When Xiao Wang emigrated to America from China as a young boy, his family exhausted five months of rent money on pricy immigration lawyers.
“We just didn’t know how to do it and didn’t know any better,” he said of navigating America’s notoriously complex legal immigration process.
Each year, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service receives 6 million immigration applications from individuals and employers. Those granted green cards are able to legally and permanently live and work in the U.S. Wang and his family eventually succeeded in becoming U.S. citizens. But not without first enduring a lot of headaches and worry, not to mention parting with thousands and thousands of dollars.
Being the Change
To streamline the often intimidating and expensive task — typically littered with “an endless maze of forms, acronyms and government agencies to navigate” — Wang launched an innovative Seattle-based startup called Boundless earlier this year. The company’s super user-friendly website helps immigrants complete marriage-based green card (aka spousal visa) applications in relatively few simple steps.
“Sadly, every day I hear stories of families with similar dreams to mine who are confused, scared and frustrated by the immigration process,” Wang told Free Enterprise. “That is why I couldn’t not create Boundless. Families desperately need an affordable solution that can give them the confidence to navigate the system.”
We recently caught up with Wang, a Stanford University and Harvard Business School alum, to find out how Boundless works, what startup challenges he’s overcome and what’s next for his fast-growing company. Here’s what we found out:
Why are you so passionate about improving our country’s immigration system?
“My parents and I gave up everything to make a new life in America because we truly believe that this is the best country in the world for reaching your dreams. And although we had to spend many years and many thousands of dollars on lawyers, we were lucky — we successfully became U.S. citizens.”
What was the entrepreneurial “ah-ha moment” that inspired you to launch Boundless?
“I’m an immigrant and have always just taken it for granted that the immigration process has to be complex, difficult and scary, because nobody’s had a good immigration experience or knows a better way. It wasn’t until late last year, when I was talking to a friend about her paying $12,000 to a lawyer for her green card, that I thought to ask ‘Why?’ That conversation turned into hundreds of interviews with families, lawyers and government experts that convinced me that technology and data can make a huge difference.”
What problems does Boundless solve and through which technologies?
“Boundless is the trustworthy, affordable guide that families have been looking for to help them navigate their immigration journey with confidence. Our online application tool transforms complex government forms into easy-to-understand questions. After completing our online experience, applicants enter into an independent relationship with an experienced immigration lawyer, who reviews their application for concerns and answers any questions.
Once the lawyer approves, Boundless arranges the complete green card application package in the precise format that the government prefers, and mails it to the applicant’s doorstep with clear instructions on where to sign. We even include a pre-addressed envelope so that all they have to do is drop off the package at their nearest post office and it will go straight to the right place.
During the subsequent months of waiting, we then track the status of the application and proactively update the applicant with information about their process, including help with interview preparation when they need it.”
What challenges have you faced along your entrepreneurial journey and how did you overcome them?
“The largest challenge we face — and also what we take most seriously — is earning and keeping the trust of our customers. In order to guide anyone through the immigration process, we need a substantial amount of personal information, from previous tax records to employment history to family relationships. This is information that is seldom divulged outside of mortgage applications, much less to new technology companies people haven’t heard of yet.
We overcome this hesitation through education, customer-experience design and credible commitments. We provide the best library of thorough, unbiased, jargon-free content on the immigration process — all available online for free. We provide precise information around how to complete certain questions or forms, and detailed summaries of the process so that everyone who uses Boundless finally has a clear idea of how the immigration system works. This information is delivered using thoughtful design that shares the right knowledge at the right time. We take every opportunity to save the applicant time, steps and mental energy.”
How do you monetize your offering?
“Our business model is pretty straightforward: We provide a service that customers are willing to pay for. Our simple $500 flat fee is about one-tenth the cost of a typical lawyer and our experience is something families can complete quickly, on their schedule.
Right now, our first product is available to all married couples where one spouse is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, and the other spouse is seeking a U.S. green card.”
What’s next for Boundless?
“We have successfully launched our first product for marriage green cards to overwhelmingly positive feedback. We will expand to all other immigration categories, to be the go-to solution for anyone who needs to start a life in a new country.
Since incorporating in February 2017, we now have 14 full-time employees and are excited to continue growing.”
What’s your best advice for fellow early entrepreneurs?
“The advice I share with other entrepreneurs is that whatever you build has to be something you feel absolutely compelled to do. There is nothing easy about starting and running a company, and for all of the sacrifices that you will make, there has to be an accomplishment at the end that, if successful, makes it all worthwhile.
We are at a point right now where technology has an unprecedented ability to improve the lives of millions of people very quickly. Please take advantage of this opportunity and make the world a better place.”