Sanjay Kucheria, president of a Glendale information technology company, learned his lesson last year.

Trinus Corp. had filed 80 applications to get special visas for highly skilled foreign workers last April. But it got only 25 of the H-1B visas approved for its engineering positions.

The company's applications were among an unprecedented 120,000 applications that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services received within hours of the first day companies could submit applications. The annual cap is set at 65,000 visas.

This go-round, Kucheria only submitted about 50 applications and doesn't expect better results. Experts predicted that there would be 200,000 applications this year, with the window to apply closing April 7.

So instead of relying on the government, Kucheria said he is hiring people who don't need visas straight out of master's programs and training them in software development. He's also building a new campus with capacity for 3,000 employees in India, near New Bombay.

Previously, the company had hired from a pool of experienced engineers, some with Ph.D.s. But they needed H-1B visas.

"We find ourselves fighting every year," Kucheria said. "It's not making sense to go through the same H-1B process and not get the numbers of people we want."

Carl Schusterman, an L.A.-based immigration attorney, said engineers are not the only ones clamoring for H-1B visas.

He represents a major inner-city school district in the Los Angeles area experiencing a staff shortage and looking to hire foreign teachers. The Los Angeles Unified School District, which Schusterman does not represent, hires hundreds of foreign teachers on temporary visas every year, he said.

"In the mid-1990s, about 90 percent of H-1B visa holders were programmers. Now, only about half go computer professionals, and the rest go to health care and education workers."

Los Angeles has also emerged as a hotbed of digital media startups showered with more venture capital than it has seen since the Internet boom. Are there enough highly trained tech professionals to go around in L.A.?

"This is a huge problem," said JoElla Lapiana, executive director of the American Electronics Association's Los Angeles-Santa Barbara Council. "Digital media requires high-tech training, and this is typically where foreign workers come in. We're just not graduating enough engineers from our universities, and the foreign students we do train in our schools are not being allowed to stay."

Marketing Magic

David Reis' company gets people talking online.

Brands such as Kraft, Honda, P & G;, Kellogg's and Toyota have turned to his boutique Web 2.0 consultancy in Studio City to engage millions of people in shopping, blogging and social networking online any given day.

DEI Worldwide, a company of 60 employees, helps big brands navigate the world of social media.

For example, recently, when Kraft Foods relaunched its line of low-fat cream cheese, it brought the company in to work alongside international advertising agency J Walter Thompson.

In addition to giving away 500,000 bagels and low-fat cream cheese on Jet Blue Airline flights, the advertising team got two Kraft employees to don white tuxedos and get on those flights to get customer feedback on the taste. Then they blogged about it.

DEI drove traffic to those sites by updating the content every time the two men moved on to other crowds, such as Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to get people to taste the new type of cream cheese and record their feedback. The company also got the word out on popular social media sites.

More than 50,000 people went to the blog in a matter of weeks.

Reis said the company tackles most advertising campaigns by answering two main questions: "Where are people congregating and how can we have real conversations with them?"

Previously, Reis worked for the online media division at CBS.

DEI was launched in 2000, in the trough of the Internet bust, and business has only recently taken off. Every year since 2006, revenue has tripled, and now hovers around $10 million. The number of employees has also tripled over that time.

Asian Watch

Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc. is continuing its expansion into Asia.

Its content will now be shown on cell phones powered by KDDI Corp., Japan's biggest telecommunication provider with 30 million subscribers.

In December, the company signed a multiyear deal to provide interactive program guides to China's cable operator Changzhou Broadcast & Television Information Network Co.

Problem Wager

The nation's first online horse-race wagering Web site is reeling.

Last week, Youbet.com of Woodland Hills received a noncompliance warning from Nasdaq because the minimum price of its common stock had fallen below $1 for 30 consecutive days.

The company has until Sept. 28 to bring the price of its shares up to $1 or more for 10 consecutive days.

Staff reporter Booyeon Lee can be reached at blee@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 230.

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