An Entrepreneurial Religion

Mormom Temple

Mormom Temple in Salt Lake City

Last week I was on a tour to all sorts of beautiful places like the Ruby Mountains, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Kodachrome and Zion. There was a lunch stop in Salt Lake City, where we got a chance to get a guided tour through the Mormom Temple grounds.

As I was talking to our guides I learned some interesting things about their system, not the religious system but organizational system. They have a massive international exchange program, where people sign up to become a missionary for two years in a random country. They send in their resume to Salt Lake City Headquarters which is then prayed over and then they get a letter inviting them to pack their suitcase and go to whatever country they’ve been chosen to go to. There’s a rumor that the cutest girls from all over the world get invited to Utah, which might explain why they also need to attach a photo. :-)

The big question I was left with after the tour was: how do they get through the obnoxious US immigration system? They are doing something for two years that can only be defined as labor and it’s certainly not the kind of skilled labor H1B visas call for. Could there be some special religion related visa?

Meanwhile back in Silicon Valley, companies are struggling with a shortage of talent. In addition, many foreigners would love to set up a company here or join a brand new startup, but they run into immigration issues. Yes you can easily set up a company in the US, but the immigration system doesn’t allow you to work for it. At least not longer than a standard business visa allows you to and even that’s a gray area. Also you can’t do freelance work on the side to make a living, which is the best way to bootstrap a company that doesn’t immediately appeal to investors.

There are a couple of solutions. You can work for a company that has already received funding; they can sponsor you on an H1B visa. Some progress is being made on the Founder Visa, which would allow you to enter the country with a slightly less ridiculously large bag of money. Another solution would be to turn the Bay Area into a Special Administrative Region similar to what Hong Kong is to China, with its own passports and legislation. That would get around the inevitably slow decision making velocity of an oversized country.

My experience with the Mormoms suggest an entirely different approach: what if we create an entrepreneurial religion? Entrepreneurs from all over the world would be missionaries. Our temple is a hacker-space. And where typical religious business models take a percentage of up to 10% of personal income, we’d take equity in their companies, just like an incubator.

Of course we could take this idea further. How about a completely atheist religion? We’d watch TED talks in stead of prayers. It would encourage a productive lifestyle, where missing a weekly review or checking your email more than once a day is a sin, which you can confess. And we’d use MRI technology to help you get religious experiences.

Here’s the Lean Canvas:

Entrepeneurial Religion Lean Canvas

Entrepeneurial Religion Lean Canvas

The thing I’m most worried about is whether there’s any red tape making it impossible to start a religion without a god. Or perhaps a religion must have been around for X years in order to apply to those missionary visas.

Let’s discuss it here or on Hackernews.

4 Comments

  1. TJGodel
    Posted September 3, 2011 at 18:15 | Permalink

    Recently revised immigration rules allows H1B holders to start and work for their own startup.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-immigration-a-step-in-the-right-direction/2011/08/03/gIQA2bGgsI_story.html

  2. Posted September 4, 2011 at 02:11 | Permalink

    I used to be an atheist before God talked.

    God says, “buzzed goest rule bright procure expound uninjuriousness
    top implied dispute Whosoever wickedness perceivable continueth
    trial edify mad comparison Orestes consumption conjoined
    want swallowed sublime did stiffness destroyers congregations
    charge imprinted namely Grammar lulled solid PROVIDED
    replenish .”

  3. Posted September 4, 2011 at 08:40 | Permalink

    “Or perhaps a religion must have been around for X years in order to apply to those missionary visas. ”

    Theosophy comes close. “There is no higher religion than truth.”

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