'Innovative' approach helps upstart Eezy make its mark

Shawn Rubel, who started the online graphics and photo business Eezy as a sideline, has rebranded it to Vecteezy and grown it into an international company that saw a 79 percent year-over-year increase in paid subscribers in 2020.

A recent federal court ruling that rejected a bid by the Trump administration to tighten rules on H-1B visas – significantly curbing U.S. firms’ ability to bring in skilled workers as a result – will be a boon for the tech startup space, Vecteezy founder and CEO Shawn Rubel said.

Rubel, who recently obtained U.S. citizenship after emigrating from Canada in 2004 and moving to Kentucky after college through a visa program, said the move comes at a fortuitous time for his business.

Based in Western Kentucky University’s Center for Research and Development, Vecteezy is a platform for stock images and graphics on the internet, and it’s growing. The firm plans to add 40 employees next year to its current staff of 60, Rubel told the Daily News.

“Personally speaking, it’s been helpful for us. We recently just went through that H-1B visa process with one of our team members, and it was a long, expensive process, but it was totally worth it,” Rubel said. “He’ll be around for several years now on that H-1B, and he’s a fantastic engineer.”

In related news, the federal court ruling fell on the same day as a separate court order mandated that the Trump administration restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which extends deportation protections to undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children.

There were 643,560 current DACA recipients as of March 2020, according to figures tracked by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Still, there as many as 3.6 million so-called Dreamers in the country, according to the National Immigration Forum. Many have been locked out of applying for DACA since 2017 when the program was suspended.

When it comes to recruiting up-and-coming talent, Rubel said Vecteezy always looks in Bowling Green first and then looks elsewhere if it can’t find the candidate it’s looking for.

Rubel acknowledged the need for some restrictions on the visa program, adding that “if it was easy and free, things would get out of hand.” However, there are some instances when hiring native-born talent just isn’t realistic, he said.

“The reality is that sometimes it’s just not possible,” Rubel said. “It’s a tricky delicate subject.”

That was what spurred Vecteezy to go through the H-1B visa process for the first time, which Rubel estimated cost more than $10,000 and took at least a year, for one of its latest hires: an Indian engineer who specializes in a technical field the firm previously had a deficit in. Rubel said the new hire came to Vecteezy from WKU and interned at the startup before being hired on as an employee.

“If he continues to grow like he is, he’ll be a leader in our organization one day,” Rubel said.

– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @NewsByAaron or visit bgdailynews.com.

Education reporter. Covers education and related issues, focusing primarily on the Bowling Green and Warren County public school districts and Western Kentucky University.

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