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I run a startup that is the richest pot of cultural stew you will find. We are 2 years old, 42 employees and over 19 nationalities. 80% of my team members are first generation immigrants. Including me, the founder.
It taken an uncommon, entrepreneurial will to move to a foreign country, plant your feet, and persevere at building a successful life. If you collect all these “wills” and put them together in a room working towards a mission, that mission, for sure, has a higher chance at success. As a company, I would wager that Suuchi Inc grew fast because of the high percentage of 1st generation immigrants making the team.
In fact, “40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.” It is not just the Fortune 500 companies. “Immigrants started 28% of all new U.S. businesses in 2011, despite accounting for just 12.9% of the U.S. population.” In other words, “Immigrants are more than twice as likely to start a business as the native-born.” (Source: New American Economy)
The ongoing political case against immigrant visas and immigrants in general is a death knell for new businesses. I have a simple theory, and it goes beyond saying that startups are more successful with immigrant founders. Apply the multiplier, and hence the startup’s probability to survive and thrive is many times magnified with MORE immigrants composing the team. For example: if we evaluate a company’s progress against a 3-parameter scorecard, for each parameter, a company is stronger if it is an immigrant heavy company:
1) Technology: a report published by the population reference bureau broke down the number of workers in science and engineering by place of birth. About 1/3rd of all these workers were foreign born in 2006, and this percentage has only increased in the last 10 years. Any startup needs a technology fingerprint. It is far easier building the technology team when you have a flow of American immigrants from China and India
2) Manufacturing: at Suuchi Inc, our model is based on riding the return of manufacturing demand in the United States. For all manufacturing, especially for apparel, skilled workers greatly reduced in this sector since jobs went out. The pool of immigrant Americans are helping slowly bring back the skillset home, slowly but steadily.
3) Cultural & Emotional: as an immigrant, I feel a tenacity to achieve and a love for my business and a love for this country because it allowed me an opportunity. As cliché as that sounds, that cliché is an immigrant heart song that has built many a billion-dollar company.
Immigrants are hardworking, ambitious, and gritty. There is no luxury of entitlement. There is gratitude for everything accomplished but a fear of complacency that prevents from taking those accomplishments for granted.
So, to repeat: If immigrants are restricted from flowing in, that political decision would have serious ramifications for the startup ecosystem.
Here’s the most important point though: In describing all these attributes that make for a persistent startup team, are we not describing the ethos of being American? The political campaign against immigrants is amusing, scary and ridiculous. But it is also moot. Because really, all Americans that make the case against immigrants come from those that risked it into the country at some point. At the end, there is one truth, whether we’re talking startups or not:
We are American because we are immigrants. We are immigrants because we are American.
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