Alexander Torrenegra, VoiceBunny
“I’m Colombian by birth. I’m American by choice,” wrote Alexander Torrenegra in his Wired opinion piece featured in April 2012.
Alexander, now a successful founder of over ten online marketplaces, first visited the U.S. at the age of 19. Like many of the other stories featured on the site, Alexander could see the potential and opportunity the U.S. had to offer for a young entrepreneur like himself. At first, Alex worked entry positions at Starbucks and McDonald’s to make ends meet. He started studying Management Information Science at the Florida International University, but dropped out after two years to start his first company.
He managed to bootstrap his tech startup despite bouncing between positions and visas (tourist and student). Within the first three years, the company was profitable and employed seven people. Then, in 2001 with the aftermath of 9/11, Alex was forced to return to Colombia.
“The switching-visas game was over,” said Alexander. “I had to return to Colombia when most visas to return were being denied. I was afraid I would never be able to come back.”
Fortunately, for Alexander, he had met Tania a few months earlier. Little did he realize that it was a match made in entrepreneur heaven.
“My first real ‘angel’ investor was Tania,” wrote Alexander in his post. “She didn’t invest money, though. She invested something far more valuable: She married me so that I could stay in the United States and continue growing my startup.”
Now, the two are co-founders in Torrenegra Labs. Most notably, their product, Voicebunny, connects people with great voices to people who need them. Inspired by Tania, who was an aspiring voice artist at the time, VoiceBunny enables crowdsourcing of voiceovers in minutes. As they note on their web site, “it’s crowdvoicing!” Today, the company employs over 20 people with over half based in the U.S.
“The startup environment in the U.S. provides the support, the infrastructure to execute on ideas,” said Alexander. “Any where else, this would be difficult. It’s easy to set up a business and to find investment. The current laws don’t punish startups, and risk and failure is socially accepted here. The U.S. is the only place in the world with such a rich mix of elements.”
In his piece, Alexander notes the need to push for policy such as StartUp Visa. He wrote:
“Startup Visa is trying to rekindle the spirit of entrepreneurship that America was founded upon, but it has some glaring imperfections. For one, it doesn’t have clear provisions for bootstrapping-but-profitable entrepreneurs like me — yet we’re vital to the entrepreneurship ecosystem, especially in the tech space.”