Immigrant Entrepreneurship is Booming With Billion-Dollar Startups

HIGHLIGHTS
  • 32 of the 44 immigrant-founded companies are headquartered in California
  • 62 of the 87 companies have at least one immigrant in a key management or product development position
  • Nearly one-quarter of the 87 billion-dollar U.S. startup companies have a founder who was an international student

Immigrant entrepreneurship is booming in the United States. Learn how.

Work hard, and you’ll achieve your goals: It’s a narrative fundamental to American culture. But for immigrants, the weight is far greater — often, success is tied to their family’s survival. And this key distinction provides the fuel that has propelled U.S. immigrants to greatness.

Consider South African-born Elon Musk, known for founding aerospace transportation services company SpaceX and electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Motors. He came to the United States as an international student and pursued degrees in economics and physics from the University of Pennsylvania. Today, the value of his SpaceX venture alone totals $12 billion.

On his Biography.com entry, he’s introduced by three words: “Engineer. Inventor. Explorer.”

He rocketed to worldwide recognition when his company X.com was ultimately acquired, and led to the creation of online payment system PayPal.

Recently, he was included in a March 2016 National Foundation of American Policy (NFAP) study analyzing billion-dollar startups with immigrant founders. Others named were Renaud Visage of the event promotion platform Eventbrite and Amr Awadallah of data solution provider Cloudera.

In total, 14 entrepreneurs on the list were Indian-born, while eight were from Canada and the United Kingdom, and seven from Israel. However, the most profound figure was 51 percent — the percentage of billion-dollar startups in the United States with at least one immigrant founder.

“I think that’s huge,” says Sairam Rangachari, former chief product and technology officer at Envoy. “I think a lot of it is attributed to the rise of tech, and the flow of immigrants towards STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).”

Other immigrant entrepreneurship stats:

  • 32 of the 44 immigrant-founded companies are headquartered in California.
  • 62 of the 87 companies have at least one immigrant in a key management or product development position.
  • Nearly one-quarter of the 87 billion-dollar U.S. startup companies have a founder who came to the United States as an international student.

“One of the easier ways to access U.S. opportunities is through education,” Rangachari says. “You’re able to build upon your education without having to be sponsored by a company.”

Rangachari also weighed in on the future of the immigrant entrepreneur boom.

“I think the trend is going to continue,” he says. “Tech is permeating more of the real-world stuff, which means the need for STEM education is far greater. Tech was initially all about hardware, computers and circuit boards. Then it became about software and how we can be more efficient. Now it’s headed into, how can the car be more connected? How can the house be more connected? Tech is driving more innovations and more industries than ever before — and it’s going to continue happening.”