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Most Billion-Dollar US Startups Have an Immigrant Founder

Immigrant entrepreneurs create jobs and innovations that benefit the United States. . New search shows how essential immigrants have become in founding America’s most valuable businesses.

“Immigrants created more than half (319 of 582, or 55%) of America’s startups valued at $1 billion or more,” according to a new National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) report. analysis. (I am the author of the study.) “Furthermore, nearly two-thirds (64%) of America’s billion-dollar companies (unicorns) were founded or co-founded by immigrants or children of immigrants. . Nearly 80% of America’s unicorn companies (billion-dollar private companies) have an immigrant founder or an immigrant in a key leadership position, such as CEO or vice president of engineering. »

The research is an update of NFAP studies in 2016 and 2018. However, due to the growth of billion-dollar companies, the 2022 study involved collecting and verifying information about the founders of 580+ unicorn companies (tracked by CB Insights). “Unicorns” are private (i.e. not publicly traded) companies valued at $1 billion or more that have received venture capital funding.

According to the analysis, 58% of billion-dollar immigrant-founded companies had only one or more immigrant founders (i.e., no native-born founders). “Overall, 86% of billion-dollar businesses founded by immigrants had only one immigrant founder or immigrant founders or a majority of immigrant founders or an even number of immigrant and native-born founders; only 14% had a majority of native-born founders,” the study found. “Given that every co-founder contributes to the success of a startup, it seems likely that none of the billion-dollar companies with at least one immigrant founder would exist or have been created in the United States if the foreign-born founder had not been allowed to Come to America.”

Tomas Gorny grew up in Poland under communism. After Communism, Gorny saved enough money through small businesses to come to Los Angeles when he was 20 years old. He spoke little English. He worked in a company, which he partially owned, assembling computers and negotiating prices. He earned extra money doing odd jobs, including washing dishes and cleaning carpets. In 2001, Gorny co-founded technology company IPOWER with Tracy Conrad and sold the company 10 years later for $1 billion to Warburg and Goldman Sachs. In 2006, Gorny co-founded Nextiva with Conrad. The company provides a platform for business telephony, video conferencing and collaboration and employs more than 1,600 people. Gorny is CEO of Nextiva, which is valued at $2.7 billion.

Many of the immigrant founders of billion-dollar companies are remarkable people that every American should be happy to have in the United States. Guillermo Rauch, an Argentinian immigrant, founded Vercel, a cloud platform for web developers. The company has 400 employees and is valued at $2.5 billion. Rauch taught himself web development at the age of 11 and learned English in “read software manuals.”

“As a child, I was fascinated by the idea of ​​being able to create and innovate alongside a global community of developers from my hometown outside of Buenos Aires, Argentina,” Rauch said in an interview. “My own experiences fueled my desire to solve the challenges I faced when using the web. Immigrating to the United States gave me the opportunity to start Vercel to help build a more interesting Internet, intuitive and open by allowing developers to create the moment inspiration strikes.

Many innovations are only achieved through entrepreneurship. Think back to the creations of Nikolai Tesla and Alexander Graham Bell, two immigrants who founded businesses and invented useful products. The study notes that “the best ideas will never be applied or perfected without people willing to try their luck with those ideas, and billion-dollar companies are among the most innovative in America.”

There is no start-up visa in US law. Rep. Zoe Lofgren’s (D-CA) bill to create one was part of the COMPETES Act that passed the House of Representatives in February 2022. Since immigrant entrepreneurs cannot obtain residency permanently by starting a business, immigrant founders of billion-dollar companies typically obtain their green cards as refugees or family-sponsored or employer-sponsored immigrants. Many came to America as children with their parents.

A quarter (143 of 582, or 25%) billion-dollar US startups have a founder who came to America as an international student. International students generally must obtain H-1B status and/or an employment-based green card to remain in the United States after graduation.

Two other notable research findings:

– “The collective value of the more than 300 American companies founded by immigrants is $1.2 trillion, which is more than the value of all the companies listed on the major stock exchanges of many countries, including Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Portugal, Ireland, Russia and Mexico.

– “Research finds that billion-dollar US private start-ups with immigrant founders created an average of 859 jobs per firm, the majority in the United States.”

Americans should be happy that so many people came to the United States and succeeded, armed only with ambition, a sharp mind, and a desire to work hard. “Immigrant entrepreneurship is about overcoming obstacles and achieving dreams,” the study concludes, “showing that America benefits when it opens its doors to people seeking opportunities in a new country.”