Over Half of $1 Billion Startups Are Founded By Immigrants

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By Brian Latimer

Half of startups worth $1 billion or more in the U.S. were founded by immigrants, and laws should make it easier for would-be entrepreneurs to enter the country, says a group which recently released research on immigrants and the economy.

A study released by the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-partisan organization which does research on trade and immigration, found that immigrant entrepreneurs started 44 $1 billion startups, which comes out to about 51 percent of the companies surveyed.

Stuart Anderson, the Executive Director of NFAP and writer of the report, said immigrants also hold management and product development positions in as many as 71 percent of startups worth more than $1 billion.

Anderson said the cap on H-1B hinders potential entrepreneurs from creating jobs, and measures like S.2394 introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz (R.-TX) in December would make potential immigrants work abroad for 10 years post-degree to apply.

The report calls for, “a startup visa to enable foreign nationals who start companies and create jobs would be an important addition to the U.S. immigration system.”

"What’s interesting about this is that not only that half had immigrant founders, it's that most of the companies have immigrants in key positions," Anderson said. “Even if an immigrant isn’t the founder, they are CTO or in a comparably high position that drives innovation and creates jobs for Americans.”

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India produced the highest number of entrepreneurs on the list; 14 immigrants founded a startup in the U.S. Canada and the United Kingdom tied for second in the list, with eight founders moving to the states. The list also includes Argentina, Singapore, Armenia, Uzbekistan and South Korea.

“The results show that immigrants make many important contributions to the U.S. economy and job creation, and would make even more with intelligent reforms to the legal immigration system.”

“Many people who had challenges attaining an H-1B visa had to wait seven years because there is no ‘startup visa’ in the U.S. immigration system,” Anderson said. “If you have the idea to start up, and you want to stay here, it falls between categories in the immigration system.”

Collectively, these companies are worth $168 billion and employ over 33,000 people. On average these companies employ 760 people each. SpaceX, founded by South African Elon Musk, employs the most on the list, with over 4,000 workers.

“These are unusual companies and it’s why they’re interesting,” Anderson said. “They’re unicorns because of the rarity of a privately owned company with a billion dollar valuation.”

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Jyoti Bansal, the fouder of AppDynamics, which is is valued at $1 billion and employs more than 900 people said he had to wait years to get his idea started in the U.S.

“I waited seven years for my employment-based green card and I wanted to leave my job and start a new company but couldn’t,” he said to Anderson for the report. “What is most frustrating about the green card process is you have no control over a major part of your life. I have friends who became frustrated with the uncertainty and after years of waiting they finally left the United States.”

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issues 65,000 H-1B visas per year.

“The results show that immigrants make many important contributions to the U.S. economy and job creation, and would make even more with intelligent reforms to the legal immigration system,” Anderson concluded.

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