It just became something I couldn’t NOT do.”
“It’s not just about me,” said Wang when asked about the personal satisfaction of doing something meaningful. “Boundless can truly improve the lives of millions of people and their families trying to make a new life in America.” If all it takes is getting information to folks who need it, but can’t find it, “it’s the least I can do. I am willing to do whatever it takes to make sure this (Boundless) becomes successful.”
Before forming Boundless, Wang spent nearly three years at Amazon. He was a senior product manager and helped launch Amazon’s first cashier-less convenience store before formally resigning this past February. He emigrated from Nanjing, China to the United States when he was 3 years old, joining his parents who had left Wang behind in China with extended family members to pursue a better life in America. Wang ultimately graduated from Stanford with a master’s degree in engineering, and graduated from Harvard Business School with a Master’s in Business Administration. He continued his upward professional trajectory, eventually landing at Amazon.
Technology and human ingenuity versus the immigration process
An immigrant himself, Wang has combined the finest technology with a human touch, to gather, collate, track, and provide information in a way that’s understandable, accessible, and more widely available than any resource currently out there. The internet gives you piecemeal information on all sorts of immigration issues and it can quickly take you into a maze of rabbit holes.
Boundless is a team of six people that Wang will double over the next two months. Most of the current team members immigrated to America and share Wang’s passion for empowering immigrants.
Users are not charged for services (about $500) until Boundless sends a completed visa application for legal review by outside, independent immigration attorneys. Although the process is the same for everyone, people’s situations and backgrounds are individual and unique. Boundless may decide providing information and tracking services is insufficient and legal advice is required. Wang has consulted with top immigration and ethics attorneys and has the Washington State Bar Association’s support, so they don’t cross over into the unauthorized practice of law.
Boundless collects data and objective information published by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and stays in regular contact with government officials involved in immigration policies, so they can provide the latest information to users. By creating a database of all available objective information, the Boundless’ technology can predict the outcome of the process and how fast it will take, to the rate of speed of processing different types of visa applications processed at specific locations. Users will have all the information they need to make their decisions with peace of mind.
Wang is committed to ending the common stresses and obstacles shared by immigrants pursuing a new life in America, particularly in today’s climate of heightened uncertainty. Boundless wants people to feel confident that they have completed forms accurately, that they understand the process, know how long it takes (six to nine months), how much it will cost, and what happens after you submit your application packet. “That’s one of the common stress points,” said Wang, “because once you mail your application, it’s out of your control.” Boundless tracks applications and provides alerts at every step, from start to finish.
Boundless plain-talked ambiguous questions on visa applications, so people feel comfortable and understand what they need to do and how to provide accurate information — particularly useful for immigrants whose first language is not English. “We guarantee satisfaction,” said Wang. He can’t ensure all applications will get approved, but he’s sure users will be happy and satisfied with the level of service provided.
Boundless does not provide legal advice, and the information they give is free. People can sign up now for more details at www.boundless.co.
Arlene can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.