Immigrant Entrepreneurs Help Build U.S. Economy One Company at a Time

shutterstock_121625731Google, Intel, eBay, Yahoo!, Facebook, LinkedIn, SanDisk, Altera, Zoosk, Etsy, Tesla Motors. What characteristic does each of these well-known companies share? They each were either founded by an immigrant or have at least one immigrant founder. Now, a new report from the National Venture Capital Association highlights the profound impacts that immigrant entrepreneurs—like the immigrants who helped to found major U.S. corporations—have on our economy. Immigrant entrepreneurs start companies throughout America in many different industries, creating value and new jobs in the United States, and advancing U.S. innovation.The report, “American Made 2.0: How Immigrant Entrepreneurs Continue to Contribute to the U.S. Economy,” examines immigrant-founded, public and privately held, venture-funded companies; private company perspectives on U.S. immigration policy; and U.S. immigration policy and proposed changes to the immigration system. Here are some highlights from the study’s findings:

The number of immigrant-founded companies is increasing. This is clear from the growing number of initial public offerings of venture-funded companies with an immigrant founder, which jumped from 20 percent prior to 2006 to 33 percent after 2006. The study’s survey of privately-held venture-backed companies also showed that one-third of the entrepreneurs starting those companies were foreign-born.

Immigrant entrepreneurs come through all immigration channels. Forty percent of the immigrant founders in the survey entered the United States as employment-sponsored immigrants, 38 percent as international students, 13 percent as family-sponsored immigrants, and the rest in another category. This finding supports the importance of reforming our entire immigration system in an effort to modernize all channels through which immigrants enter the U.S.

Immigrant-founded venture-backed companies create extraordinary value. As of June 2013, such publicly traded companies have a total market capitalization of $900 billion. If this group of companies were a country, they would be among the top twenty economies in the world.

Immigrant entrepreneurs’ companies create new jobs in the U.S. Immigrant-founded venture-backed public companies employ approximately 600,000 people, mostly in the United States. This equates to an average of 2,579 employees per company.

Immigrant-founded companies are in a wide variety of industry sectors. From 2006 to 2012, immigrant-founded venture-backed companies could be found in the fields of high-tech manufacturing, telecommunications, life sciences, finance and insurance, clean energy, and media, to name a few examples.

Company founders, native- and foreign-born, see a need for immigration reform. The majority of all private company founders, native- and foreign-born, in the study’s survey (79 percent) believe that “the process for a foreign-born entrepreneur to enter and remain in the U.S. to start a business is too difficult.” Furthermore, 90 percent of company founders believe a startup visa category would benefit the U.S. economy.

The report’s data overwhelmingly show the frustration the current immigration system creates for those trying to compete globally while creating more jobs, products, services and wealth in the U.S. The report concludes by urging Congress to enact sensible policies because “the contributions of immigrants to the United States would be even greater if Congress adopted the right policies on startups and high skill immigration.” Despite immigration policies that harm further job creation, innovation and growth, immigrant entrepreneurs have a large impact on U.S. competitiveness today. As America’s economic recovery continues, imagine how much greater the positive impact immigrant entrepreneurs would have on our economy and society if, rather than a system mired in the past, we had a modern immigration system designed for a 21st century society that benefits everyone in America.

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