For most of its history, the United States has been considered the “land of opportunity”; the place where those who aspire to more go to fulfill their dreams. This mindset persists today, and many of the world’s most creative, passionate, driven entrepreneurs have made the United States their home base, in many cases resulting in enormously successful companies that are now household names for many Americans.
According to an article by Editor at Large of Inc. Magazine, Leigh Buchanan, which in turn cites a non-partisan study conducted by the Center for American Entrepreneurship (CAE), nearly half of Fortune 500 companies as of 2017 were founded by first or second-generation immigrants. These numbers rise with the size of the company, as measured by total revenue. 48% of the top 60 companies and 57% of the top 35 are immigrant-founded. These entrepreneurs armed with their own unique perspectives, innovative spirit, and singular initiative are now valuable assets who help the United States thrive as an economic world power.
Beating the Odds: Immigrant Entrepreneur Success Stories
Immigrant entrepreneurs who successfully found Fortune 500 companies have what it takes to not only make it in the American marketplace; they sometimes create the world’s most well-known, often-used companies, which provide services that millions of Americans use each day. This is especially relevant to the technology sector.
One such multinational, multi-billion-dollar company is eBay, founded by a French immigrant born to Iranian parents, Pierre Omidyar. This massive website began as a side project, with the sale of a single broken laser pointer for just $14.83, now has over 11,600 employees on its payroll, and Mr. Omidyar is worth over $4.45 billion. eBay also made Forbes’s list of America’s Best Employers for Diversity in 2017 and is listed as #55 on its list of the world’s most valuable brands.
Sometimes, immigrant entrepreneurs arrive in the United States as children after their family suffered adversity in their homeland. Such is the case for Comcast founder, Daniel Aaron, who was born in Giessen, Germany, but who fled with his family to the United States in 1936 to escape the Nazi regime. Shortly after their arrival in Queens, NY, Aaron was orphaned in tragic circumstances and had to make his own way in the world. In 1963, he and his friend, Ralph J. Roberts, bought a small cable operations company, and gradually built one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies, which clocked in at a net worth of over $193 billion in 2017. Due to his immigrant history, Aaron considered himself a “friend of the working people” until his death in 2003, and the company he built now employs over 139,000 workers.
For many Americans, the default way to find information is to “Google it.” Like Comcast’s founder, Google’s co-founder, Sergey Brin, left their home in Moscow in 1979 to escape persecution. While pursuing his PhD at Stanford University, he met his future business partner, Larry Page, and the two started the company in a garage and launched it in 1998. Google now employs 73,992 people and its website processes over 40,000 searches per second. The company’s profit in 2017 was about $109.5 billion, knocking Apple out of the top spot for the first time since 2011.
These tech giants with humble beginnings came to the United States for a new start and made it big. They were not afraid to work hard and try things that had never been done before, and the rewards have been tremendous for both them and their employees all over the United States. These represent just a few of the vast number of immigrant entrepreneurs in the tech industry alone who have created valuable companies that support millions of American jobs. Fortune 500 companies founded by immigrants and their children support the economies of 33 states, and bolster 68 American metro areas.
Expanding the Job Market, Enhancing the Economy
When foreign entrepreneurs build companies in the United States, they are far from the only ones who benefit. Their Fortune 500 companies alone employ over 13 million workers globally, hundreds of thousands of whom are Americans, and in 2017 their total revenue reached over $5.3 trillion. These companies cover a vast number of industries, from the fast food industry’s Panda Express chain, founded by Peggy and Andrew Chern from Myanmar, which employs over 24,000 people, to tech giants like Tesla, founded by South African Elon Musk and Google (as previously mentioned), founded by Russian Sergey Brin, which employ 18,000 and 73,992 people respectively. These workers have gone on to make purchases, buy homes, obtain health insurance, and enjoy the stability that comes from having a great job. The money they earn goes back into the economy, enriching the nation as a whole.
As of the Fortune study, most of the new immigrant entrepreneurs making the Fortune 500 list hail from India, with UK and Canadian immigrants tied for second place. On average, these employers create at least 760 jobs for American citizens.
CAE President, John Dearie, stated after viewing the stunning results of his organization’s study, “There is no category of immigrant of higher economic value than a foreign-born entrepreneur who wants to come to the United States and start their business here.” The value of great minds and talented individuals starting their businesses in the United States, rather than elsewhere, cannot be understated. As the United States enters an era of an increasingly tech-driven economy, the contributions, both intellectual and monetary, of immigrant entrepreneurs will continue to play a vital role in the nation’s economic growth, the number of jobs added, and the overall quality of life for United States citizens.
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- Vietnam’s “King of Tea” Could Become the Next U.S. Immigrant Entrepreneur Success Story
- Molly’s Pursuit of Making it in the U.S. on an E-3 Visa
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